EPA Awards Competitive Grants in a New Two Year Cycle

WASHINGTON (April 11,2018) — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is announcing the award of more than $25 million in grants to help the country’s small drinking and wastewater systems and private well owners better protect public health and the environment.

“These grants will fund critical workforce development trainings that will help small systems improve operations and identify when repairs to drinking and wastewater infrastructure are needed in local communities,” said EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. “EPA is committed to working with our partners in the states to provide all Americans with clean and safe water.”

Funding will be used to provide small public drinking water and wastewater systems with training and technical assistance to achieve and maintain compliance with the Safe Drinking Water Act, improve operational performance, and help inform private drinking water well owners about protecting their drinking water supply and improving water quality. The training and assistance will also help system operators identify when critical infrastructure upgrades are needed and how EPA can help support those efforts, which is consistent with the goals and objectives of President Trump’s Infrastructure Plan.

The grantees are:

  • National Rural Water Association
    • $8.1 million: Provide training and technical assistance for small public water systems to achieve and maintain compliance with the Safe Drinking Water Act
  • Rural Community Assistance Partnership
    • $8.1 million: Provide training and technical assistance for small public water systems to achieve and maintain compliance with the Safe Drinking Water Act
    • $2.2 million: Work with small publicly-owned wastewater and on-site/decentralized wastewater systems to improve water quality
    • $3.4 million: Work with private well owners to improve water quality
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (on behalf of the Environmental Finance Center Network)
    • $3.6 million: Help small drinking water systems improve financial and managerial capacity to provide safe drinking water.

“The EPA grant support of NRWA has provided critical training and technical assistance to small systems across the country for many years,” said Matthew Holmes, NRWA Deputy CEO. This grant has assisted NRWA in establishing a leading nationwide program for Operator Certification Training, Continuing Education training sessions and SDWA compliance support. NRWA looks forward to continuing the program through 2018-2019.”

“RCAP is honored and excited to continue our partnership with EPA,” said Nathan Ohle, Executive Director, RCAP, Inc. These programs help provide small water and wastewater system staff and private well owners with technical assistance and training to ensure that every community across the country is protecting its public health and creating sustainable long-term solutions to drinking water and wastewater issues. Our partnership with EPA is vital to ensuring that small systems have the skills and expertise needed to support the water and wastewater systems that are so important to their community.”

“The Environmental Finance Center Network is grateful that EPA has selected us to continue our work with small drinking water systems on finance and management issues,” said Glenn Barnes, Associate Director, Environmental Finance Center at The University of North Carolina. “Over the last five years, we have worked with water systems of all kinds to address the same challenges: having appropriate revenues, getting the longest life out of infrastructure, having the right staff, accessing funding programs, reducing water and energy inefficiencies, and communicating to decision makers and to the public at large. We are excited for the opportunity to help these water systems better run their operations so that they can continue to provide clean, safe drinking water today and into the future”.

More than 97 percent of the nation’s 150,000 public water systems serve fewer than 10,000 people, and more than 80 percent of these systems serve fewer than 500 people. Many systems face unique challenges in providing reliable drinking water and wastewater services that meet federal and state regulations.

For more information on EPA’s programs and tools to help small water systems, visit: https://www.epa.gov/dwcapacity

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EFCN Tackles Cost Saving Technologies and Level of Service

Our colleagues at the Environmental Finance Center Network (EFCN) are offering two webinars of interest to state drinking water programs and the water systems they oversee.

  1. Technologies to Save Energy, Resources, and Time in Water System Operations

DATE:              April 25

TIME:               1:30-2:30PM (eastern)

REGISTER:      Click here

This webinar will provide attendees with information on some of the fundamental technologies allowing for efficient utility operation. We’ll answer the question, “What in the world is SCADA?” We will also discuss electric motor controls, remote monitoring in utility operations, and some niche and emerging technologies and how they may increase utility efficiency.

  1. Intermediate Asset Management – Level Up with Level of Service Goals!

DATE:              May 1

TIME:               2:00-3:00PM (eastern)

REGISTER:      Click here

Establishing level of service goals is one of the most unappreciated steps in asset management planning.  This webinar will teach you why small water systems shouldn’t skip this important step and simple ways to “level up” a utility’s asset management plan by establishing level of service goals.

EFCN Hosts Two New Small System Webinars

Our colleagues at the Environmental Finance Center Network are offering two new small system webinars:

 

Technologies to Save Energy, Resources, and Time in Water System Operations

DATE:              Wednesday, April 25

TIME:               1:30-2:30PM (eastern)

REGISTER:      Register

Saving energy, resources, and operator time benefits water utilities of all sizes. This webinar will provide attendees with information on some of the fundamental technologies allowing for efficient utility operation. We’ll answer the question, “What in the world is SCADA?” We will also discuss electric motor controls, remote monitoring in utility operations, and some niche and emerging technologies and how they may increase utility efficiency.

Intermediate Asset Management – Level Up With Level of Service Goals!

DATE:              Tuesday, May 1

TIME:               2:00-3:00PM (eastern)

REGISTER:      Register

Establishing level of service goals is one of the most underappreciated steps of asset management planning. Asset management allows utilities to maintain a desired level of service at the lowest life cycle costs. But how do we know if and when we are meeting our “desired” level of service?  This webinar will teach you why small water systems shouldn’t skip this important step of asset management, and simple ways to “level up” your utility’s asset management plan by establishing level of service goals today!

Addressing Affordability – AWWA Webinar

If you are an AWWA member, this event is free of charge.  Non-members must pay a $125 webinar registration fee.

DATE:              February 28

TIME:               1:00-2:30PM (eastern)

REGISTER:      Here

This webinar is an introduction to several models and approaches utilities are currently using to assist low-income customers and the tools the utilities are using to effectively reach low-income communities.  These models are presented against the backdrop of “Navigating Legal Pathways to Rate-Funded Customer Assistance Programs.”  Implementing a customer assistance program (CAP) is a way to ameliorate the effect of high water bills on vulnerable and low-income customers, an important and complex issue in many communities. This webinar will give examples of different customer assistance programs currently utilized by utilities and an overview of rate-funded CAPs.

NEW Webinar – Demystifying Electric Bills and Water Rates

Our colleagues at EFCN are hosting another webinar for states and utilities.  Demystifying Electric Bills:  Common Energy Bill Elements and Making Sense of Rate Structures is next on their agenda.

DATE:              Thursday, March 8, 2018

TIME:               1:00-2:00PM (eastern)

REGISTER:      Here

Providing drinking water and wastewater requires energy – and a lot of it. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that the cost of energy, as a percent of operating costs for drinking water system, can reach as high as 40 percent and is expected to increase 20 percent in the next 15 years. Though many operational costs may be fixed costs, energy costs represent the largest controllable cost of providing water services. Understanding your energy bill and knowing what you are paying for is important for every water utility.

EPA Hosts Water Workforce Webinar

Join EPA HQ and water operators in Idaho to learn more about the tools supporting water system operators in their role of protecting public health.  Register today for Supporting the Water Workforce: Tools for Water System Operators:  The Knowledge Retention Tool and Electronic Preventive Maintenance Logs

DATE:              Thursday, March 1, 2018

TIME:               2:00-3:00PM (eastern)

REGISTER:      Click here

Whether managing regular system maintenance, preparing for personnel transition, or entering into a partnership with a neighboring system, operators can benefit from incorporating these tools into their system’s management. Presenters from Idaho will share their first-hand experiences using the tools and highlight key features.  Please share this opportunity with your systems, assistance providers, and other state personnel with an interest in workforce issues.

DWSRF and Capacity Building in Action: Identifying and Prioritizing Systems for DWSRF Assistance

Continuing their ongoing joint webinar series, EPA’s DWSRF and Sustainable Systems Teams are hosting a webinar for states to discuss ways that you can identify and prioritize systems in need of DWSRF assistance.

 

DATE:              Wednesday, March 7

TIME;               2:00-3:00PM (eastern)

REGISTER:      Click here

Join us to learn how Delaware and Pennsylvania collaborated with EPA Region 3 in using EPA’s Enforcement Tracking Tool (ETT) to identify systems in non-compliance, and how assistance was provided to return the systems to compliance and protect public health.

 

Come Learn About Funding Basics

 

 

Join EPA and USDA to learn about Small System Funding opportunities through the DWSRF and through financing by the USDA Rural Utilities’ Service Water and Environmental Programs.

DATE:              February 27, 2018

TIME:               2:00-3:00PM (eastern)

REGISTER:      Click Here

EPA DWSRF:  Since its inception, more than 50% of the loans made under Drinking Water State Revolving Fund program have supported project needs of small systems service fewer than 3,300.  In addition to infrastructure funding, the DWSRF may also provide technical assistance to water systems and fund other system capacity building and operator certification activities.

USDA RUS WEP:  This program focuses exclusively on financing water and waste infrastructure needs of rural communities with 10,000 or fewer people.  WEP not only provides financial assistance for water and wastewater improvements, but also provides critical technical assistance to rural communities and their water and wastewater systems.

EFCN Hosts Two New Webinars

Our colleagues from EFCN’s Syracuse and Wichita State Universities are hosting two webinars this month that should be of interest to you.

Resiliency Planning 101

DATE:              February 13

TIME:               2:30-3:30PM (eastern)

REGISTER:      Click this link Register

This webinar will offer definitions of community and utility resiliency in the context of disaster preparedness, recovery, and proactive planning measures. Resiliency enables communities and utilities to remain economically and socially viable in the face of extreme weather or economic events.  This event is hosted by the Syracuse University Environmental Finance Center

What Challenges Do Different Sizes & Types of Systems Face?

DATE:              February 27

TIME:               2:30-3:30PM (eastern)

Register           Click this link Register

This webinar will address the challenges of delivering safe, potable water to communities of varying size and the differences and similarities of management challenges that both small and large systems face.  This event is hosted by the Wichita State University Environmental Finance Center.

GAO Releases Water Workforce Report

Earlier today, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a new report titled Water and Wastewater Workforce: Recruiting Approached Helped Industry Hire Operators, but Additional EPA Guidance Could Help Identify Future Needs (GAO-18-102).  The study, reviewing workforce needs within the drinking water and wastewater industry, was requested by the Chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies.

As the Report’s Highlights document states, “This report describes (1) what is known about workforce needs at water utilities compared with workforce needs nationwide and effects of potential unmet workforce needs on the utilities’ compliance with the Safe Drinking Water Act and Clean Water Act; (2) approaches used by selected utilities to manage their workforce needs and challenges they have faced in managing those needs; and (3) ways in which federal programs can assist water utilities with workforce needs.”

In summary, “GAO recommends that EPA add strategic workforce planning questions, such as the positions and skills needed in the future, to its inspection guidance documents. EPA generally agreed with GAO’s recommendation as it related to drinking water, but neither agreed nor disagreed regarding wastewater. GAO believes the entire recommendation should be implemented.”

A complete copy of the Report may be downloaded here.