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NRWA Announces Creation of Workforce Advancement Center

(Added 11/14/2016)

The National Rural Water Association, the nation’s largest water utility association with over 31,000 members, announced the creation of the NRWA Workforce Advancement Center today during a joint ceremony with the Oklahoma Rural Water Association at NRWA’s headquarters in Duncan, Okla.  The Center will develop the WaterPro Apprenticeship Program, a nationally recognized standard that will be registered with the U.S. Department of Labor. 

“The NRWA Workforce Advancement Center will ensure a well-trained and capable water sector workforce to meet the increasing demands of the water industry,” said NRWA CEO Sam Wade.  “Advancements in water treatment and supply technology have increased the skills and training needed to protect public health and the environment.  The apprenticeship program will ensure we have the skilled and educated workforce we need well into the future.”     

NRWA State Affiliates will jointly make the announcement at training events for water and wastewater operations specialists in California, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Indiana, West Virginia and New York.  The announcement and events will commemorate National Apprenticeship Week 2016 and will highlight the need for a national water sector apprenticeship initiative. 

It takes over 380,000 highly skilled water and wastewater personnel to ensure the public supply of safe drinking water and to protect our lakes, streams and groundwater.  Advancements in water treatment and supply technology have increased the skills and training required of this workforce.  Water professionals are ultimately responsible for meeting stringent regulatory standards, replacing aging infrastructure, recruiting and training new operations specialists, and responding to and recovering from disasters.

In addition to increasing professional demands, utilities will soon be forced to replace many of their most experienced employees.  Between 2010 and 2020, the water sector is expected to lose between 30 and 50 percent of the workforce to retirement.  Many of these employees have worked at the same utility for the majority of their careers, and they will depart with decades of valuable institutional knowledge.

NRWA and State Affiliates currently provide training on operator certification, financial sustainability, environmental compliance, utility management and governance to 80,000 water professionals annually in all 50 states.  Last year, over 55,000 on-site consultations were delivered by NRWA’s technical experts for water quality, energy efficiency, source water protection, technical assistance and emergency response.  Today’s announcement furthers NRWA’s commitment to developing and enhancing the professionalism of the water sector workforce.

“I commend the National Rural Water Association on its new NRWA Workforce Advancement Center and its efforts to create a rural water workforce apprenticeship program,” said USDA Rural Utilities Service Administrator Brandon McBride.  “Both efforts will strengthen our rural network of water and waste systems and create meaningful job opportunities in rural America.  These actions also build upon the continuing partnership between USDA’s Rural Utilities Service and NRWA to modernize water and wastewater infrastructure and to develop a new generation of experts who will successfully operate and manage that infrastructure.”

The WaterPro Apprenticeship program will initially be tailored to water system operations specialists, wastewater system operations specialists, and water utility system customer service personnel.  In addition, the NRWA Workforce Advancement Center will develop career pathways into the water sector for high school students, establish industry training certifications, connect workers with employers through a job network, and serve as an online clearinghouse for resources.

To support this initiative or obtain further information, contact NRWA or visit www.nrwa.org.


Grants Still Available to Help Small Communities with Abandoned Properties

(Added 10/26/2016)

Funding is still available to Iowa communities with populations of 5,000 or smaller to inspect and properly remove asbestos from abandoned commercial buildings. The funds, from the DNR’s Derelict Building Grant Program, allow eligible communities to investigate the amount of asbestos present in a building. The funding also allows them to determine the physical characteristics and stability of these structures by completing structural engineering assessments, and to abate identified asbestos issues. “If a building collapses and the presence of asbestos is unknown, it can increase the economic burden on the community,” said the DNR’s Scott Flagg. “In addition, a building’s appearance may not reveal the actual condition of the structure. Building assessments can assist communities determine how best to address an abandoned building.” The Derelict Building Grant Program provides small communities and rural counties financial assistance for abandoned commercial and public structures, which can improve the appearance of their streets, revitalize local economies and alleviate the environmental concerns these buildings can pose. Projects selected may apply for funding in 2017 for additional program-related tasks. For more information and to obtain an application for the Derelict Building Grant Program, contact Scott Flagg at 515-725-8318 or [email protected]. Applications will be accepted until funds are expended. Refer to the following link for additional information: http://www.iowadnr.gov/Environmental-Protection/Land-Quality/Waste-Planning-Recycling/DerelictBuilding-Program

(Source: Iowa DNR News Release, 09/22/2016)

Also: UST Database is open to the public and provides information about underground storage tanks and above ground storage tanks. 

Storage Tanks Database Web Application

The storage tanks database web application is a joint venture between the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and the Public Safety State Fire Marshal Office (SFM). It presents all the storage tanks in Iowa containing regulated substances, primarily petroleum products, within one database system. These consist of Underground Storage Tanks (UST), Leaking Underground Storage Tanks (LUST), and Aboveground Storage Tanks (AST). This site is for public viewing and does not require a login. The database provides information about the UST site location, the site owners, tanks, Risk-Based Corrective Action (RBCA), site classification and remediation. The user may view the current status of underground storage tank and leaking underground storage tank sites using this new database tool. Refer to the following link to access the database web application:



USDA Rural Development Lowers Interest Rates

(Added 4/7/2016)

Washington D.C. (March 30, 2016) – The U.S. Department of Agriculture has announced new, low rates for their Rural Utility Services loan programs.

The following rates will be effective on April 1:

“These new low interest rates for the USDA Water and Waste Disposal Program are an opportunity for rural communities to upgrade, expand, or replace their infrastructure affordably and bring cleaner, more reliable service to rural residents,” said RUS Administrator Brandon McBride. “Funding is available and USDA is ready to work with rural water leaders now while this low rate window is open.”

USDA’s Rural Utilities Service administers programs that provide infrastructure and infrastructure improvements to rural communities.

“USDA plays a critical role in helping to expand economic opportunities and improve the quality of life for rural Americans,” said Sam Wade, CEO of the National Rural Water Association.  “These rates are incredibly low, and systems would be wise to take advantage of this opportunity to make needed improvements.” 

Project loans can have up to 40-year payback period, based on the useful life of the facilities financed.  The interest rate is based on the need for the project and the median household income of the area to be served. Applications are accepted year round at local offices of USDA Rural Development, or online using RDApply: https://rdapply.usda.gov



Flint Water Crisis Info
(Added 3/16/2016)

Link to the Des Moines Waterworks FAQ:  http://www.dmww.com/about-us/announcements/lead-in-drinking-water-faq.aspx

Here is the website to get information about the situation in Flint:  https://www.epa.gov/flint

General information about lead in drinking water can be found at:  https://www.epa.gov/your-drinking-water/basic-information-about-lead-drinking-water


Drink Local
The Water Street Journal - Fall 2015

‘Water is a precious commodity, everyone uses it.  Drinking water has its own special value, keeping your body hydrated and healthy.  If a product claims it is drinking water, then it must meet the requirements for drinking water and comes from a safe source, right?  My counterpart, Toby Days, Source Water Specialist for Alliance of Indiana Rural Water, has researched what value you actually get from bottled water compared to tap water.  This will definitely shed some light on the differences between the two sources and why we should think before we drink.’ – Lisa Walters

Remember the drinking fountain, that once ubiquitous, and free, source of H2O? It seems quaint now. Instead, bottled water is everywhere, in offices, airplanes, stores, homes and restaurants across the country. We consumed over ten billion gallons and purchased $12.3 billion of the stuff in 2013. Bottled water is currently the No. 2 beverage product and is expected to overtake soda as America’s most consume beverage in the next decade.  It’s refreshing, calorie-free, convenient to carry around, tastier than some tap water and exponentially healthier than sugary sodas.

What’s in That Bottle?

Evocative names and labels depicting pastoral scenes have convinced us that the liquid is the purest drink around.  But is bottled water and the package it comes in, safe, or at least safer than tap water?

Analysis of industry data released in 2010 by the national consumer advocacy group Food & Water Watch found that almost half of all bottled water sold in U.S. retail outlets in polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastic bottles now comes from municipal tap water supplies. “Bottling Our Cities’ Tap Water” shows that between 2000 and 2009 the share of retail-sold PET bottled water that is actually tap water grew from 32.7 percent to 47.8 percent (http://documents.foodandwaterwatch.org/doc/MunicipalWater-IssueBrief.pdf).

Yes, some bottled water comes from sparkling springs and other pristine sources. Almost 50 percent of it comes from a municipal supply. The water is treated, purified and sold to us, often at a thousandfold increase in price. Most people are surprised to learn that they’re drinking glorified tap water, but bottlers aren’t required to list the source on the label.While munipal...

Water Quality: Is Bottled Water Safe?

The FDA regulates bottled water as a food. That means it regulates allowable levels of chemical, physical, microbial and radiological contaminants, requires Good Manufacturing Practice standards for boiling and bottling, and regulates labeling.

However, the FDA doesn't have the ability to oversee a mandatory testing program like the EPA does with public water suppliers. So, although it can order a bottled water recall once a problem has been found, there is no guarantee that the bottle of water you bought is safe.

FDA's rules exempt many forms of what most of us would consider bottled water from its definition of "bottled water," and therefore, according to FDA, exempts them from all of FDA's specific standards for bottled water testing and contamination. If the product is declared on the bottle ingredient label simply as "water," or as "carbonated water," "disinfected water," "filtered water," "seltzer water," "soda water," "sparkling water," or "tonic water," it is not considered "bottled water" by FDA. 

In addition, FDA oversight doesn’t apply to water packaged and sold within the same state, leaving some 60 to 70 percent of bottled water, including the contents of watercooler jugs, free of FDA regulation. In this case, testing depends on the states, but often state primacy agency don’t have adequate resources either to oversee bottled water.

Laced into plastic bottles are  chemicals, such as bisphenol A (BPA), antimony, and benzyl butyl phthalate (BBP), potential hormone disruptors and di(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate (DEHP), a possible human carcinogen, that can seep out and into the water if bottles are exposed to heat, light or sits around for a long time.  And because the plastic is porous, you'll likely get a swill of harmful bacteria with each gulp if you reuse the bottles.

Water Quality: Is Tap Water Safe?

You need to stay hydrated -- that’s clear -- but is the tap water in your home safe? It is considered generally safe if it comes from a public water system in the United States, such as one run and maintained by a municipality. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has the authority to monitor all public water systems and sets enforceable health standards regarding the contaminants in drinking water.

When drinking water leaves a treatment plant on its way to your house, it must meet strict safety standards. That doesn’t mean that your water is free of all contaminants, but that the levels of any contaminants don’t pose any serious health risk.

Of course, accidents can happen. If the water supply becomes contaminated by something that can cause immediate illness, the supplier must promptly inform you. Suppliers also need to offer alternative suggestions for safe drinking water. In addition, they have 24 hours to inform customers of any violation of standards that could have major impact on health following a short-term exposure.

By July 1 of each year, public water suppliers are required to mail their customers a drinking water quality report, sometimes called a consumer confidence report or CCR. The report tells where your water comes from and what’s in it.

The Effects of Bottled Water on the Environment

It is hard to argue the fact that waste management has become a large problem in the world, with landfills growing to enormous sizes and recycling rates remaining dismally low. The number of plastic bottles produced by the bottled water industry and subsequently discarded by consumers has only exacerbated this problem.

Bottled water produces up to 1.5 million tons of plastic waste per year. According to Food and Water Watch, that plastic requires up to 47 million gallons of oil per year to produce (foodandwaterwatch.org/water/bottled). And while the plastic used to bottle beverages is of high quality and in demand by recyclers, over 80 percent of plastic bottles are simply thrown away.

Then there’s the waste of water itself, says Todd Jarvis, PhD, associate director of the Institute for Water and Watersheds at Oregon State University. According to his calculations, it takes about 72 billion gallons of water a year, worldwide, just to make the empty bottles (http://www.rd.com/health/wellness/rethink-what-you-drink/4/#ixzz3ZrwjfCso).

Besides the sheer number of plastic bottles produced each year, the energy required to manufacture and transport these bottles to market severely drains limited fossil fuels. Bottled water companies, due to their unregulated use of valuable resources and their production of billions of plastic bottles have presented a significant strain on the environment.

Bottled water means less attention to public systems

Many people drink bottled water because they don't like the taste of their local tap water, or because they question its safety.

This is like running around with a slow leak in your tire, topping it off every few days rather than taking it to be patched. Only the very affluent can afford to switch their water consumption to bottled sources. Once distanced from public systems, these consumers have little incentive to support bond issues and other methods of upgrading municipal water treatment.

The corporatization of water

In the documentary film "Thirst," authors Alan Snitow and Deborah Kaufman demonstrated the rapid worldwide privatization of municipal water supplies, and the effect these purchases are having on local economies.

Water is being called the "Blue Gold" of the 21st century in the documentary title as such by Maude Barlow and Tony Clarke. Thanks to increasing urbanization and population, shifting climates and industrial pollution, fresh water is becoming humanity's most precious resource.

Multinational corporations are stepping in to purchase groundwater and distribution rights wherever they can, and the bottled water industry is an important component in their drive to commoditize what many feel is a basic human right: the access to safe and affordable water.

What can you do?

There's a simple alternative to purchasing bottled water: buy a stainless steel thermos, BPA free bottles and use them. Don't like the way your local tap water tastes? Inexpensive carbon filters will turn most tap water sparkling fresh at a fraction of bottled water's cost.

Local food is everywhere these days: community-supported agriculture (CSAs), farmers markets, farm-to-table dining… . That local food is grown and cooked with … local water! It’s the invisible part of the sustainable, healthy food you eat.

So, become a locavore, it’s time to get your hydrophilia on and appreciate your local water supply just as much as you do your local farmers market. Shouldn’t we care for and support our water sources like we support healthy, organic, local farms?

Tap water is clearly the safest, healthiest and most sustainable choice.  Get your community to drink their tap water, you get people to value the source, the utility and the professionals that bring it to them.

Drink local my friends, Cheers!