Rural Water - Quarter 2, 2015 - (Page 12)
BUILDING CAPACITY AND SUSTAINABILITY
State Specialists Lead Efforts
to Protect Community
BY MARY LOU JAY
Human-caused pollutants in
rivers, lakes and aquifers threaten
the sustainability of water supplies in
communities throughout America. But
identifying the sources of these pollutants
and developing strategies to manage
them is a time-consuming and lengthy
undertaking that can strain the resources
of small rural water utilities. Through
the Source Water Protection Program
(SWPP), funded by the NRWA and the U.S.
Department of Agriculture's Farm Service
Agency, the water companies can get the
assistance they need.
The SWPP provides funding for a fulltime, source water protection specialist
(technician) in every state. Some work in
conjunction with other technicians who are
funded through state programs.
SWPP specialists consult with various
agencies in their state to identify the
water suppliers that need assistance.
Aaron Meyer, source water protection
specialist with the Minnesota Rural Water
Association, works with the Minnesota
Department of Health. "We have what
we call a phasing list, where the primacy
agency has gone through and looked at
systems to determine their vulnerability,"
he said. Priority goes to systems that serve
SECOND QUARTER 2015
high populations of the elderly and/or
infants and children.
"Since I'm funded through FSA, I
primarily work with systems that are
dealing with elevated nitrates and ag
influences," he added.
The specialists serve as facilitators
and resources, educating people in the
community about the need for source
water protection, guiding them through the
process of writing a plan and then assisting
them with putting the plan into action. The
specialists in turn get support from NRWA
through its source water staff, through
twice-yearly meetings and through an
informal network that allows them to share
best practices and brainstorm solutions to
particular challenges in their states.
Some source water specialists have
previously worked with communities
through the Wellhead Protection Plan
(WHPP), a program dating back to the
1990s that was sponsored by the NRWA
and the EPA. The Source Water Protection
Program incorporates plans developed
through WHPP but goes beyond its
groundwater focus to address surface
water issues as well. The SWPP covers
point sources of pollution, such as leaking
petroleum storage tanks and discharges of
municipal and industrial waste, as well as
non-point pollution, including agricultural
waste, construction activities and
impervious land cover.
Developing the plan
The degree of assistance that a
program specialist provides depends on
the requirements of the state and on the
resources of the local water supplier.
"There are many communities that are
really poor and don't have the resources or
capacity to develop a plan," said Colleen
Williams, source water specialist for
the Colorado Rural Water Association.
"I will do more for them, and hold their
hands throughout the whole process,
with the idea that I am coaching them
and empowering them on how to be
sustainable so they can do it themselves."
Every state approaches the SWPP in its
own way, but the process always includes
five key steps.
1. Identify the stakeholders
and put together a
Susan Breau, source water program
specialist for the Maine Rural Water
Association, said she advises the water
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Rural Water - Quarter 2, 2015
From The President
State Specialists Lead Efforts to Protect Community Drinking Water
Energy Efficiency 101
Assisting Utilities through Sustainable Management Initiative
Technology Update: Cyber Threats Not Limited to Large Retailers and Health Insurers
The Rural Water Loan Fund
USDA Rural Development
Throwing My Loop
Index to Advertisers/ Advertisers.com
From the CEO
Rural Water - Quarter 2, 2015