Rural Water - Quarter 2, 2015 - (Page 12)

BUILDING CAPACITY AND SUSTAINABILITY State Specialists Lead Efforts to Protect Community Drinking Water h 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 12 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 planning team 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
Making Connections
The Rural Water Loan Fund
USDA Rural Development
Regulatory Update
Throwing My Loop
Index to Advertisers/
From the CEO

Rural Water - Quarter 2, 2015