Smart Management for Small Water Systems Project

The Smart Management for Small Water Systems Project seeks to address major issues facing the nation’s smallest drinking water systems (those serving 10,000 or fewer people). Our team of experts works with water systems across the country, US territories, and the Navajo Nation to address these issues, which range from asset management and rate setting to water loss detection and conservation, through training and technical assistance.

Small water systems can take advantage of training and resources through a variety of offerings including:

  • In-Person Workshops
  • One-on-one technical assistance
  • Small Group sessions
  • Funder forums
  • Webinars
  • eLearning Modules
  • Water Rates Dashboards
  • Blog Posts

downloadThe Smart Management for Small Water Systems project is a collaborative effort between the members of the Environmental Finance Center Network and its partner, the American Water Works Association. This project is made possible through a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

This project is led by the Environmental Finance Center at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and is co-managed by the Southwest Environmental Finance Center.

Topics Include:

Glenn Barnes
Associate Director
Environmental Finance Center at UNC Chapel Hill

Heather Himmelberger
Southwest Environmental Finance Center

In the current climate of increasing regulations, decreasing revenues, and aging and decaying infrastructure, an asset management approach is vital. This workshop will provide you with tools to begin the process and understand the benefits. Asset Management helps you solve problems that are important to you and your operations. For example, you may be experiencing problems related to unknown locations of meters, valves or hydrants. You may not be sure of the best asset to replace given your limited funds. Asset Management helps you make decisions about how to operate, maintain, repair, rehabilitate, and replace utility assets and maintain a desired level of service at a sustainable cost.
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Though many operational costs may be fixed costs, energy costs represent the largest controllable cost of providing water services. Energy costs can account for as much as 40 percent of operating costs. Not only that, but energy prices are expected to increase by 20 percent in the next 15 years. Now is the time to control energy costs.
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This workshop will help ensure the financial stability of your water system while providing safe, quality drinking water at fair rates. Topics include all aspects of financial management and planning of a water system fund including rates and rate setting, controlling costs, planning for capital expenses, accessing external funding, tracking and benchmarking financial performance, and other Enterprise Fund issues that small water systems face.
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There are several federal and state programs that provide financing for water infrastructure projects. However, the process for securing even loan funds is often highly competitive. This workshop will provide participants with descriptions of individual financing programs and how they may interact with each other. Speakers will include persons involved in administering the programs in the state. Participants will receive basic information on best management practices such as asset management, rate settings, and financial benchmarking which could enhance your system’s funding applications.
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Strong communication and decision-making skills make a successful leader, and leadership happens at every level. Public works directors, water utility managers, operators, and finance staff needs to effectively communicate with rate payers, boards, funding and regulatory agencies, and staff. Good communication and decision-making skills improve effectiveness, from internal decision-making processes to communicating with regulatory bodies, ratepayers, and funding agencies.

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This workshop will introduce participants to establishing an effective water loss control program. Managing water loss is important to maximize system revenues, cut energy use and operating costs, improve water quality, address failing infrastructure, and mitigate impacts of limited water resources from drought or contamination.

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Running a small system is quite challenging. Water utilities have to meet ever-increasing regulations and customer expectations, while at the same time having to address aging infrastructure, lack of personnel and financial resources, and competing priorities. Generally, small systems cost more to operate on a per customer basis than larger systems due to a lack of economy of scale, further complicating matters for operators and managers.

One strategy to help systems address some of their challenges is collaborating with other utilities. There are many different ways systems can collaborate, from extremely informal information sharing sessions, to sharing of personnel or purchasing to assistance with regulatory compliance. It is highly likely that one or more of these approaches may be beneficial and acceptable to your water utility.
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This workshop will help water systems plan for an uncertain future. Attendees will gain an understanding of potential climate and extreme weather impacts in their region, and then learn the tools necessary to help them identify risks as well as manage and plan for impacts.
All water utilities, especially small systems are struggling to recruit and retain experienced staff, in particular when a long-term operator or manager retires. This workshop will focus on succession planning and operator recruitment and retention strategies. We will discuss the links between workforce development, long-term system sustainability, and long-term planning that includes communicating with decision-makers.