Sustainable water and wastewater infrastructure is a critical foundation of economic development, but in uncertain economic times it is even more critical. Rural economic activity depends on sustainable infrastructure, making it the first rung on the ladder of opportunity for rural and economically challenged communities. Without basic infrastructure such as rural water systems that provide safe, dependable, and efficient wastewater and drinking water services, there would be no support for the economic activities that are necessary for continued success and growth as a nation. The work carried out by rural Americans stands as the backbone to the strength of our nation.
USDA Rural Development and the EPA have joined forces to provide resources to our nation’s small and rural communities’ water and wastewater systems to increase levels of sustainability. Both USDA and EPA have worked closely with rural and small systems, with input from rural operators and managers, to develop flexible, user friendly tools to help rural and small system managers and operators ensure their communities are strong, safe and sustainable. USDA and EPA are rolling out the two new tools that are designed specifically for rural and small water and wastewater system operators and managers.
The first tool is “Rural and Small Systems Guidebook to Sustainable Utility Management”. This Guidebook takes small systems through a series of steps to assess their current operations based on ten key management areas developed using best practices. The Guidebook allows rural and small systems assess their strengths and priorities for improvement, which will lead to an action plan to address those priorities and challenges. The Guidebook also contains an extensive inventory of other utility management tools to help rural and small systems.
The second tool is called “Workshop in a Box”. The Workshop contains a series of materials and instructions to help both small systems and technical assistance providers market and conduct workshops on their own based on the Guidebook. These materials can be used either in a group setting with several systems, or on-site with a team of individuals from a single system.
With more sustainable water and wastewater systems in rural communities, the rungs on the ladder of opportunity will become closer together and afford those communities greater environmental protection and economic opportunities.
John C. Padalino, Administrator
U.S. Department of Agriculture, Rural Utilities Service