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Water: Sustainable Infrastructure

Water System Partnerships


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Small systems face unique challenges in providing affordable drinking water that meets federal and state regulations, especially as new drinking water requirements become increasingly complex. These challenges include aging infrastructure, increasing costs and declining rate bases, and limited technical and managerial capabilities. In order to overcome some of these challenges, water systems may need to develop partnerships with other systems.

These partnerships can provide opportunities to collaborate on compliance solutions and operations and maintenance activities and to share costs with other nearby systems, thereby increasing capacity and enabling systems to provide safe and affordable water to their communities.

Partnerships can range from informal arrangements (e.g., sharing equipment with another water system) to more complex arrangements (e.g., sharing management with another water system) and may involve changes to the operational, managerial or institutional structure of a water system. When considering a partnership with another water system, it is important to evaluate:

  • Available partnership options.
  • Which options ensure long-term compliance and financial stability.
  • Associated costs.

Webinar Series on System Partnerships:
As part of the EPA-USDA Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) – Promoting Sustainable Rural Water and Wastewater Systems (5 pp, 374K), the two agencies are collaborating on a four-part webinar series to promote system partnerships. 

  • Partnering Over Time: Vinton County Water Joins Jackson County Water (10/26/2011) - Featuring the partnership between two water systems in Ohio, and how the nature of their partnership evolved from informal cooperation to interconnection. Presentation (54 pp, 2.91MB) Speaker Notes (57 pp, 1.26MB)
  • Communicating to Gain and Maintain Buy-in: The Logan Todd Regional Water Commission (2/29/2012) -  Featuring a regional water commission formed by 12 water systems that each kept their own identities. Presentation (49 pp, 2.92K) Speaker Notes (55pp, 1.87K)
  • Facilitating Partnerships: State and Funder Perspectives (8/8/2012) - Featuring Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation, Washington Department of Health and USDA Mississippi State Office discussing ways they encourage partnerships. Presentation (76 pp, 3.06MB) Speaker Notes (86 pp, 1.26MB) 
  • Troubleshooting the Partnership Process (11/5/2012) – Featuring representatives from two water system partnerships in New Mexico, the Lower Rio Grande Public Water Works Authority and El Valle Water Alliance, discussing different aspects of the water system partnering process. Other panelists include USDA New Mexico State Office, New Mexico Finance Authority, New Mexico Environment Department Drinking Water Bureau, New Mexico Office of State Engineer, and the Rural Community Assistance Corporation.  Presentation  (50pp, 1.17MB) Speaker Notes  (52pp, 1.18MB)
Additional Resources:

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