Small Systems Workshop: Managing the Nexus of
Planning, Funding, and Regulations
By Leanne Miller and Tanja Rauch-Williams
38 | ROCKY MOUNTAIN WATER MAY 2019
OF SPECIAL NOTE
THE INNOVATIVE WATER TECHNOLOGY (IWT)
Committee hosted representatives from small utilities
on January 16 in Grand Junction on Colorado’s Western
Slope. The workshop focused on challenges and opportunities
related to the planning and funding of capital improvements
and permit compliance specific to small facilities in Colorado.
Facility planning: The opposite of operating day-by-day
Steve Harper, Executive Director of Colorado Rural Water,
kicked the workshop off by focusing on one of the top
challenges—lack of well-trained staff. Our industry faces
a 30 to 50 percent workforce reduction over next 10 years.
Participants discussed opportunities for recruitment from
community colleges and high school internships. Success
stories were shared from working with high schools to
bring back trade-oriented classes, such as woodworking and
welding. Scholarships for training classes and exams have
helped encourage females to enter the wastewater industry.
The National Rural Water Association is formalizing a new
apprenticeship program in Colorado that makes federal
funding available to help utilities cover 50 to 70 percent of
apprenticeship wages. Roll out is planned for late fall 2019.
Seven other states already take part in this program.
Katie Sickles, City Administrator for Ouray, illustrated vividly
how failures of local wastewater improvement planning can
be overcome through public and City Council engagement
and education to allow for rate increase acceptance and
construction of a new treatment facility.
Siri Roman, Wastewater Manager with the Eagle River Water
Sanitation District (ERWSD), shared ERWSD’s complex but
successful planning path for the three wastewater facilities in
Vail, Avon, and Edwards to comply with future nutrient limits
under Regulations 85 and 31. ERWSD turned its challenges
(complex regulations, sensitive ecological region, high public
expectations, 50-year old infrastructure) into a collaborative
solution by proactively engaging citizen groups, regulators,
and the town government to protect aquatic quality, and
phase an anticipated $105 million in construction costs for
the three facilities over the coming 15 years.
Patrick Radabaugh, Project Manager with Dewberrry,
presented for the City of Durango on the recent
improvements that will catapult the 1987 facility to meet
future nutrient limits. The project required $63 million of
major improvements. After many open house events, public
meetings and tours, the critical bond and rate increases from
$7 to $54 over three years were publically approved.
I just can’t get enough . . . funding
Darlon Mayhorn and Nic McDonald from the Bureau of
Reclamation summarized several federal funding options for
western states under the WaterSMART Grants that received
a $34 million appropriation for fiscal year 2019 for western
states. Please contact or visit the webpage (www.usbr.gov/
watersmart) or check in with NMcDonald@usbr.gov to