Water System Partnerships
Small systems face unique challenges in providing affordable drinking water that meets federal and state regulations. These challenges include aging infrastructure, increasing costs and declining rate bases, and limited technical and managerial capabilities. Water systems can overcome these challenges by developing partnerships with other systems.
Partnerships provide opportunities to collaborate on compliance solutions and operations and maintenance activities and to share costs with other nearby systems This increases capacity and enables systems to provide safe and affordable water to their communities.
Partnerships can range from informal arrangements, like sharing equipment with another water system, to more complex arrangements like sharing management with another water system. This 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
U.S. EPA-U.S. Department of Agriculture Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) – Promoting Sustainable Rural Water and Wastewater Systems (5 pp, 315 K, About PDF) - As part of the MOA, the two agencies collaborated on a four-part webinar series to promote system partnerships:
- Partnering Over Time: Vinton County Water Joins Jackson County Water - Featuring the partnership between two water systems in Ohio, and how the nature of their partnership evolved from informal cooperation to interconnection.
- Communicating to Gain and Maintain Buy-in: The Logan Todd Regional Water Commission - Featuring a regional water commission formed by 12 water systems that each kept their own identities.
- Facilitating Partnerships: State and Funder Perspectives - Featuring Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation, Washington Department of Health and USDA Mississippi State Office discussing ways they encourage partnerships.
- Troubleshooting the Partnership Process - 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.
- Helping Small Systems Comply with the Safe Drinking Water Act: The Role of Restructuring (PDF) (6 pp, 468 K) - Frequently asked questions on how restructuring can help aid compliance and create shared benefits.
- Gaining Operational and Managerial Efficiencies Through Water System Partnerships (PDF) (28 pp, 3.9 MB)- Case studies.
- System Partnership Solutions to Improve Public Health Protection Volume I (PDF)(12 pp, 775 K) and Volume II (PDF) (10 pp, 203 K) - Case studies of water systems that partnered to implement cost-effective, long-term solutions to public health and capacity challenges.
- EPA's Restructuring Manual (PDF) (56 pp, 2.8 MB) - A training manual for State drinking water personnel.
- Restructuring and Consolidation of Small Drinking Water Systems: A Compendium of State Authorities, Statutes, and Regulations (PDF) (61 pp, 1.1 MB) - State-by-state overview of authorities related to restructuring and consolidation.
- Consolidated Water Rates: Issues and Practices in Single-Tariff Pricing (PDF) (122 pp, 342 K) - A resource for policy makers on single-tariff pricing.
- Restructuring Small Drinking Water Systems: Options and Case Studies (PDF) (48 pp, 2.9 MB)