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E-swimming with the big fish.

From the California wine country to the to the cliffs of Maine, the nation's growing network of small, rural drinking water treatment systems are bound by a common thread--the need for up-to-date capacity development and regulatory information at a cost they can afford. It's a critical need that transcends dialect, cultural, and economic boundaries and has the potential to impact nearly 264 million people--those served by the nation's 54,000 community water systems.

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Traditional means of reaching out to water systems across the nation may soon be replaced by a more technologically advanced means, much as modern e-mail has replaced the Pony Express of days gone by. Trading in the old horse and rider for a swifter and sleeker method of communications, the Rural Community Assistance Partnership (RCAP) recently launched the Safe Drinking Water Trust (SDWT) eBulletin.

Like many organizations and regulatory agencies, RCAP has been keeping a close eye on the impact that technology is having on the water treatment industry and the role it will play in the future. The eBulletin project is supported through a federal homeland security grant awarded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and is designed to place a wealth of information directly into water system decision-makers' hands (or their e-mail boxes).

The Safe Drinking Water Act amendments passed in 1996 clearly raised the bar on water system regulations nationwide, calling for measurable levels of managerial, technical, and financial capacity among the nation's community water systems. Capacity in this context refers to a water system's ability to consistently provide safe drinking water for its customers.

Recognizing the hurdle these regulatory issues create, particularly for small-system decision-makers (those serving 2500 and fewer connections), the SDWT eBulletin, was launched as an online resource--designed to foster capacity development--at a cost even the smallest of systems can afford: free.

To register, users simply fill out the subscription form at www.watertrust.org and then sit back and let the information come directly to their e-mail inbox. Every three weeks SDWT eBulletin subscribers receive an interactive e-mail bulletin containing informational articles designed to break down even the most complex regulatory issues into plain English.

This e-newsletter is one of several innovative approaches currently being implemented by regulatory agencies and other industry groups designed to meet this common need in innovative ways. In an era when industry experts are predicting that over the next 30 years more than $250 billion will be required to replace an aging infrastructure, a new, cost-effective informational approach holds much to be desired.

Relying on the expertise and experience that comes from having worked directly with community leaders, the SDWT eBulletin is designed to offer more than just additional reading material. The eBulletin offers both up-to-date financial and regulatory resources and an interactive "ask-the-expert" function providing direct access to water industry experts across the nation.

Currently reaching subscribers in all 50 states and 15 foreign countries, the SDWT eBulletin and other Internet-based resources are rapidly becoming one of the industry's leading water utility informational tools. For more than 30 years, the RCAP partnership has served as a leader in rural community development through its field-based staff and delegate agencies working at the community level in all 50 states and Puerto Rico.

--Matt Gergeni is the feature writer for the eBulletin.

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Title Annotation:Ideas & Opinions
Author:Gergeni, Matt
Publication:Public Works
Date:Dec 1, 2004
Words:553
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