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Drinking Water: Helping Water Systems When Stuff Happens

By: Michael Grange

One thing we can all be certain of, stuff happens. And when that stuff happens to your drinking water system, whether it’s expected or unexpected, sometimes you just aren’t quite ready for it. If the solution to the stuff that happens has a financial component to it, you may really not be ready for it.

Spring development project

Spring development project

In those cases, the Division of Drinking Water’s (DDW) State Revolving Fund (DWSRF) financial assistance programs can help bridge the gap between what your system has and what it needs. Whether those needs involve compliance with regulations, meeting increased demand, or resolving an emergency situation, assistance from the DWSRF program may be just what your system needs.

DDW administers two revolving funds: the federal Drinking Water State Revolving Fund and the state Drinking Water State Revolving Fund. These programs provide low-interest loans and grants to cities, towns, water districts, and nonprofit water companies to finance drinking water projects. Loans are typically provided at an interest rate well below the market rate over a 20 year period. Once the division receives an application for funding, DDW staff evaluates the application and engineering report and place the proposal on the Project Priority List. The evaluation assigns priority points based on criteria established in state rules. DDW staff then prepares a feasibility report and recommendation to present to the Utah Drinking Water Board for funding approval.

So, what kind of stuff can happen to your drinking water system? One of the key components of any drinking water system is the source. It could be a spring, a well, a lake, or a river. In some cases, even an old mine shaft might serve as your drinking water source. What happens if that source should suddenly become unusable?

Let’s look at a few examples

Trenton Town

Trenton Town has relied on spring water for its drinking water source for many years. A sudden, heavy rainstorm exposed a big problem with this source when the amount of water flowing from the spring suddenly increased, and dirty water showed up in the distribution system. Investigations undertaken following this event identified severe structural deficiencies and showed that the spring was improperly developed to meet current drinking-water standards. Additional investigations at nearby spring sources also revealed deficiencies in their construction as well. The Drinking Water Board authorized financial assistance for Trenton Town to redevelop their spring source, and the latest test indicates the redevelopment was successful.

Taylor-West Weber

Well-drilling activities

Well-drilling activities

The Taylor-West Weber Water Improvement District (TWWWID) was in the middle of extensive and expensive drinking water system improvements when sand suddenly began infiltrating an existing well, making it impractical to use. TWWWID approached the Drinking Water Board for financial assistance — in addition to the more than $7 million it had already obtained—to resolve this new emergency situation. The Board authorized funding for the District to drill a new well, and DDW staff worked with the District to expedite the availability of funds, which allowed the District to save money by using the contractor already onsite drilling a different well to also drill the replacement well.

Elberta

The Elberta Water Company’s well contains arsenic above the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s maximum contaminant level. Drilling a new well was impractical and treatment to remove the arsenic was deemed too expensive for this small water system to undertake. That left blending the system’s high arsenic water with water that contained a lower arsenic level as the remaining solution. The Company identified a suitable nearby well, and the Division worked with Elberta, the city’s consulting engineer, and the owner of the existing well to develop an appropriate blending plan. The Drinking Water Board authorized financial assistance to the Company to install the required infrastructure to blend the source waters and bring Elberta’s drinking water into compliance with regulations.

As these examples show, stuff does indeed happen. The Division of Drinking Water and the Drinking Water Board, through the DWSRF programs, are here to help your system through those times when a little bit of help can make a great deal of difference.

Learn more about DDW’s grants and loan programs for drinking water systems, including how to apply for financial assistance, by visiting our SRF webpages. We are happy to help your city, town, or district get started on the application process.

I joined DDW in October 2006 and became Section Manager in October 2011. As the Construction Assistance Section Manager, I oversee the financial assistance programs offered by the Division. I earned degrees in Chemical Engineering and Business Administration from the University of Utah. My work experience includes 14 years in the private sector as a laboratory technician, process engineer, and consulting engineer focusing on water and waste water treatment and environmental assessment and remediation.