Louisiana Rural Water Association

It would be difficult to find a person in this country who is ignorant of the woes that have befallen the residents of the Gulf Coast—Louisianans in particular—in the last five years. From “storms of the century” to the latest oil spill disaster, every agency has been impacted as they attempt to meet the basic and very real human needs of their constituencies.

Louisiana Rural Water Association (whose members number more than 1,000) represents roughly 2.1 million of Louisiana’s 4.4 million residents in all 64 parishes—nearly every water and wastewater system in the state serves populations of 10,000 or fewer. It is an organization that is immensely proud of its role in providing a wide range of services to its member utilities and to the state’s population.

Whether it’s clean, safe water for drinking and for domestic and commercial uses, or the safe, efficient treatment and handling of wastewater, the water utilities of the state of Louisiana have been put to the test repeatedly in recent years. To combat the devastation and get all utilities back to meeting the critical needs of residents as quickly as possible, LRWA has established an emergency response program that relies on collaboration. LaWARN—Louisiana Water/Wastewater Agency Response Network—was modeled on Florida’s FlaWARN and California’s CalWARN programs.

“Don Broussard, with the City of Lafayette, and I had the idea after hurricanes Katrina and Rita devastated the Gulf Coast in 2005,” recalls Patrick Credeur, LRWA Executive Director and head of the staff of twenty-six.

“This is a ‘utility helping utility’ program. We assisted close to 1,300 water and wastewater systems during Katrina, Rita, Gustav and Ike, but we didn’t do it alone. Rural water associations came in to help us from New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Florida, Alabama, Kentucky, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Mississippi, Georgia, National Rural Water, and many more. Without them, we couldn’t have done it.”

Louisiana’s efforts have paid off tremendously across the country. “I think it got some of the other states thinking,” Credeur notes. “Thanks to National Rural Water, American Water Works Association, and the Environmental Protection Agency, there is some type of emergency response or WARN program in almost every state rural water association.”

Among the services LRWA provides to its members are training for operators and staff at rural water and wastewater utilities across the state. Training Specialist Rusty Reeves, who also runs the organization’s annual conference, plans the training sessions a year in advance.

“The monthly workshops are usually held in small- to medium-sized member community centers, civic centers, and school gymnasiums. We find that by taking the programs to them, more of them attend.”

Some of the programs are taught by LRWA staff (the association has three Certified Environmental Trainers on staff and brings in others to conduct the 32-hour exam courses in water and sewer). LRWA also brings in experts from the water and wastewater industry.

“We are constantly changing the agendas to make sure we cover a wide range of interests,” says Credeur, “such as the Safe Drinking Water Act and Clean Water Act rules, energy savings, pumps, motors, financial options, chemical storage and hazardous waste, lead and copper rules, emergency management, how wastewater plants work—just to name a few.”

Credeur credits his staff—who jump right in there and cook a hot lunch onsite for every monthly workshop or training session—with helping to get the attendees there and raising the level of camaraderie. That same sense of family flows over into the community, too: Credeur reports that each staff person is involved in some type of community service.

“LRWA works closely with state and federal agencies as well as with elected officials to make sure we have a good working relationship or partnership with them. The ultimate goal is to assist these utilities and keep them in compliance with all state and federal regulations.

“The last three governors appointed me to the Water Policy Task Force, the Fluoridation Advisory Board [which he chairs], and the LA Broad-Band Commission. I think they know we will do the best job possible for the people of Louisiana.

“LRWA tries to never say ‘no’ to any utility. If we can’t help them out, we have 230 associate members—vendors—who will.”

For more information, contact:
Louisiana Rural Water Association
1325 3rd Ave., PO Box 180
Kinder, LA 70648
800.256.2591
www.LRWA.org

 

 

By Anne Biggs

 

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