Idaho Rural Water Association

Sticking true to the ‘rural’ part of the association’s moniker, the focus of the Idaho Rural Water Association (IRWA) is toward community based systems with the mission to provide technical assistance, training and a strong representative voice for the benefit of Idaho’s water and wastewater systems. Working primarily with the United States Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development Group, the IRWA serves populations of 10,000 or less in an effort to help small communities maintain and be able to sustain themselves.

IRWA has ten employees, two of whom work in the association’s office and the other eight of whom work out in the field, throughout the state. Three work in the arena of drinking water, two work with wastewater, another two work with source water protection and one coordinates training. Shelley Roberts, CEO of the Idaho Rural Water Association, explains, “We lost some of our funding due to federal budget cuts so, unfortunately, now we have to charge for some of our training and technical assistance.”

For an annual fee that is based on the number of connections, members reap the benefits of system representation at the local, state and national level on issues that affect rural water and wastewater utilities, as well as networking opportunities, voting privileges, student scholarships for higher education and access to technical resources.

The association also does much with rate studies and assisting municipalities determine their rates for the year. “There’s no charge in the state of Idaho, except for training.” And the IRWA will lend out their equipment at no charge if a job requires.

Roberts is excited to report that the association was able to purchase a TV camera for sewer lines and put it to good use over the last year. Bill Burke, a wastewater technician who has been working with the IRWA for many years, has been putting it to such good use, he’s getting more requests than he can handle, according to Roberts. Roberts says, “Similar to the other IRWA employees, he’s provided an immense amount of support to the small communities of Idaho through the years.”

Funded by Rural Development, Burke performs an extensive list of services throughout the state, from lagoon and sludge profiling, lift station troubleshooting and operational issues, all at no charge to the community. In 2012, he’ll be adding teaching to his repertoire, teaching full day courses called “Collections A to Z.”

Courses are also taught at the IRWA’s annual show, which will be held March 13-16, 2012. The show boasts approximately 250 attendees and 50 vendors. Roberts says, “We feel it’s a pretty good sized show and growing every year.” So much so, that the IRWA has added a second show to accommodate those living in the Idaho panhandle. Labeled the Northern IRWA Conference, the idea of adding a second show emerged from the lifeblood of the association—its members. “Adding a show was in response to our members’ request for more training,” Roberts says and expects to have 125 attendees. “It’s not as big…yet,” she says and has confidence that the association will get there. Both shows span two days and offer 12 hours of training, resulting in 1.2 CEUs.

For more information about the IRWA call 800.962.3257 or visit

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