State of NOWRA

For twenty-one years now, the National Onsite Wastewater Recycling Association (NOWRA) has been the national organization that represents all segments of the onsite wastewater industry. It has had a strong, successful year preparing onsite industry members for the challenges that face us.

NOWRA rose to the challenge of preparing installers in New Jersey for the new advanced certified installer requirement.

NOWRA elected a new assembly of leaders to serve for the next three years, among them are Robert D. Himschoot from Florida, James Vincent from New Mexico, and David Ritchie from Kentucky. Each member will serve on the Board of Directors to help guide the organization. Newly elected leaders Tom Fritts from MO will serve as president, Greg Graves from Ohio will serve as vice president, Robert Mayer from Virginia will serve as secretary and treasurer, and outgoing president Richard Otis from Wisconsin will serve as immediate past president.

The 2,000 member organization attracted more members into the association. Last year, they added the Florida Onsite Wastewater Association. The Onsite Wastewater Association of Idaho has already joined this year, and with others in the pipeline, NOWRA is set to continue to expand its influence in the industry.

These state organizations are drawn to NOWRA because of the additional resources that NOWRA brings to the table. Among those resources are training, expanding the market for large decentralized systems, as well as government and industry relations.


NOWRA Executive Director Eric Casey is excited about the changes that are coming for 2013. “A big focus is going to be training,” says Casey. “We rolled out our Installer Academy several years ago as a national training program, but we found it wasn’t working the way we wanted it to. Last year, we reconfigured it so we can provide it for a college, state onsite association, or regulator who wants to educate people in the service area.

“We sold out the advanced installer training in New Jersey. We have plans for training in New Mexico, Oklahoma, the Pumper Show, and our annual conference this year and we have strong interest from several other organizations for additional training.

“There isn’t a broadly accepted training of advanced design. Maryland approached us about developing an advanced curriculum which has resulted in a three-day training that we will present in April and May. Ultimately, we are looking at developing an industry standard of practice for design.

“We are also looking forward to developing a distance learning program, which will have two pieces: one is that we will provide a platform to provide training at the state level to all NOWRA affiliates; and the other is to develop online content based on the same training that we do in person.”

NOWRA will also host its 2013 annual conference in Nashville in November, which will also provide numerous training and education opportunities.

Expanding Market

To provide more revenue for the onsite industry, NOWRA is focused on expanding the onsite industry’s market share. NOWRA will hold a joint conference on large decentralized systems with WEF at the WEFTEC conference this year. “This is the first time for the utility and decentralized sides to get together,” says Casey. “The event is an opportunity to educate the “big-pipe” engineering community about the advantages of decentralized systems.”

NOWRA has EPA to help them build that case. In a series of one-page position papers, the EPA has endorsed decentralized wastewater as a “smart alternative for communities considering new systems.” The EPA touts their cost-effectiveness, ability to promote business and job opportunities, as well as its sustainability. Because decentralized systems are environmentally friendly, the EPA suggests the use of the Clean Water State Revolving Fund as a way for states to implement their wastewater programs.

“Tennessee is doing interesting things in cluster and other advanced systems, which has been the focus of our association,” says Casey. The Consolidated Utility District of Rutherford County in TN is featured as an example of where these systems have worked in the EPA position papers. NOWRA will use the position papers at WEFTEC and other events to show decision-makers that decentralized systems can work.

“There is a tremendous opportunity not just in rural, but also in urban and suburban areas to expand our market,” says Casey. “It can be a better alternative than extending big sewer mains. To accomplish this, we will need to build more awareness with the people that are involved in the process, such as developers, engineers, and public officials that are ultimately making wastewater infrastructure decisions.”

Government and Industry Relations

That is where their external relations committee comes in. NOWRA has formed a task force that will work on submitting articles and spreading the word about decentralized systems. “Basically, they will be evangelizing for our industry,” says Casey. “They will use the position papers as the foundation of why decision-makers should consider decentralized systems as a part of their wastewater strategy.”

“At the end of 2012, we provided a lot of comments to the EPA about the Chesapeake Bay Watershed,” says Casey. “I think the model program will be replicated in other sensitive watershed areas such as the Carolina’s, Great Lakes, Florida, the Gulf Coast and others. As a co-signer of the EPA Decentralized Wastewater Memorandum of Understanding Partnership (MOU), we intend to continue to provide comments on issues as they develop.”

NOWRA expects to ramp up their government relations activities this year, which will include requesting that the EPA and Congress provide more funding for decentralized systems. “The onsite industry represents 25 percent of the country’s infrastructure, but only gets less than one-half of one percent of the Clean Water State Revolving Fund, which is the biggest chunk of money that is available,” says Casey. “We would like to increase our share of that money.”

To accomplish this, NOWRA is looking into hiring a lobbyist to work with Congress to either introduce legislation or help change the requirements to get funding. “The hardest thing to get done in Congress is to get a bill passed,” says Casey. “You make more headway by asking a member of Congress to do a study. For example, a member of Congress may ask the GAO to investigate why there is a disparity in funding, to hold hearings, or to simply write a letter to the EPA. Hiring a lobbyist in 2013 is still a question that our industry will have to answer. We will have to determine whether it will get us more than it costs us. I think it will.”

“We have also been working with the Water Quality Association on a study that looks at the impact that water softeners have on septic,” says Casey. “We expect the report to be released in April.”

In addition to those goals, NOWRA will continue to support its affiliates based on their needs. They will also continue to host the popular National Roe-D-Hoe® Championship at the Pumper Show. “I’m excited about this because it has expanded into other states,” says Casey. “We will host the open competition the first two days and those six to eight state champions will have a go in the final round.”

The state of NOWRA continues to be strong and with the goals set forth for 2013, we expect it to get stronger.

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Story by Jennifer Taylor

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