EPA Offers Tools To Help Small Drinking Water Systems

On Feb. 15, EPA announced it released two new tools and a suggested affordability approach officials said will help small water utilities trying to balance the demands for quality water with their financial ability to deliver.

The agency's action is part of an overall program to protect public health, support small water systems and keep costs of water manageable, officials said. The targeted systems serve 3,300 customers or fewer.

The first document, Setting Small Drinking Water System Rates for a Sustainable Future, will help owners and operators understand the full costs of providing a quality and adequate supply of drinking water to their customers and guide them in setting water rates that will support these costs. The second document, Case Studies of Sustainable Water and Wastewater Pricing, provides real-world examples of eight drinking-water systems and their approach to determining and establishing rates.

The documents and additional information on EPA's sustainable infrastructure efforts are available at http://www.epa.gov/water/infrastructure.

In another action, EPA is requesting public comment on several proposed revised methods to determine when variances can be granted by state agencies to small systems that cannot afford to comply with future drinking water standards. A small-system variance allows a drinking water system to use a treatment technology that is both affordable and protects public health, officials said.

Variances are not available for microbial contaminants such as bacteria, viruses or other organisms. The Safe Drinking Water Act requires EPA to identify affordable treatment technologies for small systems for each new drinking-water standard.

This proposal responds to a request from Congress and other stakeholders that EPA review its approach for assessing the affordability of drinking water regulations. EPA is seeking public comment and will further refine the proposal to reflect the best information available. Comments will be accepted for 60 days after publication in the Federal Register. A pre-publication copy of the proposal and more information on small-system variances is at http://www.epa.gov/safewater/smallsys/affordability.html.

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