WIWSA PRESIDENT’S MESSAGE JUNE 2019

Every year, we receive many questions from our members about the Small Water Systems Management Program (SWSMP) that the State requires (Washington Administrative Code 246-290-105) of all Group A systems. Indeed, when you pull up the official Guide for preparing the SWSMP on your computer it does seem overwhelming (82 pages !!!! for Heaven’s sake) and that induces the urge to put off working on it for another day.

Meanwhile, water keeps flowing out to our neighbors and problems of ownership and operations keep coming up – and even the most dedicated and competent water boards struggle to understand and meet their responsibilities. Well, the number ONE responsibility of the Whidbey Island Water Systems Association is to be the focal point for information on water system operations and maintenance … and the number TWO responsibility is to inform our members about government laws and rules. So, our Board of Directors decided to use the rest of the meeting time that we will have with our members this year (3 quarterly meetings) to help them to draft their SWSMP’s.

The State’s Guide (DOH Document #331-134) divides the SWSMP into three chapters: Managerial, Technical and Financial. We will use the time available at our next three quarterly members’ meetings to concentrate on each of these chapters in turn – beginning with presentations on every element of the Managerial Chapter at our meeting at the Coupeville Library, 5:00 to 7:00 pm on June 13th. By the end of this year, we hope that the loose-leaf binders that we will provide, filled with the detailed information that we will help you to develop, will satisfy the State’s requirements. How about that for a sensible goal?
By the way, you have often heard me say that the safest thing for a Group B system to do is “to act like a Group A system.” These meetings on the SWSMP will provide everything that is important to know to run a Group B system in the most responsible way!

Warm regards, Jim Patton

WIWSA President’s Message March 2019

Those of us who were born before the so-called “Digital Revolution” still expect to find important data and information about nearly everything printed on paper. Wellllll, that revolution really happened and now we are all working hard to become “computer literate.”


When we needed information or data about our water systems, for example, it once required an actual “voyage of discovery” down to Island County Administration, a “get acquainted” chat over the desk, and the patience to delve through records in every stage of decay. Not so anymore! We are indeed fortunate to have access to digital “Navigators” who can guide us to the data and information that we need without us even leaving our kitchen tables. Two of those intrepid Navigators, John Lovie and Doug Kelly, will spread out the pertinent digital maps for us at our next Quarterly Members Meeting, 5:00 to 7:00 pm, Thursday, March 14th at the Coupeville Library. Please attend and bring your trickiest questions about digital access “courses and speeds.”


As a bonus, we will also host the recently appointed Deputy Director of the Washington State Department of Health, Office of Drinking Water. Derek Pell served the public as the Deputy Director of the NW Region of the ODW for years and is no stranger to Whidbey Island and our association. We want to hear about his first impressions of “Life at the Top” at the seat of our State Government – so bring even trickier questions for his challenge!


Warm regards, Jim Patton


P. S. As a matter of interest, please see the record below of the themes that we have explored at all of our Quarterly Members’ Meetings over the last five years – and don’t hesitate to let us know if you think that some are important enough to revisit.

  • 2014
    • Q1 Insurance for Small Water Systems
    • Q2 What’s New at Island County Health and ODW
    • Q3 Recruiting and Training Certified Water System Operators
    • Q4 Consolidating Small Water Systems into Districts
  • 2015
    • Q1 Potential for Disruption of Water Supplies
    • Q2 Plans for Response to Acts of Nature
    • Q3 Funding sources for Improvements and Repairs
    • Q4 World Café – Concerns and Suggestions
  • 2016
    • Q1 Responsibilities of Water Boards
    • Q2 Who Owns Our Drinking Water?
    • Q3 Water Treatment
    • Q4 How to Develop your SWSMP
  • 2017
    • Q1 Detection and Treatment of PFAS
    • Q2 Purpose of and Preparation for Sanitary Surveys
    • Q3 Preparations for Natural Disasters
    • Q4 Responsibilities of Water Purveyors
  • 2018
    • Q1 Responsibilities and Liabilities of SMAs
    • Q2 Introduction to AWWA and WARN
    • Q3 Setting Water Rates
    • Q4 CERT Training and Emergency Preparedness

WIWSA PRESIDENT’S MESSAGE December 2018

I would be surprised if any of our members missed the news about the earthquake near Anchorage …. and even more surprised if any of our members failed to “make the connection” to our geologically precarious situation here on Whidbey Island.  The experts have warned us about our proximity to the Cascadia Fault nearby under the Pacific Ocean …… not to mention the Juan De Fuca Fault which is right under us!  This week’s Anchorage quake would be a “slap on the wrist” compared to the magnitude of the shaker that we might experience at any time.

Over the last four years we have regularly focused one of our quarterly meetings every year on the risk of an earthquake and encouraged our members to take at least the basic precautions. We are fortunate that in 1993 the Federal Emergency Management Agency created a Community Emergency Response Team Program (CERT) to educate volunteers about disaster preparedness and we are doubly fortunate that we can access that program right here on Whidbey Island.  Our local expert on CERT is Fire Chief “Rusty” Palmer of the South Whidbey Fire / EMS and he has agreed to speak to us at our last Quarterly Members’ Meeting this year – 5:00 to 7:00 pm on Wednesday, December 19th at the Coupeville Library.  If Anchorage proves to be just a “wake up call” for us on Whidbey we would be foolish not to be ready when our time comes!

Warm regards, Jim Patton

President’s Message – September 2018

Our regular Quarterly Members’ Meetings have always been well attended and, I hope, have always provided information and advice helpful to our members.  We do get feedback after the meetings and we are grateful for the guidance and encouragement we receive from those who share those four evenings a year with us.

In the dozen weeks between meetings we listen carefully to questions and expressions of concern from our members and that helps us to choose the themes and speakers for our next meeting. In the last several weeks we have responded to more than a few questions about how to handle the financials connected with “purveying” (i.e. selling) potable water to our neighbors.

Producing, treating, storing and distributing safe drinking water to those who trust and depend upon us as owners, operators and managers of their main source of water is a serious responsibility.  The assured availability of that water – and especially its quality — is not only pertinent to the health of those who purchase it but is a vital factor in determining the value of their homes and properties.

Purveying / selling potable water is similar to most retail businesses.  The purveying organization must match the price of the water to the whole cost of obtaining it and making it available.  At least some of that cost is driven by the special rules imposed by our federal and state governments to ensure that our “product” will not sicken the buyers.  In some special cases, like here on Whidbey Island where we depend on a sole source aquifer, our state government also wisely encourages conservation and pricing can be used as a tool in that regard.

For our meeting on September 18th (5:00 – 7:00 pm at Coupeville Library) we have assembled a panel that will offer thoughtful and informed suggestions about arranging the finances of a typical small water system.  I hope to see all of you at the meeting.

Warm regards, Jim Patton

President’s Message, June 2018

WIWSA PRESIDENT’S MESSAGE

June 2018

I made three points in my last Water News message

  1. That we would be emailing the Water News to you in digital format from now on (saving money for printing and postage);
  2. That we would be meeting at the Coupeville Library at 788 NW Alexander Street in Coupeville from now on (the Race Road Fire Station is being renovated); and
  3. That we have drafted an update of our Bylaws and hope that you will study them and give us a vote to approve them.  Please do come to our Quarterly Members’ Meeting ready to discuss the updated Bylaws (being emailed to you) and help us to put them in place.

The theme of our second quarterly meeting this year will be to introduce our members to two nation-wide organizations that share our interest in knowing more about how to operate and maintain our water systems and how to prepare them for possible emergencies.

We are looking forward to presentations by representatives of the American Water Works Association (AWWA) and the Water / Wastewater Agency Response Network (WARN).  We have to thank two of our board members, the professional Utility Superintendents for Coupeville and Langley, Joe Grogan and Randi Perry, for alerting us to the important work being done by these organizations.

As a bonus, our Island County Hydrogeologist, Doug Kelly, will also come to this meeting ready to explain how his new digitized access to well data will be available to all of us, Group A’s and Group B’s as well as our water district and individual well members.

I hope to see all of you at the meeting!

Warm regards, Jim Patton

WIWSA PRESIDENT’S MESSAGE March 2018

WIWSA PRESIDENT’S MESSAGE

March 2018

First of all, three “housekeeping” details.

One, this quarter’s Water News will be the last paper & mailed version of our quarterly Water News.  At our last membership meeting, almost all attendees voted to change to an email version and we will be communicating with you “digitally” from now on.

Two, our next quarterly members’ meeting – 5:00 to 7:00 pm on March 21stwill be the last meeting at the Race Road Fire Station for this year.  The station will be getting a “top to bottom” renovation beginning this spring so we will be moving our quarterly meetings to the Coupeville Library @ 788 NW Alexander Street, Coupeville – just up the street from the Museum.  We plan to continue to have our meetings on the evening of the third Wednesday of June, September and December as we have always had – and we hope that you will continue to join us!

Three, our board has drafted a “refreshed” version of our Bylaws – which have not been updated since our association was born.  Please take a look at this draft on our website and come to our quarterly meeting ready to discuss it and vote to bring our Bylaws up to date.

The theme of this “first-of-the-year” membership meeting on March 21st will be “Responsibilities and Limitations of Satellite Management Agencies.”  For our Group A members, whether you have a contract with one of our local SMAs or not, you will learn from the State Office of Drinking Water what the State’s expectations for SMAs are – and from the SMAs, what their limitations are – and how they are dealing with these limitations.

For our Group B members, while you may not be contracting with a local SMA, we are sure that you will learn something important from this “freewheeling” discussion.

Warm regards, Jim Patton

WIWSA PRESIDENT’S MESSAGE – DECEMBER, 2017

Many of our members will recall that we committed a quarterly members’ meeting last year to the subject of water ownership in our state.  Since then, we have focused on other topics but recently we have received questions from more than a few members about the responsibilities and legal obligations of Home Owner Associations and other communities that purvey drinking water to their members.  There is definitely some confusion about this subject so we will dedicate our quarterly members’ meeting on December 6th to give it the clarification that it deserves.

Once again, the leadership and staff of our State Department of Health, Office of Drinking Water, has agreed to participate in our meeting and to provide guidance and advice.  The State Department of Ecology will also be represented and officials from Island County Health will be on hand to relate the legal rules and practices to our local situation.  I am sure that we will all learn something of value and I hope that you will be able to join us

Warm regards, Jim Patton

President’s Message – Back to School!

WIWSA PRESIDENT’S MESSAGE

SEPTEMBER,  2017

BACK TO SCHOOL!  I think that we have all been watching the natural disasters unfold down in Texas and Florida … and most of us have asked ourselves how well prepared we are to cope with some sort of disaster here on Whidbey Island.  Very, very fortunately, history shows that we have little to fear from hurricanes, tornadoes, droughts or blizzards …… BUT, the geologists have frequently reminded us that we are probably overdue for an earthquake of some severity.

It has been some time since we have devoted a WIWSA quarterly members meeting to a discussion about preparations for a crisis here that might deny some of our sources of safe drinking water.

Once again, the good folks at the State Office of Drinking Water and Island County Government have agreed to meet with us to tell us how we should prepare for an emergency involving a loss of access to even some of the ground water that over 40,000 Whidbey Island residents depend upon.  I hope that you will join us at the Race Road Fire Station at 5:00 pm on Wednesday, September 20th to listen to them and to raise the kind of questions that typically do not occur to us until it is too late.

Warm regards, Jim Patton

WIWSA PRESIDENT’S MESSAGE JUNE, 2017

Perhaps the best “diagnostic” tool for identifying problems with any small water system is a Sanitary Survey which is a comprehensive inspection mandated for Group A ground water systems by the Federal Government (CFR 141.401) with responsibility delegated to Washington State via its Administrative Code (WAC 246-290-416).

In Island County, Sanitary Surveys of systems with more complex treatment facilities or special problems are conducted by the NW Regional Engineer for the State Department of Health, Office of Drinking Water. More routine Surveys are delegated to officials in the County Health Department.

While these are not “White Glove” inspections as in the military, the inspectors look for the kinds of discrepancies that may lead to system failure or worse, illness among those who drink the water that you are purveying.

State law requires a routine survey every five years, however, the occurrence of positive tests for coliforms or other reported problems typically calls for more frequent Surveys. Wise owners and operators of our local water systems will operate and maintain their equipment and keep their paper documents up to date as if a Sanitary Survey is scheduled for tomorrow. The burden of correcting discrepancies falls on the systems’ owners and their boards of directors.

While neither Federal nor State laws require Sanitary Surveys for Group B water systems, as always, WIWSA recommends that the owners of Group B systems “pretend” that they are Group A systems and hold themselves to the higher standards!

Our Quarterly Members’ Meeting on June 15th will focus entirely on Sanitary Surveys and experts from the State and the County will be on hand to advise you and to answer your questions.

Warm regards,

Jim Patton

WIWSA PRESIDENT’S MESSAGE September, 2016

“WHAT’S THIS AWFUL STUFF IN MY WATER?  AND HOW DO I GET RID OF IT?”  I have gotten calls like this about once a month since we posted our WIWSA website with my telephone number on it.

The frequency of these calls tells me two things: one, the “demographic” on our island is changing.  More and more folks are moving here with the expectation that their drinking water will be of the same quality as it was in City “X” somewhere on the mainland.  The other thing is that our association has to put more emphasis on explaining the need for treating the water that most of the people on Whidbey Island draw from our local aquifer.

We are going to tackle the explanation for treatment at our next Quarterly Members’ Meeting which is scheduled for 6:00 to 8:00 pm on Friday, September 30th at the Race Road Fire Station. We will have a panel of water treatment experts and, once again, we will be getting solid support from our friends at the State Department of Health Office of Drinking Water.  We will also have a local Professional Engineer with plenty of experience in designing treatment systems to address the special problems that we have with our water and a State-Certified Water System Operator with experience in procuring and installing treatment systems.  I expect that everyone who attends this meeting will leave a lot smarter about the “stuff” in their water and what they should be doing about it.

Warm regards, and I look forward to seeing you at the meeting,

Jim