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


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



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


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!



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


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


“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,


WIWSA President’s Message June 2016

Just recently, I had the pleasure and opportunity to sit with three representatives of a local ground water system which had just added new residents to their community and were moving up from a Group B to a Group A water system.  You all know our WIWSA mantra about the smartest thing that a Group B can do is to behave like a Group A water system by observing the federal and state rules for the larger systems.  Those rules were put into place in order to protect communities from unsafe drinking water and unwise business practices. The folks who took the time to visit with me wanted a plan for stepping up to the requirements for a more intensely regulated water system and I was happy to help them. 

Fortunately, our WIWSA Board of Directors includes persons with broad practical experience in every facet of ground water production and distribution and I urge all of our members to take advantage of that resource.  Please remember that there is no such thing as a “silly question” when it comes to purveying safe water to our friends and neighbors!

Warm regards, Jim Patton

WIWSA President’s Message March 2016


March, 2016

I believe that everyone who attended our December Quarterly Members’ Meeting (which was also our annual meeting) agreed that the tryout of the “World Café” was a success.  For more than an hour all of our board members, our Group A and Group B membership representatives and two members of the State Department of Health Office of Drinking Water sat in “conversation circles” to voice their concerns about the condition of small ground water systems here on Whidbey Island.  We were able to capture the sense of those concerns and that information will morph into the themes for our four meetings this year.

Top among the concerns was the burden of responsibilities on the backs of the small water system boards that administer the purveyance of water to their customer neighbors.  Webster informs us that the word “purvey” means to “furnish or supply (especially food or provisions).”   In actuality, our local water system boards sell the product of fresh drinking water and therefore product liability is as much a tyrant for them as it is for the makers of cars, airplanes and Coca Cola.  If our membership is to be above reproach in purveying water Group A and Group B board members must understand the rules for clean and healthy water production and distribution and, so, we will focus on those rules as the theme for our first quarterly members’ meeting this year … scheduled for 6:00 pm on March 17th at the Race Road Fire Station.  I look forward to learning a lot at this meeting!

Warm regards, Jim Patton

WIWSA President’s Message December 2015

We are approaching our last Quarterly Member’s Meeting for this year, scheduled for 6:00 pm, December 16, 2015 at the Race Road Fire Station.  This meeting will double as our Annual meeting and we will attend to “housekeeping” duties like electing directors and presenting our budget for 2016 to be voted on by our members in attendance.

Over the last few quarterly meetings we have explored issues like consolidation of small water systems, preparations for natural disasters, and the sources of funding for needed replacements and improvements.  For this meeting our Board of Directors decided to organize a “World Café” — an informal setting at which our members can arrange themselves in small discussion groups with the aim of bringing forward issues and topics that our association should focus on next year.  This will also be an opportunity for our Board to listen to our members with the aim of keeping our activities relevant to their needs.  So, when you arrive at the Fire Station please bring your “hot topics” with you and take a seat at one of the discussion tables placed around the room.  We will have a Board member at each table and, as befitting a “café” setting, we, of course will provide the coffee and goodies.

I am looking forward to hearing about our local water issues – and about the stewardship of our association – from you!

Warm regards, Jim Patton, President