By: Kathy Rodgers, RCAP Solutions Maine State Lead
RCAP Solutions is the Northeastern RCAP region serving all six New England states, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Maine’s RCAP team is part of an internal technology working group to host and moderate trainings in GoToTraining, a web platform used by many RCAP technical assistance providers (TAPs) to administer trainings and webinars to rural communities across the country. Since March, Maine RCAP has shifted their focus to developing their online training skills, to getting much needed training delivered to drinking water operators across the state. In addition to federal grants from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Maine RCAP received funding through Maine Drinking Water Program (DWP) to enable better collaboration with Maine Water Environment Association (MEWEA), Maine Water Utilities Association (MWUA), and the Joint Environmental Training Coordinating Committee (JETCC). Ultimately this collaboration will result in enhanced trainings for drinking water operators and rural community water board members.
To create the best virtual training schedule, Maine RCAP staff asked our small and very small water systems which topics would be of the most interest to their operators and staff members. A few of their responses are below:
To address these desired subjects, Maine RCAP has established a structured reoccurring group discussion addressing issues that are impacting Maine’s small drinking water systems. Discussion topics will vary by current events and participant suggestions. Guests will be invited from the Maine Drinking Water Program, state utilities, USDA Rural Development, the Public Utilities Commission (PUC), and other organizations serving Maine to discuss their programs and answer participant questions. These sessions will also serve as a space for operators to share best practices and unique solutions to problems facing rural communities.
By bringing together utility leaders from different communities across the state, Maine RCAP is promoting the RCAP network-wide regional collaboration initiative. RCAP defines regionalization as a spectrum of collaborative activities, ranging from the most informal to the most formal of partnerships between communities in the same geographic area. This is a great example of informal collaboration that allows staff from a number of utilities to build trust for mutual benefit that could lead to more official partnerships in the future. To learn more about regionalization and how small water systems can use partnerships to share resources and knowledge, read RCAP’s research report “Resiliency Through Water and Wastewater System Partnerships: 10 Lessons from Community Leaders.”
Following the first Small System Group Discussion, the Maine RCAP team requested feedback from members that attended. Below highlights some of the comments received regarding the discussion topics and platform. If you are interested in joining this group, please reach out to Kathy Rodgers at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“I thought this platform was great, it gave us small systems a place to talk, listen to each other’s experiences, ask questions and either get direct help or links and suggestions,” said one attendee. “It was simple meeting online where we do not have to go somewhere to meet physically. An hour out of my day was easy to do vs. driving time and then meeting and the return drive. I appreciate this gathering was offered and I wouldn’t mind doing something like this in the future.”