What is rural water?
Ninety-four percent of water utilities nationwide are rural or small municipal systems serving populations of less than 10,000. In Texas, thousands of rural water suppliers are scattered across the state serving small communities far off the beaten path. Rural water suppliers include nonprofit water supply corporations, water districts, small-town water departments and investor-owned utilities. Collectively, these systems provide water to millions of rural Texans daily.
Rural water systems are faced with the task of providing safe drinking water to ever-increasing numbers at a reasonable cost. Rapid population growth in rural areas forces systems to expand to keep up with demand. They are held to the same quality standards as big city systems—they are regularly inspected and are required to resolve any violations in a timely fashion. Further, they do so with limited facilities, resources and manpower.
Rural water systems provide water service to communities of all sizes, serving rural areas of a county where service would not otherwise be available. The presence of these systems is what makes life in rural Texas possible—they provide access to a reliable water source, treat that water to meet regulatory standards, make improvements to rural infrastructure and bolster the local economy.
Who are the rural water system leaders?
Rural water systems are governed by people whose families drink the water every day and who are locally elected by their community. The elected men and women who run these systems are typically volunteers who give their time and energy to their communities to provide a better quality of life for rural Texans. Most rural systems have a General Manager whose job it is to oversee all office and field administration, including supervising any staff, ensuring the system’s compliance with all local, state and federal policies, acting as a liaison with the public, and implementing all long-range plans and policies.
The average rural water system with 10,000 or less connections has 7 full-time employees. Every public water system in Texas is required to have an operator who is licensed by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ). Rural water system staff are public servants who take great pride in their work, which is to safeguard the public health of their communities. In rural areas, the operators know their community members, applying that personal knowledge of their neighbors to their daily work.
The story of rural water in Texas is a story about people sharing their time, talents and resources unselfishly for the betterment of the communities where they and their neighbors live.