An evaluation of rural public water systems

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Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University


There are many communities in nonurban areas where a public water system is needed. In recent years the Farmers Home Administration has provided the stimulus for development of these systems in rural and suburban areas.

With greater awareness of the FHA program, two opposing views developed: (1) FHA design criteria did not provide for adequate service; (2) generally accepted design criteria for water systems were primarily applicable for urban and not rural areas. An evaluation of the FHA program was undertaken to obtain pertinent information regarding the design, installation, and operation of public water systems serving nonurban areas.

Data were obtained from survey questionnaires completed by state offices of FHA, State Health Departments, and selected consulting engineers familiar with the FHA program, and from a field survey of selected FHA water systems.

Special considerations in certain areas are necessary for nonurban systems--fire protection, for example. However, the growth potential created by the installation of a public water system must not be ignored as has been done in some cases. Plastic pipe, utilized for its economic benefit, was found to be generally satisfactory. Criteria other than those recommended by FHA are suggested for domestic water consumption, instantaneous flow rates, and distribution storage.

Finished water quality data for the systems generally indicated inadequate treatment and/or poor operation. Other deficiencies noted were related primarily to lack of surveillance, little or no operator training, and insufficient funding for operation and maintenance. Most deficiencies observed could easily be corrected or prevented by increased State Health Department surveillance and greater emphasis by FHA on operation and maintenance during the planning phase of a project.