TUPELO, Miss. (WCBI) – Residents across North Mississippi and the state often take clean, safe drinking water for granted. A staff of highly skilled professionals helps get drinking water and wastewater services to customers, many in rural areas.
The Mississippi Rural Water Association is hosting several days of training to make sure its members have the latest knowledge and guidance to best serve their customers.
As a class was underway to provide certification for water system operators, another course for office personnel was bringing them up to date on latest technology and best practices for handling money and other matters.
The Mississippi Rural Water Association is also holding classes for members of water boards statewide during the four day event at the Bancorpsouth Arena and Conference Center.
“You as a customer and I as a customer, knowing there’s somebody who is qualified, to know what’s going in my drinking water, make sure it’s safe for me and my family, grandchildren, nursing homes, hospitals, this is where it comes home, and discharge of the waste going into receiving streams, these people are professionals,” said Bill Rutledge, president of MSRWA.
There are 1,060 rural water associations in Mississippi and employees said receiving up to date information from the training sessions is crucial for customers.
“I love the vast information we get from Mississippi rural Water and being able to connect and network with other clerks who do the same thing we do, it’s always a great plus,” said Rita Talford, Bruce City Clerk.
“Stay on top of regulations, you don’t want to get caught out of regulations, you got new stuff going on that can help treat the water, so we can best serve the people,” said Tramphis Boyd, of the CCM Water Association.
The Mississippi Rural Water Association also keeps up with latest trends in the industry. One of the most disturbing is a drop in the number of young people who want to become system operators or work for rural water associations.
It is one major reason the statewide organization will soon take part in an apprenticeship program.
“We are in the process of starting a apprenticeship program with Mississippi Rural Water in conjunction with National Rural Water to try and get younger people on board , in this type of work. Lots of our systems are small systems and to keep rates low they aren’t able to pay men good money and provide benefits, they may have the salary but cannot provide benefits, and benefits is a major thing these days,” said Kirby Mayfield, CEO of MSRWA.
Mayfield also points out that Mississippi has the largest number of USDA loans and grants for rural water associations than any other state. He credits that to years of strong representation in Washington.
The training sessions wrap up Friday with a certification test for new water system operators.