A Water System Partnerships Case Study

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Creating Madison Water District Partnerships


Madison Water District provides water to nearly 2,100 people in Madison
Township north of Mansfield, Ohio. The water system operates four wells that
pump approximately 125,000 gallons of water per day. Since the formation of the
Madison Water District in 1997, the water system has supported many nearby
water systems through a forward-thinking approach to partnerships. Madison
Water District has not only provided emergency connections to nearby water
systems, but also acquired water systems to take on operation and management.
For water systems of all sizes, including pizza shops, gas stations, and
manufactured housing, Madison Water District has become a trusted neighbor and
reliable water system in the region. In 2017 Madison Water District initiated a new
partnership involving two struggling water systems, Altman Heights and
Countryside Water Association.


Challenge Statement:

Two water systems in Ohio
struggling with their operations
found support from their neighbor,
Madison Water District. Altman
Heights experienced diminishing
well capacity and issues maintaining
compliance, while Countryside
Water Association had difficulty
finding a new operator. Both,
therefore, approached Madison
Water District, a water system
known to assist nearby communities,
to discuss opportunities to work

Partnership Features:
The partnership with Madison Water
District by Altman Heights and
Countryside Water Association is a
great example of ownership transfer
as a solution. Madison Water District
connected to these nearby water
systems and now serves their

Primary Benefits:

The customers of Altman Heights
and Countryside Water Association
are now able to receive properly
treated water at no additional cost.
With more customers, economies of
scale allow for lower administrative
costs and rates.


Madison Water District was able to
successfully deliver safe drinking
water to new customers and
continue to lead by example by
viewing partnerships proactively.

Madison Water District

A Water System Partnerships Case Study

11 Page

Critical Drivers

Due to the critical drivers below, Madison Water District connected to the Altman
Heights and Countryside Water Association water systems and now provides water to
the customers of these systems.

4 Aging Infrastructure: Altman Heights encountered aging infrastructure and
deteriorating wells, with no long-term plan to update them in a way that
would have been economically feasible for the community.

6 Poor Water Quality: Altman Heights also experienced increased levels of
manganese in their source water, which posed a health risk to the public.

4 Aging Workforce: Countryside Water Association had a long-standing
operator that eventually retired, and the Association was struggling to
identify and onboard a qualified replacement.

Water System Partnerships as a Solution

Water systems across the country face a myriad of challenges, including technical,
managerial, and financial (TMF) capacity issues. Water system partnerships refer
to a range of collaborative activities in which water systems can pool resources,
expertise, and experience. Bringing water systems together through partnerships
can help reduce noncompliance issues, risks to public health, and redundant
workloads. Water system partnerships are informal or formal relationships that
help water systems identify opportunities to leverage benefits that would be
difficult to achieve independently.

encompass a range of
opportunities for water
systems to work together
in order to sustainabiy
provide water services.

Increasing Transfer of Responsibility

Work with other water
systems, but without
contractual obligations,

Creation of a new entity
by several water
systems that continue
to exist as

independent entities.

Requires a contract,
but contract is
under water
system's control.

Madison Water District has participated in a variety of different types of
partnerships. For example, Madison Water District has an ongoing partnership
with the City of Mansfield to supply equipment and manpower as needed during
emergencies. This is an example of an informal cooperation partnership. Madison
Water District has also participated in multiple contractual assistance

A sign at the entrance of the Madison

Water treatment plant.


Informal Cooperation:
Coordination with other water
systems, but without contractual
obligations. Informal partnerships
may consist of partners sharing
equipment and agreeing to help
each other with emergency
response management.

Contractual Assistance:

Setup a contract with another
water system or service provider
where the contract and service ulti-
mately remain under the water
system's control. This type of
partnership may include a water
system purchasing water from
another water system or
contracting out operation and
management to another water

Joint Power Agency:

Creation of a new entity designed

to serve the water systems that

form it. These partnered water

systems may share water system

management, operators, or source


Ownership Transfer:

Merger or mutual transfer of an
existing entity or creation of a new
entity. This type of relationship
may be represented by one water
system being acquired by another,
or by being connected to another
water system physically, financially,

Madison Water District

A Water System Partnerships Case Study

2 | Page

partnerships to connect to nearby water systems for backup supply. The
partnership between Altman Heights and Countryside Water Association is an
example of ownership transfer. With the support from some key players,
Madison Water District has become a trusted leader and partner to other water
systems in Ohio.

Building Blocks of Partnership

Soon after the formation of the Madison Water District in 1997, its
Board completed a study to explore the surrounding area within
Madison Township and Mifflin Township to determine potential areas
for Madison Water District to serve. This study investigated the
possible consolidation of 100 public water systems and up to 1,000 or
more customers with private wells within a two-mile radius. The study
led to a few small interconnections and transfers of ownership but was
not implemented to its full potential.

In 2005, Madison Water District was able to utilize Ohio Rural
Community Assistance Program (RCAP) to complete a rate study. The
study was the beginning of a long successful relationship between RCAP
and Madison Water District.

Between 2001 and 2017 Madison Water District connected to or took
on ownership of a variety of water systems including funeral parlors,
gas stations, restaurants and bars, child care facilities, and other public
water systems as they began to deteriorate. RCAP has been supporting
Madison Water District with these efforts as they continue to enhance
their reputation in the local community.

In the spring of 2017, a nearby water system, Altman Heights, was
facing challenges treating their water to a safe level of manganese for
public use and could not afford to replace or repair their aging
infrastructure. Eventually, Altman Heights approached Madison Water
District for aid because of their history supporting other nearby water

Around the same time, Countryside Water Association was also
interested in partnering with Madison Water District because their
operator was preparing to retire, and they were struggling to find a
qualified replacement.

In July of 2018, after conversations with each of the water systems,

Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and RCAP started to
support the facilitation of these partnerships with Madison Water

Soon after plans were discussed, the formal interconnection and
ownership transfer of Altman Heights and Countryside Water
Association to Madison Water District began. The project included the
installation of approximately 9,600 linear feet of
6-inch water main, gate valves, new water meters, and new water
meter pits. It also involved the abandonment of the existing wells at
Altman Heights.

Creation of the
Madison Water


Relationship with
RCAP began


Altman Heights

Madison Water
District for help


transfer of
Altman Heights
and Countryside

Association was

Study on potential


Madison Water
District obtained
ownership of
several nearby
water systems


RCAP and Ohio EPA
are brought in to
support the


Madison Water District

A Water System Partnerships Case Study

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Madison Water District was able to complete the project without raising its
customers' rates. Benefits have been felt across the region, ranging from improved
water quality to more efficient administrative organization and management.

Going forward, Madison Water District hopes to proactively support other nearby
water systems in order to enhance efficiency while protecting public health.

Best Practices and Successful Strategies

Key Players

The Madison Water District partnership with Altman Heights and Countryside Water
Association was successful, in part, due to engagement with key players and
relationships built over many years of working together toward common goals in the

4 Local Water Services Company: The team at Madison Water District was

extremely familiar with the area since they were also providing operations and
management support to a variety of other water systems in the region. When a
nearby water system was facing difficulties, they became the champion to lead
the partnership effort.

A RCAP: The team at RCAP was able to successfully support Madison Water
District and its connections to Countryside Water Association and Altman
Heights by serving as a neutral third-party, facilitating challenging
conversations, and helping to build trust between partners. RCAP became a key
team member by providing grant writing support and options for the water
systems to consider so they could come to the best agreement for everyone.

A Ohio EPA: Ohio EPA recognized the urgency of the project due to public health
concerns. They provided an interest-free loan to Madison Water District so that
the team was able to take immediate action to address the current issues and
connect the water systems.

A Board Members: The Madison Water District Board was able to work with the
key players mentioned above and listen to their proposal. Ultimately, the effort
was successful as the board members were able to understand and approve
the proposed shift in ownership and management.

4 Local Engineering Company: This company implemented the design and
construction projects needed to connect Altman Heights and Countryside
Water Association to Madison Water District. The consulting engineers were
able to provide a pipe alignment that prevented conflict with existing utilities,
while also providing future opportunities for partnerships and additional


To connect with Altman Heights and Countryside Water Association water systems,
Madison Water District received an interest-free loan from Ohio EPA through the
Water Supply Revolving Loan Account (WSRLA). This is a sub-program of Ohio EPA's
larger Drinking Water Assistance Fund (DWAF), which is funded by the Drinking
Water State Revolving Fund (DWSRF) program. Ohio's WSRLA provides financial
assistance for the planning, design, and construction of improvements to community
water systems and non-profit non-community public water systems. The program
offers below-market interest rates for compliance-related improvements to public


The Ohio RCAP team was crucial to
the success of the partnership. They
were able to provide technical
assistance and facilitate discussions
as a neutral third-party partner.
They supported the shared goal of
protecting public health and were
able to communicate this as a
benefit to all parties involved. Ohio
RCAP was able to investigate all
alternatives to determine the best
outcome. Having a neutral third-
party facilitator allowed the water
systems to come together to
incorporate the most efficient

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This project was funded with a loan
from Ohio EPA's WSRLA. Ohio EPA
saw the urgency of this project
because of water quality concerns
at Altman Heights. The loan was
provided with significant principal
forgiveness and a portion was
interest-free because the project
involved regionalization. The terms
of the loan and loan amount were
crucial in getting the project going.


9 Ohio Environmental
Protection Agency

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A Water System Partnerships Case Study

4 | P a g e

water systems. The program is jointly managed by the Ohio Water Development
Authority and Ohio EPA's Division of Environmental and Financial Assistance and
Division of Drinking and Ground Waters.

When the Madison Water District team applied for the loan, Ohio EPA immediately
flagged the case based on their priority rankings protocol for different types of
projects. Ohio EPA viewed the potential partnerships as urgent in order to protect
public health. Prior to the loan award, Ohio EPA was required to evaluate the
Madison Water District's asset management program to ensure compliance with the
state's capacity development authority. As a result, Madison Water District was
required to complete utility and financial management classes. These classes were
offered free of charge by Ohio RCAP in online and classroom settings.

The loan provided Madison Water District with significant principal forgiveness,
therefore, their customers did not incur a financial burden due to the project.

An operator uses a horizontal directional
drill to bore the initial pilot hole and begin
clearing a path for the water main.

Partnership Benefits

Water systems can achieve significant benefits through partnering. Madison Water
District gained valuable knowledge and built relationships that benefitted all parties
involved. Forming strong connections with neighboring water systems benefits the
communities, employees, and water systems. This partnership has helped provide all
water systems with:

A Water Quality and Public Health Benefits: The customers that were originally
served by Altman Heights and Countryside Water Association were able to
receive safe drinking water at no additional cost. Diminishing water quality in
Altman Heights became a critical issue, motivating Ohio EPA to act quickly in
approving an application for a loan to support the interconnection of Altman
Heights and Countryside Water Association's water systems to Madison Water
District. Through the creation of partnerships, residents within Altman Heights
were able to receive water from a source without high manganese

A Economies of Scale: Madison Water District is now able to treat and transport
water to the 60 customers of Altman Heights and 75 service connections of
Countryside Water Association more efficiently. Since there are more water
systems purchasing and operating together in the region, it costs less per
customer to provide services. The positive impacts of a scaled economy result
in more efficient operations and less expensive water for customers.

4 TMF Capacity: The development of partnerships between water systems can
enhance the TMF capacity of those water systems. The ownership transfer of
Altman Heights and Countryside Water Association increased the TMF capacity
of Madison Water District with increased economies of scale and from classes
on best practices for the operation and management of utilities. Strong capacity
is essential to meet the requirements of the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA).

4 Relationship Building: Partnerships allow for an interdisciplinary relationship to
emerge that might not have otherwise developed. In the case of this
partnership, various key players from across the water industry, including board
members, RCAP, Ohio EPA, the local water services company, and the local
engineering company, were able to come together to create a meaningful

A worker oversees slurry being vacuumed
from the boring pit while others assemble
sections of pipe to lay.

Tracing wiring surrounds the pit where
the new pipe was laid.

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A Water System Partnerships Case Study

5 | P a g e

project that resulted in positive benefits, both physically and by continuing
professional relationships.

Learning from the Madison Water District

Madison Water District discovered that being proactive in identifying partners,
working together, and building a network were all key elements to creating a
sustainable plan for water systems within the region. Through ongoing collaboration,
Madison Water District continues to create regional plans to address issues before
they occur.


Having a variety of team players who could see different aspects and suggest options
for what could work best for everyone was critical. Specifically, requesting support
from a third-party facilitator or technical assistance provider, can help drive the
partnership forward. They can assist with conflict resolution and strive to come up with
the best option for both parties. Other players, such as the water system boards, and
the state primacy agency can work together to serve the greater goal of providing safe
drinking water.

Reach Out and Ask for Help

This partnership has demonstrated that public water systems and their communities
benefit greatly when a water system reaches out and asks for assistance when they
need it. These opportunities improve public confidence that their water system will
take the necessary steps to protect public health.

Build Trust

Without trust, a strong relationship cannot withstand the pressures of an important
project. Having a reputable organization with a strong and wide network of contacts
can lead to more opportunities to support nearby water systems and expand


To learn more about the Ohio
WSLRA, Ohio RCAP, and other
water system partnerships, follow
these links to online resources:

• Ohio WSLRA


EPA Water System
Partnerships Website

Workers assemble fittings, gate valves, and
restraining joints along the water main.


Water system partnerships can help water systems overcome challenges including aging infrastructure, compliance challenges,
and limited technical and managerial capabilities. Partnerships provide opportunities to collaborate on compliance solutions,
and operation and maintenance activities, which increase capacity and enable water systems to provide safe water to their

To learn more about water system partnerships like the Madison Water District partnerships, visit EPA's Water System
Partnerships website:

Office of Water (4606M)

EPA 816-F-22-007

April 2022

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