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Building the Capacity of Drinking Water Systems


State Agencies Supporting Water System Partnerships

Washington State Department of Health

State Policies and Programs Regarding Water System Partnerships


Limited principal forgiveness is offered to projects that include consolidation or restructuring, as long as they meet certain criteria to ensure that the consolidated system will have adequate TMF capacity.


The Public Water System Coordination Act (PWSCA) was amended in 1991 to include a satellite management program to address requests for water service that cannot be accommodated by a direct connection to an existing PWS. Washington approves Satellite Management Agencies (SMAs) that own or operate more than one PWS in specifically service areas. Newly-proposed systems outside a PWS’s existing or future service area must be owned or operated by an approved SMA. If no SMA is available to provide service, the PWS is obligated to receive SMA service if it has problems.


Managerial and Financial Capacity Assessments ask managers/owners of PWSs whether they would be willing to connect to a nearby water system: "The responsibilities and costs of owning and operating a public water system can be overwhelming. Some water systems are interested in the economic and operational benefits of consolidating facilities and operations with another utility. Is your system willing to consider transferring ownership, management, and operations to another water utility?” When consolidation isn't possible due to the distance between systems, the state encourages water systems to consider the benefits of transferring ownership, management, and operations to another utility.


The PWSCA of 1977 establishes a process whereby water systems identify existing and future service areas. Identifying service areas and directing water systems seeking restructuring and new water applicants to existing water systems for service, has helped prevent the creation of new isolated systems within the service area of existing water system.


When a PWS is unable to achieve compliance the state may petition the court to take temporary control of a failing PWS and direct that PWS to a receiver. Receivers are authorized to operate and maintain the PWS, make needed system improvements, impose reasonable assessments on PWS customers, and receive reasonable compensation for the cost of providing service. Where no receiver is available, the local county is the receiver. PWSs placed under receivership are generally operated by the receiver for one year.

Helpful Links to State Resources