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National Environmental Services Center (NESC)


Composed of four national programs, the National Environmental Services Center (NESC) existed to assist small and rural communities with their drinking water, wastewater, utility management needs and to help them find solutions to problems they face. Those well-known national programs included:

  1. National Small Flows Clearinghouse (NSFC)
  2. National Drinking Water Clearinghouse (NDWC)
  3. National Environmental Services Center for Small Communities (NETCSC)
  4. National Onsite Demonstration Program (NODP)

Running a small community utility is hard work. Whether you're an operator, a manager, a board member, a local official, or an individual homeowner, the need to understand regulations, responsibilities, and funding opportunities just keeps getting more complicated.

At NESC, we believed that you can't do the job correctly without the right tools and that knowledge is the most important tool of all.

NESC has helped thousands of communities and individuals learn more about environmental issue and find solutions to their environmental problems.

And the best part is: nearly everything we did was free to the public.

NESC's services included:

  • Toll-free technical assistance hotline staffed by certified operators, engineers, and scient

  • Quarterly publications (On Tap, a magazine about drinking water; Small Flows Quarterly, a magazine about wastewater treatment; and Pipeline, a newsletter about wastewater topics for the general pub

  • Demonstration Projects at more than 100 sites around the country showcasing the latest onsite sewage technology at

  • Website with free access to thousands of articles and other pieces of information;

  • Training materials, such as our popular Tech Briefs, and more than 1,000 free and low-cost educational Prod


The need for a clearinghouse that dealt with innovative and alternative wastewater systems for small communities was first recognized in the Clean Water Act of 1977. With funding from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA), the National Small Flows Clearinghouse (NSFC) was set up at WVU with the help of professors Willem Van Eck, Raul Zaltzman, and West Virginia Senator Jennings Randolph. NSFC was established as a nonprofit organization devoted to protecting the public health and environment of the nation's small communities by providing wastewater information and assistance.

Just as the clearinghouse was completing its first year of operation, it lost two of its key members in an automobile accident. Shortly after these deaths, the clearinghouse lost another member who died of cancer. The clearinghouse trudged on and struggled with funding until the reauthorization of the Clean Water Act in 1987, which provided a significant increase in funding.

In 1991, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Office of Rural Development provided additional federal funding and support to expand the clearinghouse services. The National Drinking Water Clearinghouse (NDWC) and the National Environmental Training Center for Small Communities (NETCSC) programs were added to the roster of services.

In 1993, the first of the National Onsite Demonstration Projects began. This eventually grew to become the National Onsite Demonstration Program (NODP), showcasing alternative wastewater treatment technologies with sites at more than 100 communities across the country. NESC grew to become a national expert, not just in wastewater, but in drinking water, environmental training, infrastructure resilience, and utility management.

Over the years NESC's mission held steadfast; but, 10 years ago, most federal funding and support disappeared eliminating services NESC provided to small, rural communities.


Citizens living in rural areas and small communities across the U.S. can still seek assistance from National Environmental Services Center. You may contact NESC by completing a Request for Assistance Email concerning your wastewater or drinking water questions.

Since 2016, hands-on-training and technical assistance services have been available to small communities and underserved, rural areas across West Virginia, Kentucky, and Tennessee through the Appalachian Community Technical Assistance and Training (ACTAT) Program.

Funded by the Rural Utilities Service (RUS), a division of the U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development Program, the ACTAT program is a partnership of the NESC, the University of Kentucky’s (UKY) Water Resources Research Institute (KWRRI), and the University of Tennessee-Knoxville’s (UTK) Hydraulics & Sedimentation Lab (HSL). The goal of the ACTAT program is to help under-resourced, small communities become sustainable and eligible to receive financial resources to address their vulnerable water infrastructure, a first-step towards community economic growth.