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West Virginia

West Virginia Overview of the State’s Small Water Systems

In West Virginia, the most recent report to the Governor concerning capacity development of drinking water systems lists 70 of the state’s 538 community water systems as marginal or failing, most of which serve systems with populations of 300 or less. The report notes these systems are continually at risk of unintended disruptions to the drinking water supply impacting customer health and welfare and impeding local economic development in areas.

Availability of wastewater treatment systems is also key in defining the health and quality of a community. Most wastewater systems in West Virginia serve small customer bases, 94% serve fewer than 5,000 customers and nearly 40% of West Virginia residents are not served by a community wastewater system and rely on individual sewage systems or pipe untreated sewage directly into streams. Untreated sewage degrades the quality of water resources leading to severe environmental and health problems. Combined, disease-causing bacteria, metals, and nutrient-laden effluent has impaired over 18,500 miles of streams in West Virginia. Terrain and sparse population pockets limit viable, economically-feasible options to provide citizens with adequate centralized wastewater services. Decentralized approaches to collect and treat wastewater are being considered in many areas and ACTAT partners have extensive experience with effective, decentralized wastewater systems to offer guidance to regulatory agencies, communities, and service providers.

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West Virginia University

Team Overview

Katherine Garvey, JD, LLM

Director, and Use and Sustainable Development Law Clinic, College of Law

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Katherine “Kat” Garvey began her career at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) Region VII in the National

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Agricultural Compliance Assistance Center and with the Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics. Garvey is an ISO 14001 Environmental Management Systems Certified Lead Auditor. She developed and audited environmental management systems for military and large agricultural operations. Garvey transitioned from federal to local government in 2006, when she worked for the City of Lee’s Summit, Missouri as the Environmental Coordinator. She helped the City comply with permitting requirements for their airport and landfill. In addition, she helped the City develop a solid waste management plan, stormwater plan, stream buffer ordinance, and a natural resource inventory map. She continued her focus on local protection of natural resources as an Assistant Professor of Law and Staff Attorney at the Land Use Clinic at Vermont Law School. In Vermont, Garvey worked with local governments, land trusts and other non-profits to address legal questions related to land conservation in the Northeast. Professor Garvey received her JD from the University of Missouri in Kansas City in 2004, and LLM from Vermont Law in 2010.

The Land Use and Sustainable Development Law Clinic (Land Use Clinic) provides legal and planning services to conserve land and water, supports local land use planning, and offers educational opportunities for law students and citizens of West Virginia. The Land Use Clinic aims to:

  • Identify and conserve sensitive
  • Support local land use decision-makers
  • Address wastewater issues
  • Provide practical experience for law students in the field of land use law and policy

Emily Garner, PhD

Assistant Professor, Wadsworth Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources

Wadsworth Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering: 

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Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources:

Garner Faculty Research Website:

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Dr. Emily Garner is an Assistant Professor in the Wadsworth Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at WestVirginia University, where she is the Maurice and Jo Ann Wadsworth Faculty Fellow. Dr. Garner’s expertise is in drinking water and wastewater treatment, with an emphasis on control of microbiological contaminants. Her work focuses on control of pathogens in drinking water distribution infrastructure and building plumbing, characterizing emerging microbial contaminants, and production of high-quality, biologically stable recycled water.

The Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources has 140 tenure-track faculty members, and more than 4,000 students enrolled in seven accredited academic departments, including nearly 700 graduate students. Faculty in the College conduct a wide range of research that focuses in advanced materials and manufacturing; aviation safety; biometrics and identification technologies; biomedical and healthcare; civil and transportation infrastructure; energy and power generation, conversion, and distribution; shale gas utilization; and water and sustainability.

The Wadsworth Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering provides educational programs at the bachelor's, master's and doctoral levels. Faculty conduct novel and high-impact research in a number of areas, ranging from design of advanced materials for sustainable construction to water and wastewater treatment.

Lauren Prinzo

Assistant Professor and Extension Specialist in Community and Economic Development with WVU Extension Service

Lauren Prinzo

Lauren Prinzo is an Assistant Professor and Extension Specialist in Community and Economic Development with WVU Extension Service. Lauren has thirteen years of experience in non-profit management, community education, and community engagement. As a State Specialist with WVU Extension, Lauren works closely with colleagues across the state to create, implement, and evaluate initiatives in the areas of community engagement and innovation and entrepreneurship. Her areas of interest in research include community health, youth engagement, workforce development and organizational leadership and culture.    

WVU Extension connects people to information and knowledge that enables them to change lives and improve their communities through its network of faculty and staff in all fifty-five counties of the state. WVU Extension serves as the outreach arm of the University, serving people of all ages through initiatives in Family and Community Development, 4-H and Youth Development, and Agriculture and Natural Resources.

Kevin Orner, PhD

Assistant Professor, Wadsworth Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources

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Dr. Kevin Orner is an Assistant Professor in the Wadsworth Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at WestVirginia University. Dr. Orner’s expertise is in wastewater treatment, resource recovery, life cycle analysis, and sustainable development. His research group develops, demonstrates, and assesses innovative technologies for safe, contextually appropriate wastewater treatment and resource recovery. Dr. Orner has professional experience as a Water and Sanitation Engineer with the Peace Corps, as a Water Resources Engineer with an engineering consulting firm, as a Fulbright Scholar, and as a Postdoctoral Researcher at the University of California, Berkeley.

Jennifer Hause  

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Sustainable Management of Rural and Small Systems

Many rural and small systems throughout the country face significant management and operational issues often include aging or inadequate infrastructure, recruiting and retaining qualified staff, growing or establishing financial reserves, and setting rates reflective of operational costs and capital needs. Designed to help small and rural utilities assess their strengths and challenges and create and action plan to address these areas, the USDA and USEPA developed a training program along with supplemental materials to assist small communities and assistance providers working with the small utilities improve operations. 

Phase 1 - Training

The  Workshop in a Box (WIB): Sustainable Management of Rural and Small Systems is the  first step of a  three-step process ACTAT follows to assist small and rural systems address water infrastructure issues.

As the  first step, this regional workshop is held in various locations throughout the state and local utilities are invited to attend and participate in the training.  WIB helps utilities address a full range of challenges and move toward sustainable management of their operations and infrastructure.

  • How to deliver increasingly efficient, and higher quality services,
  • How to improve long-term sustainability and increase resiliency, and
  • How to use the  Small Systems Guidebook to Effective Utility Management, developed by the USDA and USEPA, to improve system operations.

Utilities learn how to make improvements in the ten key management areas, at a pace consistent with their most pressing challenges.

The workshop and Guidebook are built around ten key management areas. These ten areas of sustainable utility management help utility and community leaders assess utility health, discuss potential community impacts, and prioritize future activities based on what is best for the utility and the community.

Ten Areas of Sustainable Utility Management

  • Financial Viability
  • Operational Resiliency
  • Employee and Leadership Development
  • Water Resource Adequacy
  • Community Sustainability and Economic Development
  • Infrastructure Stability
  • Product Quality
  • Customer Satisfaction
  • Stakeholder Understanding and Support
  • Operational Optimization

Continuing education credits/hours are awarded upon completion of this training event.

Phase 2 - Individual Team Training

As the  second step, individual utility/community training events cover the  WIB material with all utility staff and local decision-makers for that specific utility, working together as a team. ACTAT works with the local team to:

  • Identify management areas that can be improved,
  • Set goals, and
  • Develop an  Action Plan.

ACTAT’s second step to sustainable management is one-on-one training catered to meet the specific needs of the individual utility. Example training programs have offered ½ day  WIB training and ½ day training of their choice (e.g., system mapping and hydraulic modeling, water loss, asset management). 

Assistance to Small Systems

Phase 3 -  Technical Assistance

As the  third step, once a utility/community has completed a Phase 2 – Team Training, assistance to the utility is available, free of charge, as needed and as practicable, to implement their  Action Plan

How to Get Involved

Additional Resources