“The duties of rural water operators vary by system, but there are few operators who can single-handedly perform numerous, wide-ranging duties as well as Robert McClay does,” Elmer Ronnebaum, general manager of the Kansas Rural Water Association, said during the presentation.
A few of McClay’s responsibilities include maintaining 119 miles of waterline, installing, servicing and reading meters, conducting water testing, and supervising capital improvement projects while managing three water sources, a water tower, four pump houses, an RPZ valve and loads of paperwork. Due to his efforts, the district is violation-free and has had an incredible average water loss of 5 percent for the past five years.
During the award presentation, McClay was cited for taking deliberate measures to be frugal with district funds by never wasting and constantly recycling. Numerous times during his 12 years of service he has sacrificed his personal time and sleep to handle emergency issues with members and district equipment. His diligence and hard work assure quality water service to the 694 members.
To his credit, Robert has bravely launched many expeditions to unearth the mysteries of wandering waterlines that seem to defy their recorded locations on obscure district maps. As McClay commented, “What would we do if we only had accurate as-built maps?” To help himself and the next operator who will have these responsibilities, McClay is pulling together with Kansas Rural Water Association staff to get the entire system mapped using GPS.
The conference, which was attended by nearly 2,300 people from more than 300 cities and 190 rural water districts, included 56 training seminars on all aspects of water and wastewater utility operations and management and 309 exhibits of products and services for municipal water and wastewater utilities.
The Kansas Rural Water Association provides training and technical assistance to cities and rural water districts and also supports a variety of other community programs from GPS mapping to the popular KAN STEP self-help program through the Department of Commerce.