CoWARN

Connecting Water Districts through CoWARN

In 2020, Rock Creek Mesa Water District encountered a serious problem. The Colorado Springs-based district was losing 48,000 gallons of water a day through underground water supply lines. On its own, this small public utility did not have the resources or manpower to solve the problem. They put out a call for help through the CoWARN website, and within six hours, they had a response. Aurora Water sent aid, offering resources that included both staff and equipment. The source of the massive leak was detected, the faulty water mains were unearthed and replaced, and within three days, Rock Creek Mesa was back up and running.

What is CoWARN?

CoWARN is Colorado’s Water/Wastewater Agency Response Network. It is open to any public or private water or wastewater provider within the state and its mission is to promote the exchange of goods and services between utilities during times of crisis. Membership is free, and participation does not obligate members to offer or accept aid. Response in any emergency is voluntary.

How does it work?

Currently, Colorado is home to over 2000 utilities, 269 of which have joined the CoWARN system. In addition, all 50 states—as well as two U.S. territories—offer a WARN (or similar type) system.

Angelo Carrieri is chair for the CoWARN system, and the safety and security manager for Parker Water and Sanitation District. While his own district has been fortunate, boasting over 20 years without an incident, Angelo definitely recognizes the need for a statewide support system. He has served as chair for the CoWARN system for four years.

“I started as a member of the committee and representing Parker Water and Sanitation District. As I learned more about the network, I became interested in learning even more and helping keep the network growing and providing assistance to our industry within the state,” Carrieri notes.

Colorado is a state known for floods. In 2020 alone, 6 districts received support for crises as varied as broken pipes to staffing needs. The process is simple, members need only submit their request for support through the website, cowarn.org. The request is viewed by Carrieri and the site administrator, and shared with member districts. If a response is not forthcoming within a day or two, CoWARN administrators may get involved, checking in with the entity in distress, and potentially recirculating their call for help.

But districts are fairly quick to respond.

“Most of the time the response is within 24 hours,” says Carrieri.

How do I sign up?

Membership is free. And the CoWARN organization itself offers a variety of assets, such as a staffing resource for new hires and a network of technical support. This is all in addition to the support staff and equipment available in the case of real emergencies.

“It’s not just [for a] crisis,” Carrieri notes.

The CoWARN website offers members a number of tools. Aside from providing a switchboard of sorts for members themselves to connect, cowarn.org also offers informative articles, essential checklists, training opportunities, and timely advice on topics including hiring tips, incident checklists, emergency response plans, and more.

Members joining CoWARN sign a Mutual Aid Agreement. While no membership fees are assessed, the Mutual Aid Agreement entails a sort of contract between the entities in need and those offering support.

Member entities offering support to others in crisis are reimbursed directly by the entity in need, rather than through CoWARN itself. In the event of an emergency, members simply pay the contributing district for the goods and services used. This keeps CoWARN membership simple and free, while giving districts themselves the support system they need to exchange a variety of services through good times and bad.

To join CoWARN, members need only submit the following items:

  • Organization name
  • Primary contact details, including name, email and phone number
  • Signed Mutual Aid Agreement

Email these details to the CoWARN website administrator, and that’s it.

You can now start enjoying the benefits of membership in an organization whose goal is to support “utilities helping utilities.”

How can I find out more about CoWARN?

Check out their website, which features contact details for CoWARN administrators, more information on how to join, and a bevy of articles on related topics. Members also receive CoWARN’s email newsletter to receive additional tips and info.

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