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Iowa Capacity Development Strategy


Viability Assessment

Laurie Sharp, Program Coordinator 
Telephone: 515-664-8553 

The Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) as amended in 1996, required that each state develop and implement a strategy to assist all existing public water supplies in acquiring and maintaining viability, or sufficient technical, financial, and managerial expertise to provide safe drinking water to their customers at a reasonable cost. In developing this strategy, the states are required to consider, solicit public comment on, and include as appropriate, certain elements that are listed in the SDWA. The Iowa DNR, with the assistance of the Environmental Finance Center at Boise State University, convened a Viability Assessment Advisory Group in December of 1998 to provide input on the required elements of the SDWA. Throughout 1999, the Advisory Group met and discussed different aspects of the SDWA viability requirements. These discussions have culminated in a summary report entitled, "Report of Findings On Improving the Technical, Financial and Managerial Capacity of Iowa's Public Water Systems [PDF]."

2023 Capacity Development Strategy
The Department held three public meetings to explain the Report of Findings and ask for additional comments and suggestions. Once this was complete, IDNR used the Report to prepare a strategy to enhance the viability of existing public water supply systems in Iowa. The strategy included a list of measures the Department considered feasible for implementation and listed the methods by which the success of the program would be measured. The EPA approved Iowa's strategy in late 2000. In 2005, the department reconvened the Viability Assessment Advisory Group to update and amend the strategy.  In 2010, the strategy was modified to include the Area Wide Optimization Program as a means of prioritizing systems and targeting technical assistance. 

Also as required by the SDWA, the state was required to report to the Governor by September 30 of 2002, and every three years thereafter, on the "efficacy of the strategy and progress made toward improving the technical, managerial and financial capacity of public water systems in the State." In preparing the initial report to the Governor, IDNR re-convened the Viability Assessment Advisory Group to discuss how the strategy was being implemented and to solicit comments and suggestions. Using this information, IDNR prepared its initial report to the Governor.   All Governor's Reports will be available as they are finalized.

Self Assessment manuals are available for as a tool for both new and existing water supplies to appraise their technical, managerial, and financial capability. Please contact Laurie Sharp at 515-664-8553 or by e-mail at with comments, questions or suggestions.

Elevated storage tower

Iowa Water System Viability: Self-Assessment Manuals

The Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) was amended by Congress in August of 1996. The intent of this re-authorization was to provide the States with a comprehensive approach to ensure that all citizens would be provided with safe drinking water. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has elected to enforce this legislation in a flexible manner, allowing each State to work within a framework suited to its own needs and limitations.

One of the provisions of the 1996 SDWA requires that States develop and implement a capacity development (viability assessment) plan to ensure that public water supplies provide safe drinking water to their public at a reasonable cost for the foreseeable future. The Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has chosen to use a Self-Assessment Manual as a tool for water supplies to appraise their technical, managerial, and financial capability.
At this time, the only public water supplies required to submit the Self-Assessment Manual for review are supplies applying for State Revolving Fund (SRF) loan moneys, brand new systems, and systems designated as non-viable by the field office during a sanitary survey. The Iowa DNR, however, encourages all supplies to utilize the manual for self-evaluation.

There are two manuals available for self-assessment: one manual for use by municipalities and rural water systems, and one manual for use by systems using wells and hydropneumatic storage tanks, which includes privately owned systems, home-owners associations, mobile home parks, and very small municipal systems serving fewer than 100 people. Please be sure to choose the correct manual for your system, and call 515-664-8553 if you have questions concerning your decision.

Note that the budgeting worksheets at the end of the self-assessment manuals are not applicable for SRF projects. SRF applicants will demonstrate financial viability through their work with a municipal advisor as required by the SRF program.

Self-Assessment Manual for Rural Water Associations and Municipalities 

Self-Assessment Manual for Well Water and Hydropneumatic Tank Systems: Privately-Owned Systems, Home Owners Associations, Mobile Home Parks, & Very Small Systems

Sources of Technical Assistance for Completing the Self-Assessment Manual 

Since the manual covers several topics, there are different sources of information you will want to use during its completion.

For questions related to "Assessing Your Facilities,"

  • Refer to the latest sanitary survey performed by your local DNR Field Office.  If that is insufficient, you may want to contact the Field Office or Central Office personnel.  
    • Field Office 1, Manchester (telephone number 563-927-2640)
    • Field Office 2, Mason City (telephone number 641-424-4073)
    • Field Office 3, Spencer (telephone number 712-262-4177)
      • Central Office Contact: Meg O'Neal, 515-415-2953,
    • Field Office 4, Atlantic (telephone number 712-243-1934)
    • Field Office 5, Des Moines (telephone number 515-725-0268)
    • Field Office 6, Washington (telephone number 319-653-2135)
  • For questions related to Geology or Aquifers, contact Chad Fields, Geologist 3, at 515-513-9378,
  • For questions related to Treatment or Treatment Plants, contact Taroon Bidar, PE, at 515-725-0278,
  • For questions related to Corrosion Control, Chemical Feed, & Operations, contact Bob Campbell, PE, at 515-805-4523,
  • For questions related to Distribution, contact Tara Naber, PE, at 515-776-8922,

For questions related to "Assessing Your Management Capabilities," contact the Field Office or Central Office staff listed above or Laurie Sharp at 515-664-8553

For questions related to "Assessing Your Finances," completing the "Budget Worksheets," or for any general questions, municipalities may contact Steve Marsh or Jill Soenen of the Iowa Association of Municipal Utilities at 515-289-1999. All types of systems may contact the Iowa Rural Water Association at 641-787-0330.

For general assistance and direction, please contact Laurie Sharp at 515-664-8553.

Upon completion, please return the manual to:

Iowa Department of Natural Resources

Water Supply Operations Section

6200 Park Ave Ste 200

Des Moines, IA 50321-1371

An advisory review of the Self-Assessment Manual may be made at a later date.  The completed manual will be filed by the DNR for future reference.  Please retain a copy for your records.