In 1961, the Dogwood Water Association (DWA) was established near Blytheville, Arkansas, in Mississippi County. For decades, it has been the lifeline for 527 metered water accounts. However, the aging infrastructure has presented significant challenges.

Dogwood’s water treatment system began showing signs of wear, particularly in its filter tanks, which were well past their optimal usage life. These filters, crucial for removing unwanted particles, now require backwashing six days a week, leading to excessive water loss and inefficiencies.

Dogwood Water Association
Dogwood Water Association had three holding tanks had not been painted in over 25 years, resulting in significant degradation. Immediate repairs and repainting were advised to prevent further deterioration.

To address these pressing infrastructure issues, DWA sought funding to replace the filter media and repair and repaint the tanks. Greg Alexander, the board president, manager, and system operator, had pursued funding through every channel but faced repeated denials.

“I was fixing to quit,” Alexander said. “I was tired of beating my head against the wall. It’s sad to say because every human being needs water to survive.”

Recognizing DWA’s need for support, Debby Dickson of the Arkansas Natural Resources Commission (ANRC) contacted Communities Unlimited’s (CU) Environmental Services Team. CU’s Community Environmental Management Advisor Allen Spradling responded promptly, providing technical assistance to develop an emergency response plan, a security vulnerability assessment, and a comprehensive application for a $290,161 loan through the ANRC.

This loan aimed to replace outdated water meters and install a SCADA (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition) system for remote monitoring.

Spradling also completed a rate study and asset management plan compliant with Arkansas Act 605. In collaboration with CU Lending Team’s Environmental Lender Chris Ranniger, DWA secured a loan of $169,704 to replace the filter media and repair the tanks.

The funding for this rural water association will help DWA reduce excessive water loss from daily backwashing, making Dogwood more financially sustainable. The new filter media will better prevent manganese, an EPA contaminant, from entering raw water. Repainting the tanks will prolong their useful life, ensuring compliance with the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). DWA is now on a path to financial sustainability and improved operational efficiency.

Having grown up on this water system, Alexander feels a deep connection to it. Born in 1963, he has lived his entire life relying on this water. He knows many of the people and families who depend on the system and is committed to improving it for everyone.

“I want everybody to enjoy our water. That’s the goal. We want to better ourselves as a system. We’re a small company, but I want it to be something that everybody’s proud of.”

— Greg Alexander, President, Dogwood Water Association

“I hope that I will continue to be involved with this system and that any future projects turn out as successful as this one has,” Spradling said.

Alexander praised CU for their efficiency and support, appreciating the consistent communication and assistance. Their efforts ensured that the necessary improvements could be made promptly.

“I couldn’t have asked for better help,” Alexander said. “It was a great experience to work with them. I wouldn’t hesitate to call them again for whatever we need.”

CU's Allen Spradling (L) meets with DWA's President Greg Alexander and Operator Blane Howard
CU's Allen Spradling (L) meets with DWA's President Greg Alexander and Operator Blane Howard

Spradling, who joined CU in May 2023, stated that DWA was his first project. He expressed gratitude for the support from colleagues like Arkansas State Coordinator Brad Jarrett, who helped him learn how to provide technical assistance to a water system.

Spradling highlighted Alexander and bookkeeper Adonis Hopper as highly involved individuals who genuinely care about DWA’s future, noting that this project set a standard for his future work.