RAIN | 8th Year Anniversary

RAIN Celebrated its 8-year Anniversary in 2017!

"RAIN illustrates what can be accomplished when government, business and academia partner to tackle difficult problems.”  
George Jugovic Jr., former Southwest Regional Director, Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, 2009; currently Chief Counsel and Chair of PennFUTURE's law staff

A History of RAIN - Humble Beginnings  

In 2009, the River Alert Information Network (RAIN) unveiled a system monitoring water temperature, conductivity, and pH levels at 11 remote locations along the Monongahela River and its tributaries.  High levels of total dissolved solids (TDS) had been detected, and a need for monitoring was indicated. RAIN stepped in to offer that oversight, and to inform the public of the condition of regional  water sources.  RAIN has added two more water quality monitoring sites—one each on the Allegheny and Ohio Rivers—bringing the total number of monitoring sites in the RAIN network to 13. (All 13 monitors were installed at the same time in 2009.)  

Why was such a NETWORK needed?

RAIN was founded in response to two pressing needs:

  • To comprehensively monitor our river systems - the source of our water.
  • To inform and educate the public on the current condition of our public water sources.

Before the initiation of RAIN, river water conductivity levels had been monitored by three U.S. Geological Survey gauges along the Monongahela River. In the fall of 2008, unusually high TDS levels were detected at numerous points along 90 stream miles of the Monongahela River between the West Virginia border and the confluence with the Allegheny River in Pittsburgh. With TDS levels on the rise, a need arose for the collection of broader—and more detailed—data regarding the condition of regional rivers. RAIN’s new, expanded network provides a more detailed picture of TDS levels, and provides public access to the information via the Internet. Today, RAIN’s water quality data can be accessed by the public (via RAIN’s website) in near-real-time:

The framework for RAIN was in place early in 2008.  It was at a RAIN public outreach event that regional water suppliers first heard reports of high TDS occurring in the Monongahela.  Notification of this TDS increase led to funding establishing a network with more monitoring sites. The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PADEP) funded the purchase of monitoring equipment, and set up the $75,000 computer network by means of grants awarded through the Clean Water Fund. The PADEP also invested $85,000 from the Clean Water Fund to purchase six of the 13 probes that had been installed in the river. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency purchased the remaining seven probes.

Five Years Later – Look at How We’ve Grown

RAIN’s mission has always been to serve the public water utilities within the Allegheny, Monongahela and parts of the Ohio River basins with comprehensive source water protection efforts. One primary aspect of this effort is an advanced spill or contamination warning network based on real-time monitoring practices and a system of alerts and alarms. Only five years since the inception of RAIN, and the network is really flowing…no pun intended.

RAIN has grown from a collaborative effort of 33 Pennsylvania water utilities, to a network of 51 public drinking water systems and 24 monitoring sites throughout western Pennsylvania and northern West Virginia, three area universities (California University of Pennsylvania, Carnegie Mellon University, and the University of Pittsburgh), PADEP’s and WV Department of Health and Human Resources’ Source Water Protection sections. RAIN members/users volunteer their time and effort to participate in the monitoring/alert system.

Major accomplishments in the last five years include:

  • Engaged 18 new member systems, including 10 in the West Virginia Monongahela Basin area
  • Secured funding for 11 additional monitoring sites through grants and sponsorships
  • Secured funding for a new interactive map so the public can access and see the water quality data RAIN collects from its monitoring sites in near real-time
  • Secured funding for a new informative website to expand RAIN's outreach and connectedness with the public
  • Fostering new partnerships and alliances to enhance RAIN's organizational and operational framework for the future.

Penn’s Corner Conservancy Charitable Trust is a nonprofit conservation organization in southwestern PA.  Penn’s Corner will function as RAIN’s fiduciary agent as well as collaborative partner. For the past thirty five years, Penn’s Corner’s has partnered with hundreds of communities in the nine county regions aiding in protection and conservation of natural resources.

“As a promoter and facilitator of partnerships, (Penn’s Corner) will identify tools and other resources to help RAIN and its stakeholders meet its goals to protect source water and enhance water quality.”
Doniele Russell, Former Chairperson, Penn’s Corner

Activities

RAIN SWEET (source water environmental education team)

The RAIN SWEET has been working to expand RAIN’s message by conducting public outreach and educational events on RAIN’s mission of source water protection. The SWEET makes itself available to RAIN Member utilities to conduct such events at local community fairs and schools. The SWEET also promotes RAIN to local and regional decision-makers such as municipal, county and state officials. It is expanding its effort to include presentations and poster events at professional and technical conferences.