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Utility systems typically function at their best when all stakeholders, including board members, owners, managers, operators and even customers, have clearly defined roles. Most people perform at their best when they know what is expected of them. Individual roles will vary from one community to the next, depending on the management model and the type of stakeholder groups present. The table below will give you an idea of the roles and responsibilities attributed to the most common water system stakeholder groups. The resources following the table offer more in-depth information on the role of each stakeholder group supporting a typical community water system.



Customer Role

The customers’ role typically includes financial contribution to the system through their monthly bill and the self-maintenance of the portion of the system where the pipeline connects to their home. It is important to define exactly where in the system this customer responsibility is applied, so that confusion about who should make certain repairs can be avoided. In some communities, this may be at the point where their service connection branches off from the main line, or at the point where the pipeline connects to or enters their home. These and other customer responsibilities should be outlined in the ordinances that govern your system.

Operator Role

The following resources can help define the operator role:

The following resource offers information for operators on the role of decision-makers/leadership and offers suggestions on how to effectively communicate with those in the decision-maker/leadership role:


Leadership Role (Management/Council/Board Member)

Leadership roles are often divided into two categories. First, the managerial role includes tasks such as plant staff supervision, billing and record-keeping. Second, the decision maker role includes tasks such as setting strategic plans, making major financial decisions and approving upgrades.

The managerial role is enacted by the water utility in some communities and by a Tribal or city council in others. The decision maker role is typically enacted by a utility board or Tribal or city council as well. The board or council responsible for making decisions should consider viewpoints of all stakeholder groups, including customers.

The following resources can help to further clarify the role of the utility manager:

The following guide describes the responsibilities of water system owners that may apply to both managers and decision-makers:

The Rural Community Assistance Partnership has created the following guide for decision makers, which provides information on water and wastewater basics, regulatory compliance, and decision-maker duties and responsibilities:

The New England Water Works Association has put together three online training modules for decision-makers: