05

Have you ever faced an operations challenge requiring a tool that just… doesn’t exist? Maybe you need to reach a difficult valve, or keep the sight tube on your pot-perm tank clear and legible. Maybe you’d just like to keep from being sprayed with water while repairing a water main, or keep your pressurized paint container steady. Operators all over the country face these challenges and more on a daily basis, and sometimes, they come up with some really clever contraptions to deal with them. One way the rest of us get to hear about their great ideas is through Gimmicks and Gadgets competitions.

We first heard about Gimmicks and Gadgets competitions through the Michigan section of the AWWA. They very kindly sent us a pamphlet of entries from 1988, which you can view here. (If you’re in Michigan and want to enter, you can download the submitting instructions from this page.) Though our copy of the awards pamphlet is well-aged, a lot of the gadgets and tricks described are timeless, including the pot-perm sight tube, water main repair shield, and paint holder mentioned above. (Along with a few others!)

Once we heard these competitions existed, we got on google. And there, we started finding more examples from other parts of the country. Here’s an undated pdf of contest winners from the Pacific Northwest section. And here’s national AWWA’s contest, which runs in their journal Opflow every year. The articles written by the winners are behind a the membership wall, but you can watch a video interview with the 2013 winner at the link. In the video, he shows off the gadget he used to turn off a buried valve without having to dig it up.

What about you? Have you come across a nifty solution to a common operations problem? Leave a comment sharing your gimmick or gadget.

Posted in: Helpful Tips
21
Today, a co-worker who I have known for over 20 years, came into my office and asked about SmallWaterSupply.org. He doesn't work with communities much, mostly does groundwater-related research looking at water quality or evaluating groundwater resources. But today, he wanted to find out more about the career of a water operator. He has a son who isn't sure what he wants to do, but he is mechanically inclined and likes working with his hands.
 
I Had Just The Information He Needed
We sat down and went through the careers page on SmallWaterSupply.org. I explained what resources are available, showed him our video, and suggested he sit down and go through the resources with his son. We also looked at the operator schools list and I mentioned that Illinois is fortunate to have one of the best in the country, the Environmental Resources Training Center at SIU-Edwardsville. I suggested he visit them and take a tour; it has a built in water and wastewater plant, two wet labs, and is a very hands-on program that I think his son will love.
 
Today, It Hit Home
I gotta say, I'm writing this blog post because it felt so good to know that the work we are doing and the resources we provide might help a young man I have known his entire life. Today, it hit home and it was a great feeling to be able to show off our careers page and know that we have put a lot of great resources together. It also makes the effort and initiative we took to partner with AWWA and WEF through Workforwater.org feel that much more justified and worth it.
 
Who do you know that might be looking for a career direction? 
13

This year’s annual conference of the Association of State Drinking Water Administrators was held on October 23-22, 2014 in Albuquerque New Mexico. There were many interesting presentations on water emergencies, source water planning, and tools for operators as well as new ideas for the future of the drinking water industry. One presentation dug a little bit into the history of the drinking water industry and possibly one its greatest accomplishments, chlorinated disinfection.

Dr. Michael J. McGuire started off by presenting a history of the diseases and deaths that occurred due to contaminated water. He then goes to describe the dilemma of a contaminated water supply in Jersey City, New Jersey in the 1800s. The city contracted with a private water company so they could have a “…pure and wholesome” water supply. Driven by a court order, a Sanitary Advisor named Dr. John Rose Leal determined that some kind of disinfection needed to occur in order to achieve this goal. The disinfection he chose to use was chlorine, a chemical often used at the time in the laundry industry and to disinfect streets and homes after an infectious disease had passed through.

Before this time, using a chemical in water was unprecedented and frankly a little scary. Using the expertise of sanitary engineer George Warren Fuller, they designed a chlorination plant in 99 days. (The system set up as well as pictures of the actual plant can be found at the presentation link below.) The judge approved the design and the system was built. The use of the chemical by the city was a triumph and waterborne illness rates decreased.

The news of success in New Jersey soon spread across the country, and soon after, chlorine use as a disinfectant exploded in the United States. Deaths from typhoid and other diseases related to water contamination diminished to incredibly low levels.

This great accomplishment was a huge advancement for the drinking water industry and helped disinfection technology leap forward. Dr. John L. Leal died soon after his success in New Jersey and was barely recognized for his monumental discovery until 2013, when the New Jersey Section of AWWA and Dr. Michael J. McGuire organized efforts to create a monument in his name.

Dr. McGuire wrote a book on this discovery titled The Chlorine Revolution: Water Disinfection and the Fight to Save Lives. It can be found on Amazon. His conference presentation can be found at the link below as well as in our document database (Keyword: “chlorine revolution”)

 

04

A few weeks ago, we talked about the results of our Tribal Utility News subscriber survey. Between this post and the challenges our subscribers told us faced tribal utilities, the tribal utility landscape can sound overwhelming. But while there’s no denying that tribal utilities can face obstacles, the overall picture doesn’t have to be bleak. The good news is that there are a growing number of resources addressing these topics, both for small systems in general and for the specific challenges facing tribes.


Tribal Utility Management Resources
For utility management advice and support from a tribal perspective, check out the Tribal Utility Governance Program manual, developed by RCAC as part of the Tribal Utility Governance trainings offered last year. Though the trainings have been completed, you can check out recordings of the sessions here. From a more general small systems perspective, the Rural Community Assistance Partnership (RCAP) also has a number of downloadable handbooks and guides for board members. We also try to include trainings and resources relevant to tribal managers in our calendar and document database. Tribal utility managers who are already familiar with management topics might want to check out the Inter-Tribal Council of Arizona’s Tribal Utility Management Certification.


Training for Tribal Operators
For tribal operators, Native American Water Masters Association (NAWMA) meetings offer training and support on a variety of utility topics, as well as a chance to connect with other tribal operators. The Inter Tribal Council of Arizona (ITCA) also has a federally-recognized tribal operator certification program that offers regular trainings as well as certification exams. The United South and Eastern Tribes (USET) also offer federally-recognized tribal operator certification and an increasing number of trainings through NAWMA and their annual conference. And Navajo operators are often offered free training through the Navajo Nation EPA’s Public Water Systems Supervision Program (their operator certification program is currently still in development).

And of course, searching our calendar for the Tribal category tag or under State for the National Tribal Operator Program will bring up even more trainings for both tribal operators and tribal utility managers, covering topics from grant-writing and GIS to general O&M and drinking water treatment standards.


Help is Out There
But what if you need that extra personal touch to untangle a problem at your utility? Books and trainings are great, but sometimes you need to get your hands dirty right now. Help is available. Our tribal contact manager is designed to help you determine which tribal assistance providers are available in your area.* In addition to federal resources like the Indian Health Service and EPA regional offices, most RCAP regional partners and state based technical assistance providers may be able to assist you. (Some RCAP partners have staff specifically for tribes as well.) Regional tribal associations with utility management and operations resources like those mentioned above generally offer technical assistance as well. To see our full list of Tribal Assistance Providers, go here. Even if you don’t need a hands-on technical assistance provider right now, these can be good phone numbers to track down and have at the ready for life’s little surprises.


More Resources?
Is there a resource that didn’t get mentioned here? Have you found a training resource or an assistance provider particularly useful? Comment and let us know. You can also call or email our staff for help in locating someone locally to provide you with support.


*Please note that due to updates being made in the contact manager right now, USET’s contact information is inaccurate. Lisa Berrios is no longer with USET’s tribal utility team.
 

Posted in: Tribal Systems
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