Entries for 'Jennifer Wilson'


RCAC, the western affiliate of the RCAP network, has partered with The California Endowment and the Pueblo Unido Community Development Corporation to launch an Indiegogo campaign. Indiegogo is a crowdfunding platform, similar to Kickstarter, that allows the public to contribute towards an initiative. Unlike Kickstarter, the funding model is not "all or nothing".

The Health Happens Here #Agua4All campaign would enhance access to safe drinking water in the Eastern Coachella Valley of California by connecting an existing arsenic treatment system to a community building. The campaign's promotional video explains how the initiative would help this community's 14,000 residents.

With this funding, RCAC will provide the infrastructure "from pipes to permits". Pueblo Unido has been active in helping communities across this economically-disadvantaged rural area address levels of arsenic that excess USEPA's standard. The California Endowment is using this effort as a pilot project and hopes to expand it statewide.


This video highlights the importance of developing a culture of security around your water or wastewater utility. While the case study presented serves a large community, EPA's "10 key features" approach can be applied to any size of system.

Posted in: Security, Videos

This adorable video shares the journey of Walter the water droplet as he heads down the drain and through the wastewater treatment process. This informative and entertaining piece is the perfect short clip for sharing with educators.

This video was developed by The Value of Water Coalition, which is comprised of both public and private members of the water industry. The coalition's objective is to educate the public on the importance of clean, safe, and reliable water to and from every home and community, and to help ensure quality water service for future generations.


The Missouri DNR, with assistance from the Missouri Rural Water Association, has developed a seven-minute video to help community water systems prepare and deliver their consumer confidence reports using electronic delivery.

While this video is specific to Missouri systems, it highlights an innovative and practical approach to primacy agency-facilitated electronic CCR delivery. Be sure to check with your primacy agency for options and requirements that may apply to you.


The Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) was signed into law on December 16,1974, tasking the EPA with a new mission to set drinking water quality standards. That means 2014 marks the 40th anniversary of this important milestone in protection of public health. 

The Minnesota Department of Health is getting a head start on the celebration with this new video. It includes an interview with former Vice President (and Minnesota native) Walter Mondale, who was part of the Senate that passed the SDWA bill, and others about this landmark law.

SmallWaterSupply.org will be covering other SDWA 40th anniversary celebrations throughout the year!


In our most recent newsletter, we announced that the team who runs SmallWaterSupply.org was receiving additional funding to continue this work. The next 18 months will get us back into the swing of things as well as bring several larger changes to the site. 

What's Getting Back to Normal

  • At least 700 new documents and thousands of events will be added to our databases, making sure that we're your go-to spot for the latest information.
  • Beginning soon you'll start seeing our newsletter every other week on Tuesdays. We'll continue to deliver more content from SmallWaterSupply.org and around the community directly to your inbox.
  • Also, every other month we will prepare a special edition just for tribal water systems and those who serve them.
  • Blog posts will continue and you may have noticed that we've been adding all of our featured videos as posts.
  • Our social media updates will continue, but we're planning to feature even more documents and events. 

What's Changing

  • We'll soon be upgrading the platform on which the site runs to the latest version and that will bring about a few cosmetic changes and improved speed and functionality.
  • During that upgrade we will retire our forum as that feature never quite took off. However, we would love to be more active in answering your questions via our Facebook page or in a blog posts here. You can email us at info@smallwatersupply.org anytime!
  • And finally, the big change is that our name will soon become WaterOperator.org! Over the past 5 years we've found that many have difficulty remembering our name correctly. This should be a big help.

We're committed to being the best and most up-to-date resource on the web for water operators. What this news means for you is that you'll have even more reasons to visit us often and share us with your colleagues. Any questions? Leave a comment and we'd be happy to answer. 


AWWA's Cross Connection Control Committee recently finalized two public service videos to illustrate cross connection control procedures and backflow prevention. The videos represent a knowledgeable reference to educate utilities and water professionals about the importance of proper selection and installation of backflow preventer and cross connection control devices.

Thanks to AWWA's Technical & Education Council for sharing these resources with us!


This video is a must-share! When I received the link via email, I just had to know what was inside. Watch the video for yourself to find out:

Infrastructure invisibility is an important issue and attention in popular media, such as this example, is a good step forward. 


RCAC seeks nominations for the 2014 Yoneo Ono Rural Volunteer Award. RCAC will accept nominations until April 13, 2014.

Many rural volunteers spend long, unpaid hours helping individuals and organizations in their communities. Yet, often their hard work results in requests for more assistance. Rural Community Assistance Corporation (RCAC) grants the Yoneo Ono award to reward and publicly recognize these outstanding rural volunteers.

The 2014 honoree will receive an award, a reception in his/her honor and $4,000 to donate to a charitable organization of her/his choice. RCAC hopes to encourage further rural volunteer activities by acknowledging the accomplishments of a select few. We need your help to identify an outstanding rural volunteer to receive this distinguished award.

If you know individuals who have these special qualities, and would like to see their hard work recognized, please complete the Yoneo Ono Award Nomination form by April 13, 2014. To review the nomination criteria and complete the form, visit RCAC’s website at http://www.rcac.org/yoneo-ono-call-for-nominations.

The award is the namesake of Yoneo Ono, one of RCAC’s founding fathers. During his lifetime, Ono worked tirelessly for rural development. For his lifelong commitment, RCAC honored Ono with an award when he retired from the RCACboard in 1984. Since then, the RCAC Board of Directors has presented the award to 28 other outstanding volunteers from 12 western states that also have made immense contributions to rural development. To read about past awardees, visit RCAC’s website at: http://www.rcac.org/yoneo-ono-awardees.

Founded in 1978, RCAC provides a wide range of community development services for rural and Native American communities, and community-based organizations in 13 Western states. RCAC has strong core services and expertise in housing, environmental infrastructure (water, wastewater and solid waste), leadership training, economic development and financing.

Posted in: TA Providers, RCAPs

US EPA's pollution prevention (P2) program is reducing or eliminating waste at the source by modifying production processes, promoting the use of non-toxic or less-toxic substances, implementing conservation techniques, and re-using materials rather than putting them into the waste stream. The program's audience crosses sectors, from the public to private, local to national. 

Grant funding from this program established the Tribal P2 Pollution Prevention Network in 2003, based at Montana State University. With more than 250 participants,
network members consist of environmental professionals from tribal entities, local, state and federal agencies, academia, and not-for-profit organizations around the nation.

The purpose of this post is not only to encourage tribes to join the network, but also to highlight the Tribal P2 website as a valuable and easy-to-access resource on a wide range of environmental health topics. For example, the Water: Keep it Clean topic area includes resources, collaborators, funding opportunities, events, and news articles. 

Tribal P2 is conducting a need assessment for 2014, a chance to share the topics that are of concern to you! Click here to participate.


What happens when an operator acts improperly? State drinking water program policies on operator discipline vary nationwide, says a new survey from the New England Interstate Water Pollution Control Commission (NEIWPCC). 

The NEIWPCC surveyed member states and worked with the Association of State Drinking Water Administrators (ASDWA) to reach additional state programs. The activity grew from a workgroup discussion and covered the range of the disciplinary process, from improper actions, to hearings, punitive action, appeals, and potential reinstatement.

Alaska, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, Nevada, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Utah, and Washington submitted surveys. Additionally, Illinois and Wyoming provided email responses. Click here to see the survey report.

Posted in: Enforcement

Many misconceptions still exist in the public sphere about what is actually flushable. Even if it will flush, that doesn't mean you should! A 15-ton "fatberg" in the London sewer system recently raised awareness about the problem of flushing things that shouldn't go down a drain, wet wipes in particular. These "flushable" products, advertised for adult use, are actually causing damage to sewers and treatment systems. 

Last month the Water Environment Federation, along with the the Association of the Nonwoven Fabrics Industry, the National Association of Clean Water Agencies, and the American Public Works Association, agreed to work together to address this issue. The group will recommend labeling standards and best practices to reduce problems for wastewater systems. 

While this group works to education the public from the product perspective, systems have an opportunity to keep educating customers about what not to flush. To get started, you might watch this video from WEF (below) or check out this helpful resource page from NACWA: 

Here's a list, from the City of Portland, of what not to flush or put down your sink:

  • disposable diapers
  • tampons and tampon applicators
  • sanitary napkins
  • cotton balls and swabs
  • mini or maxi pads
  • condoms
  • cleaning wipes of any kind
  • facial tissue
  • bandages and bandage wrappings
  • automotive fluids
  • paint, solvents, sealants and thinners
  • poisons and hazardous waste
  • cooking grease 

Customers may not read every notice you publish. We recommend including this information in newsletters or as bill stuffers several times each year. 

Posted in: Wastewater, Videos
The Environmental Finance Center Network has scheduled a five-part webinar series on the core components of asset management. This training series will help the utility answer the question, “How can we spend our limited dollars to have the greatest impact?” This is a great FREE training opportunity for water utilities as well as for regulators, technical assistance providers, consultants and others who assist small water and wastewater systems. 
1 – The Current State of the Assets
Webinar 1 will provide an overview of Asset Management and discuss the first core component of Asset Management, The Current State of the Assets. This will include a discussion of the need for an asset inventory, mapping, condition assessment, and remaining useful life.

November 7, 2013
2:30 – 3:30 EST
2 – Required Level of Service
Webinar 2 will provide an overview of Asset Management and discuss the second core component of Asset Management, Required Level of Service. There will be a discussion of why goal setting at a utility is important, what makes a good goal, how to set goals, and how to measure.

November 26, 2013
2:30 – 3:30 EST
3 – Critical Assets
Webinar 3 will provide an overview of Asset Management and discuss the third core component of Asset Management, Critical Assets. It will include a discussion of the two factors that make up criticality: likelihood of failure and consequence of failure, as well as a discussion on how criticality ties into the rest of Asset Management.

December 2, 2013
2:30 – 3:30 EST
4 – Life Cycle Costing
Webinar 4 will provide an overview of Asset Management and discuss the fourth core component of Asset Management, Life Cycle Costing. It will present the two components of life cycle costing: Operation and Maintenance and asset replacement. This discussion will go into tactics for more strategic O&M tasks and how you bring risk into the decision-making process for both O&M and capital.

December 12, 2013
2:30 – 3:30 EST
5 – Long Term Funding Strategy
Webinar 5 will provide an overview of Asset Management and discuss the fifth core component of Asset Management, Long Term Funding Strategy. This webinar will include a discussion of the need for funding the system and how to build the capacity within the community to raise rates. It will also include information on telling a good story about what you need and why. 
December 18, 2013
2:30 – 3:30 EST

A decade ago paper magazines, many of them free and supported by grants or advertisers, were commonplace in the water industry.

Today the world is a different place, with a dramatically-changing print industry. At first content shifted to websites and blog posts, but recently technology has made it easier to deliver a magazine-style experience online.

For example, Water Online now has water and wastewater versions of a digital magazine. The latest wastewater edition includes helpful articles like a regulatory update and instrumentation pitfalls to avoid. It looks a lot like a print magazine, down to pages that appear to flip. Clicking on ads takes you straight to the manufacturer's website. 

Digital magazines are portable, easily shareable, and environmentally-friendly? But, there are certainly times when they're less convenient and comfortable to read. And with it not sitting there catching your eye, do you even remember to read it? 

We're curious. Are you enjoying digital magazines as much as you did paper? Are there still print versions that make it to your home or office? Leave a comment letting us know what you think!

Posted in: Support

Do you use Operator Basics in your training or allow operators to use Operator Basics for CEU credit in your state or jurisdiction

SmallWaterSupply.org has free copies of the Operator Basics CD available to regulators and technical assistance providers, just for the asking. We would like to see them used, and are offering to ship packets of up to 100 CD’s for free.

In return, you only need to give them away to operators or operators in training that will benefit from the lessons. If you are interested, please email Steve Wilson, sdwilson@illinois.edu.

Not sure what this is all about? We blogged about Operator Basics a few years ago. 


A recent news article highlights eight tribes that are ahead of the curve when it comes to climate change adaptation. For a lot of small or rural systems, we often hear that climate change is a "not now" problem, especially when there are so many "right now" challenges. 

Planning for climate change can simply start with building resiliency, an attribute that not only supports future issues but current challenges as well. Resiliency is simply the ability to promptly respond to unexpected changes and readily cope with the impacts. 

Through a
user-friendly tool and a pilot program, US EPA's Community-Based Water Resiliency initiative seeks to help water systems integrate and coordinate their efforts with community emergency preparedness and response programs. 

This video serves as a useful aid for outreach to community leaders and local government regarding use of the CBWR tool as part of new and existing efforts. A resilient water system will better be able to cope with any issues that may impact service and public health protection. 


Proper disposal of unwanted and expired prescription drugs is essential for keeping them out of water supplies. While pharmaceuticals in the environment have not been affirmatively linked with human health effects, preventing their accumulation is an important health goal at both CDC and EPA. 

You can do your part by encouraging customers to participate in the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency's National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day, coming up on October 26. The first step is to indentify the law enforcement-hosted disposal locations in your community. Then, use your normal channels of communication to spread the word to customers and encourage participation. 

This is also a great education opportunity to list additional items that should never be flushed or put down a drain! Don't be afraid to reiterate this if you've shared it before - as it not only protects human health and the environment but the functionality of your wastewater system! 


Last month the Environmental Finance Center (EFC) at UNC - Chapel Hill hosted a webinar on designing appropriate rate structures for small water systems.

The training was designed for financial decision makers and described the different elements of water rate structures and when it is appropriate to favor certain elements or rate structure designs over others based on the unique characteristics and objectives of water systems.

The webinar was recorded and can be found below. You may also want to visit the EFC website for additional, helpful guidance materials on rate setting for small systems.


Fall has technically just arrived, but planning for winter should already be on the radar of small communities who experience freezing temperatures. While salt application broadly causes minimal environmental impact, runoff from a storage facility can be problematic.

The Ohio EPA has a detailed guidance as well as a factsheet on salt storage with water supply protection in mind. While this guidance is most helpful for communities developing new storage facilities, it is also incredibly useful for checking for potential issues and developing best practices for salt handling. 

If you have any additional tips, we'd love for you to share in a comment! 


Do you have a source water protection plan? Whether you do or it's a to-do, it is helpful to understand the how and why of protecting your water supply.

This video from USGS and accompanying materials uses four examples with very different aquifer-well combinations to illustrate why some water supply wells are more vulnerable to contaminants than others. It serves as a helpful reminder than source water protection activities are not one-size-fits-all. 


The USEPA has released a new video that showcases WARNs in action. A WARN is a Water and Wastewater Agency Response Network, or a network of utilities helping utilities, that helps facilitate emergency aid and assistance in the form of personnel, equipment, and other associated services. This video presents the types of events in which WARNs can be utilized and discusses in detail one specific WARN response. The video emphasizes that, despite the type of emergency event, WARN coordination with response partners is crucial to a successful response.


SmallWaterSupply.org is helping EPA celebrate the first annual SepticSmart Week, an awareness event to educate homeowners about proper care and maintenance of septic systems. We'll also be offering shareable tips on our Facebook page

Why is this important? Nearly one quarter of all American households—more than 26 million homes—depend on septic systems to treat their wastewater. Failure to maintain and service a home’s septic system can lead to system back-ups and overflows, which can result in costly repairs, polluted local waterways and risks to public health and the environmentMany septic system failures occur during the winter holiday season, so EPA is encouraging homeowners to get their septic systems inspected and serviced now before licensed inspectors’ schedules fill up around the holidays.

Here are five SepticSmart tips to pass on in your community:

  • Homeowners should have their system inspected every three years by a licensed contractor and have their tank pumped when necessary, generally every three to five years.
  • Avoid pouring fats, grease, and solids down the drain, which can clog a system’s pipes and drainfield.
  • Ask guests to put only things in the drain or toilet that belong there. Coffee grounds, dental floss, disposable diapers and wipes, feminine hygiene products, cigarette butts and cat litter can all clog and potentially damage septic systems. 
  • Be water efficient and spread out water use. Consider fixing plumbing leaks and installing faucet aerators and water-efficient products that bear the EPA WaterSense label, and spread out laundry and dishwasher loads throughout the day.
  • Too much water at once can overload a system if it hasn’t been pumped recently. Remind guests not to park or drive on a system’s drainfield, where the vehicle’s weight could damage buried pipes or disrupt underground flow.

Click here to learn more and get SepticSmart. 


Posted in: Wastewater

The ISAWWA Safe Water Scholarship Program provides financial assistance to students pursuing degrees or certifications related to the water industry. Our goal is to encourage more people to consider career paths in the water industry, which is critical to preserving public health and our most important natural resource – clean, safe drinking water. This year we distributed $3,500 in scholarships between four very deserving winners.

Applicants must be enrolled in or accepted into a water-related secondary, continuing education, or enrichment program for the 2014-2015 academic year (including summer term 2014) by the application deadline of January 31, 2014. Secondary education programs include water operator training programs as well as water-related technical school, community college, four-year college, masters, and doctoral programs. Examples of water-related fields of study include civil or environmental engineering, environmental science and policy, chemistry, biology, or hydrology.

ISAWWA is hosting a webcast on Tuesday, 9/24/2013 from 2:00-3:00pm, to outline the scholarship application process and explain what judges look for in quality scholarship applications. We’ll discuss several easy ways to make a scholarship application stand out, and provide samples of high quality resumes and essays for reference. The webcast is free but registration is required. 

Posted in: Training/CEUs

The Ohio EPA wants to make sure that all water systems monitor. Under a new program, systems that fail to submit timely sampling results for nitrate and total coliform will incur a $150 fine for each violation. Here's a note from their program:

"The Division of Drinking and Ground Waters (DDAGW) is launching a new program to reduce total coliform and nitrate monitoring violations at public water systems (PWS). Failure to monitor for these acute contaminants creates uncertainty about the quality of water your system delivers to customers.

This new program will provide a deterrent to violations and increase public health protection by making it more expensive for your PWS to fail to sample than it is to sample. Beginning January 1, 2014, PWS that fail to monitor for these acute contaminants will receive a penalty of $150 or more for each monitoring violation. It is important for you to be aware of the penalty the PWS owner will receive for missed monitoring. Please ensure you are fulfilling your duties as a certified operator by monitoring on time.

DDAGW will include information about the new financial deterrent in your sampling reminders, as one more step toward increasing compliance and further ensuring that PWS are providing safe drinking water." 

Monitoring and reporting (M/R) violations consistently account for more than half of all violations nationwide. This effort in Ohio is a positive step towards addressing this problem. 

Do you know of other states with a fine or similar penalty for M/R violations?


Posted in: Enforcement

This video is part of a new suite of wastewater education materials from RCAP.

The Importance of an Operator in a Community’s Water Systems from RCAP on Vimeo.

As a member of the board of directors or other governing body of your community's wastewater (or drinking water) system, you are ultimately responsible for its technical, managerial and financial operations. Most systems have paid staff to handle these aspects of your system's operations. Technical operations are handled by your operator, who is probably the most important person in the overall operations of your system.

Operators provide one of the most valuable services to Americans. They work in vital jobs that we can't do without. They keep us supplied with a necessity of life 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Water keeps us alive and is delivered or treated in order to protect our health as well as the environment.

This video was produced to help leaders and decision-makers of systems understand what they need in an operator and what an operator does on a daily basis. It can help leaders understand how to support and equip operators with the skills and financial resources to do their job and help the operator keep the community's system running well. The video includes interviews with operators who talk about the skills they use in their jobs and how they got into the field.

This video can also be shown to encourage people to enter the water operations field, including high school and college students, including those at community colleges. It helps potential workers understand what it takes to be an operator and what training/schooling is required. A shortage of certified operators is expected in the coming years because of the upcoming retirements of many current operators. Rural areas especially need young and willing operators.

Posted in: Wastewater, Videos

This video is part of a new suite of wastewater education materials from RCAP.

Preparing Your Wastewater System for Disasters and Emergencies from RCAP on Vimeo.

A disaster or emergency can hit anywhere, anytime. Wastewater treatment is a critical service in your community, which cannot go without this service for very long without running into serious trouble. Treating wastewater protects the health of your community's residents and the environment, and a disaster or emergency could disrupt treatment and put the health of your community and/or environment in jeopardy. So it pays to be prepared so you can continue or resume treatment in your system to the best of your ability in a bad situation.

This video is for the owners - board or other governing body - and staff of your wastewater system. It identifies some of the many ways that systems should prepare themselves for disasters and emergencies, whether they originate inside or outside the system.

Federal law requires any utility serving more than 3,300 people to complete a vulnerability assessment and emergency-response plan. Some states and federal funders also require these for smaller water systems.

(While this video is aimed at wastewater systems, many of the things in it also apply to drinking water systems.)

Posted in: Wastewater, Videos

 This video is part of a new suite of wastewater education materials from RCAP.

Energy Efficiency at Wastewater Treatment Facilities from RCAP on Vimeo.

Are your community’s utility costs rising faster than revenues?

Are you afraid or unwilling to raise your rates?

How would you like to cut your utility’s energy bills by 10 to 40 percent or more?


- 30 to 60 percent of a municipality’s energy budget is spent on the treatment of water and wastewater.

- According to the U.S. Dept. of Energy, energy audits typically identify potential savings to the user of 10 to 40 percent, with 20 percent being the average.

- Over the next 15 years, the cost of electricity is expected to increase by 20 percent.

This video presents to those in small, rural communities who are responsible for managing and overseeing wastewater treatment systems - boards or other governing bodies, staff and decision-makers - opportunities for saving on energy costs (many opportunities in the video also apply to drinking water facilities). The video helps these leaders find and start implementing ways to make energy use at their facilities more efficient.

Energy-saving projects implemented now will have a compounding effect, meaning energy cost savings will continue to grow into the future.

RCAP staff across the United States are able to carry out energy audits for drinking water and wastewater facilities. Find the contact information your RCAP region at www.rcap.org/regions

Posted in: Wastewater, Videos

 This video is part of a new suite of wastewater education materials from RCAP.

Small On-Site Wastewater Treatment Systems from RCAP on Vimeo.

Approximately 25 percent of homes in the United States are not connected to centralized sewer systems. These homes and businesses collect and treat their wastewater on their own property using systems that are referred to as onsite wastewater treatment systems, septic systems, or decentralized systems.

In some rural and suburban areas, everyone uses decentralized systems. Even in communities with sewers and a centralized treatment facility, there are often areas the sewer does not reach and where homes or businesses are on septic systems. If a community wants to manage all of its wastewater, it is necessary to address both centralized and decentralized systems.

This video is for small, rural communities that are looking for wastewater treatment options. Small, on-site treatment systems are an innovative way to treat water. They come in a variety of types and are often found in housing subdivisions, schools and small commercial centers. They have advantages for a variety of situations, especially for locations that are distant from or isolated from centralized sewer systems.

This video addresses these aspects of small, on-site treatment systems:

- what they takes to operate
- what they take to maintain
- their advantages
- who might need one
- overview of types

Posted in: Wastewater, Videos

 This video is part of a new suite of wastewater education materials from RCAP.

Wastewater Collection Systems: More Than Meets the Eye from RCAP on Vimeo.

We all use our community's wastewater system multiple times a day, probably without thinking about it - when we shower, wash dishes and clothes, use the toilet, etc. If you do think about, chances are you think about where the waste is treated - at the wastewater treatment plant (assuming your community has a centralized wastewater treatment system) - which is the most important part of the process. While it's fairly easy to see or imagine an above-ground treatment plant, the average resident of a community probably has little idea of a whole other important part of a wastewater treatment system - the collection system.

Wastewater treatment systems are often out of sight, out of mind, and this is especially true for the collection part of the system.

Owners of a wastewater system - the board or other governing body and other decision-makers - have overall responsibility for the entire wastewater treatment system, including the collection system. A collection system can be quite extensive, covering your whole community to its farthest reaches. It can also be just as expensive as the wastewater treatment plant itself. With so much ground to cover and so many places to service, a collection system has its own set of needs - for maintenance, for proper use, for everyday care by your operator and for oversight by the owner.

This video helps owners of centralized wastewater systems understand what a collection system entails and what is involved in having and maintaining it.

This video can also help residents of communities understand this key part of a treatment system, the part that is closest to them. There are parts of the collection system on their own property and all around them in their community.

Posted in: Wastewater, Videos

This video is part of a new suite of wastewater education materials from RCAP.

Your Role as a Customer in Your Community’s Wastewater System from RCAP on Vimeo.

How many times a day do you use your community's wastewater system? Every time you use your kitchen or bathroom sink, flush the toilet, take a shower, or wash dishes or clothes, you are creating wastewater. It leaves your home to be treated (cleaned) and returned to the environment. This treatment is a critical service that many communities (its government or a utility) provide for their residents.

You, as a resident and creator of wastewater, are a customer of your community's wastewater system. The treatment process for your community exists for you and because of you. And it exists to treat wastewater so that the public's health and the environment's health can be protected. Therefore, it is to your benefit to know and understand a bit about the treatment system. This video (and other videos about wastewater that RCAP has produced) helps customers do that and is meant to encourage customers to respect and use the treatment system from its starting point in their homes so that the whole system can work properly and last for a long time.

A wastewater treatment system is out of sight, out of mind for most people, but it is part of our daily lives. If your community has a centralized treatment system (a single plant that treats everybody's wastewater), it is one of the most expensive assets that your community owns. And you as a resident are part of that system and pay for it, so you can benefit from this video and what it can teach you about the system.

Posted in: Wastewater, Videos

The Rural Community Assistance Partnership (RCAP) has released a new set of videos to help board members, local decision makers, utility personnel and the public better understand fundamentals of community and onsite wastewater management.

These videos are part of a suite of new wastewater tools from RCAP that are currently under development. Each video is under ten minutes and thus perfect for anytime viewing as well as sharing with those who need the training. 

For your convenience, here's a list of the videos. We'll be featuring each video in a series of upcoming blog posts here at SmallWaterSupply.org.

Posted in: Wastewater

The Check Up Program for Small Systems (CUPSS) is USEPA's free asset management software for small, rural communities. The CUPSS community collectively includes utilities, primacy agencies and TA providers who share their experiences using the application. 

Art Astarita, of RCAP Solutions, is an active community member (and has been recognized by EPA as a "CUPSS Champion") who frequently shares tips he's learned from helping communities use CUPSS. This post includes a compilation of tips that help users better understand the software and get more mileage from their efforts.

Getting systems to do asset management

"If there is a lot of hand-wringing on how to get systems to do asset management, use a golden rule: Use a Simple Template, Keep the Template Consistent and Make the Template a Routine.

CUPSS asset import template fits the rule. Inventory and equipment conditioning is at least 50% of the TOTAL CUPSS process. However, having a replacement schedule with cost estimates is the 90% goal of an asset management plan. The other 10% is scheduling and conducting a preventative maintenance program."

CUPSS on multiple machines

"Realize only one person can access the CUPSS data file at one time but there are two ways to have multiple CUPSS computers access a data file.

Method A:

  1. Load CUPSS on PC #1
  2. Using the "Trainers - Advanced Options" section of the CUPSS splash page Create Database and set up a data file with normal inputs.
  3. Load CUPSS software on the remaining intranet computers
  4. On those other machines use Load Database and "drive" to the data file folder on Computer #1

PROBLEM: only one person can access the database at a time.

Method B:

  1. Use version 1.3.7 import templates and divide the work by asset category and have multiple people enter their respective category into their template 
  2. Follow steps outlined in "A" above 
  3. Upload the templates one at a time. 

PROBLEM: only one person can access the data file at a time.

I have not had any problem with either method. However, CUPSS has not be written for simultaneous log-in by two or more computers. If it does happen, the second user(s) will not be able to load the file, it just sits there at 33%. After aborting the second login, there doesn't seem to be any file damage when accessing one at a time."

How to use the CUPSS import template and link to the schematic

"I hope everyone agrees that the CUPSS import template offers an elegant way to enter the asset data and their attributes.  A tip to connect assets in the spreadsheet to the schematic is to first answer "N" in the "Show Schematic" column for all assets you list in the import template.

After you import the assets, go to the inventory listing and choose the assets that you would like to show in the schematic, those that best represent the system's "process flow" and key elements. For each asset chosen, change the "Show Asset in the Schematic" radio button to "Yes" and save for each. Finally, go to the "Create or Edit My Schematic" and begin pulling each asset icon off the "stack" as they are overlay each other. Arrange and connect as you like."

Join CUPSS output and GIS tables

"CUPSS Import template ID column is text format. Therefore, it is required that when you create an ID column in your GIS table that it also be text format. This will ensure a join between CUPSS and GIS data sets and with any other data set you like.  

This routine will also provide the user with the flexibility to define an asset prefix for respective asset categories. For instance: using ???HY??? for hydrant or ???GV??? for gate valve, ???DP??? for a distribution pipe segment, ???PS??? for pump station, etc. Numbers for each asset can follow the prefix. Just be consistent; you must use the same ID for each asset for both the GIS and CUPSS for the join to work.

Aside: You may find it easy to quickly locate your particular asset in CUPSS if you assign them by asset categories because the inventory screen in CUPSS lists the assets by category."

Click here learn more about CUPSS and access additional free asset management resources.


Posted in: Asset Management

Earlier this year RCAC - along with partners at CRG and ITCA - coordinated a tribal utility management training program. The Tribal Utility Governance (TUG) effort helped to develop new Native American Water Masters Association workgroups around Regions 6, 8, and 9. Each of these regional workgroups hosted a three-part TUG training series.

Whether you attended in-person or not, any tribal utility manager or operator is eligible to receive a Principles of Utility Management for Tribes (PUMT) certificate of completion. The TUG training manual is available for download and each of the three live sessions was recorded. Participants must complete both a pre- and post-test for each of the three modules to receive the certificate. 

Online Training and Testing
Use the links below to take the pre-test, watch the recording, and complete the post-test. Email dpatton@rcac.org when you have completed the testing.

Tribal Utility Management Certification

Additionally, program participants that successfully complete all three TUG training course modules are eligible to apply and test for a newly developed certification. This exam will be made available by ITCA. Learn more about the difference between a certificate and certification.


Posted in: Tribal Systems

Ohio RCAP has been helping communities with mapping projects for several years. They've now formed a "GIS Cooperative" to share best practices as well as a new web application that the organization has developed.

The RCAP GIS Viewer is a custom interface that allows utilities to perform common data manipulations without being a GIS expert. The application helps the small system work with and have control over their data, supplementing the existing training and services provided by Ohio RCAP field staff. 

This approach allows the organization to serve even more communities in Ohio by providing an industry-customized, yet entry-level GIS solution. Utility personnel can quickly access and export key data in routine and emergency situations.

This brief video (below) introduces the Viewer. A longer walk-through can be found here

If you're new to GIS (i.e. Geographic Information Systems) and their role in water system management, you might also check out this slide presentation from Ohio RCAPFor questions, including Ohio communities interested in participating in the Cooperative, please contact Sherry Loos (smloos@wsos.org, 330-628-4286)


One of our missions at SmallWaterSupply.org is helping water system managers and operators share their stories and communicate with the public. Through the many videos we've linked to as well as informational blog posts, we've learned that the most effective way to improve the public's value of water is to help them understand it. 

The thing is, many people believe they just don't "get" technical and scientific information - or worse, that it really doesn't affect them. This leaves you, the communicator, in a tough spot - especially if you wear 100 other hats in the community. If part of your job involves working with the public, this 30 minute video is worthy of your next lunch break. 

In this video actor Alan Alda discusses the challenge of talking about science and offers ideas that make communication more natural and human - and thus more effective. 


Today at AWWA's Annual Conference and Exposition (ACE) our program manager Steve Wilson is delivering a talk about our experience as a communication partner for the Tribal Utility Governance (TUG) program. It's part of a session titled "Managing Small Water Systems: Diverse Perspectives from the Field."

If you were not able to attend or just missed Steve's talk, here are the slides:

Posted in: Tribal Systems

This is a guest post from Angela Hengel, a Rural Development Specialist with RCAC. 

RCAC Regional Environmental Manager Dave Harvey explains an electrical panel.


Small community water systems face a variety of problems and challenges quite unlike anything their larger counterparts must face. With fewer customers to share the costs of running the system, smaller water systems suffer from economy of scale. These utilities often struggle to maintain water quality, water quantity, and system infrastructure. 

Decreased revenue also means that small water systems are often faced with the inability to provide equitable pay to their operators resulting in frequent turnover and a subsequent loss of system knowledge and experience. Adding to that problem, small systems often cannot afford the time and resources required to create adequate standard operating procedures for their system. This issue can have a devastating effect on a utility as new operators have few useful guidance documents to assist them with learning operations, maintenance and repairs. As regulations become more stringent and the associated technologies more complex, the need for well developed, user friendly operating procedures becomes even more apparent. 

The Search for a Solution

RCAC technical assistance providers work with small community systems on a daily basis and are familiar with the challenges they face. Through these relationships, it became clear that the lack of informative and easy to use operations and maintenance (O&M) manuals was a recurring roadblock for small systems striving to become sustainable. RCAC was faced with a question, how to develop an O&M manual that captures system information in a method that is easy to use and understand?

To start, RCAC looked at basic O&M manuals for small treatment plants and drew some conclusions; while they contained system information, they were often bulky, difficult to navigate, and very generic. This was particularly true when it came to manufacturers’ O&M manuals. 

Another aspect that RCAC noted was the tendency for manufacturers’ O&M manuals to be written with either too much engineering language or without any engineering thought at all. As noted by RCAC Rural Development Specialist and professional engineer Leon Schegg, “What we came across were catalog cuts from particular equipment manufacturers but very little information specific to that system,” said Schegg. “Some of the materials handed over were actually sales brochures.” As a result, these manuals were more often than not left by operators to collect dust on a bookshelf.

RCAC realized that a new approach was necessary. There had to be a way to enhance O&M manuals in a manner that is both technically sound and user friendly. For RCAC Regional Environmental Manager Dave Harvey the answer was easy. “I am a do-it-yourselfer kind of person,” said Harvey. “I love to tinker on my bike and my vehicles at home and my go-to place is always YouTube. I would much rather watch a video of how to repair my bike than read a manual. It’s fast, easy and accurate.” And with that, the RCAC video O&M manual was born. 

Making the Manuals

The idea of a video O&M manual was immediately welcomed by small water system managers and operators. With funding from Indian Health Service (IHS), RCAC began development of video O&M manuals for three tribally-owned small treatment plants. 

“Our intent was not to do away with the written manuals but rather to enhance them by integrating them with video demonstrations filmed on site at the treatment plant,” Harvey said. The result; highly individualized O&M manuals that provide not only written information, but detailed yet easy to follow video instructions on plant operations and maintenance. 

RCAC took a holistic approach to creating the manuals. Each individualized O&M manual is created through a collaborative of RCAC technicians, utility operators, IHS engineers, contractors and manufacturer technical representatives. Filmed onsite by RCAC videographers and finished in the RCAC graphic arts department, each manual is a one-of-a-kind visual training tool. With it, small system staff with limited technical skills can learn their system’s requirements and follow step-by-step maintenance procedures using a menu-driven CD containing text, photography, video and the internet. 

There were challenges to be met along the way in the creation of the manuals. “It was kind of like a movie set. We had to get all parties on site and organized and ready to go when it was time to film,” said RCAC’s Eagle Jones. “We had to deal with road noise, lighting, people forgetting their lines and just getting used to the idea of being on camera,” Jones said. “It took a few shoots and we had to go back and re-shoot a few sections, but in the end we produced some really great video.”

Bringing the video and written manual together in a cohesive and organized manner presented its own set of difficulties. “It was important that the manuals were designed in a way that would build the operators’ trust so that they actually use them,” said Schegg. “We inserted flags in the text of the manuals directing the user to a video.” 

One of the issues RCAC had to overcome was that the manuals being provided by equipment manufacturers often contained information that was different than plant operations. According to Schegg, “The videos were documenting actual maintenance procedures that were not in the manufacturers’ manuals.” This was particularly true with plant start-ups. “Problems arise during plant start-up that may not be known during the design phase or when the manufacturer put together their operations and maintenance manual,” said Schegg. “We see and resolve inconsistencies between the plans, manufacturers’ literature and recommended settings so that our manuals present the actual process and equipment operating and maintenance procedures necessary at your site.”

The Outcome

Once the video O&M manuals were completed, RCAC returned to the systems to review the manual with the operators. “We don’t just say, ‘Here’s your manual’” says Harvey. “We sit down and review every section with system operators to ensure that the information in the manual and video is completely accurate and, more importantly, that the operators understand how to use it.”

The Campo EPA department recently received a completed video O&M manual. Melissa Estes, Campo EPA Director, commented on the decision to have RCAC create the manual, “IHS recommended RCAC. The bid we received from RCAC was very reasonable compared to other consultants.  RCAC met with the Tribe’s Executive Committee and the Committee decided RCAC were experienced working with tribal governments and would do a good job, so the Committee approved the contract.   Since the Tribe and the tribal EPA had worked closely with RCAC on other projects we felt they would do an outstanding job.” 

In reference to the actual manual, Estes referred to it as being, “very user friendly,” and went on to note, “This manual will accommodate people who learn from reading, and others who learn from seeing.  The format is helpful for people who like to read directions or see them on a video. It is very helpful to have a manual specific to the system you operate, with actual demonstrations of how to operate the components.” 

RCAC knew that a video O&M manual would provide several benefits to small systems such as; increased operator technical capacity, a more effective preventive maintenance program, a more effective emergency maintenance program, a more accurate ability to budget for parts and labor, and having an enhanced training tool for new operators that acts as a safety net should the system find themselves one day without an operator. 

Still there were other, unexpected benefits that came about during the creation of these manuals. By bringing together engineers, operators, contractors, and technical representatives and analyzing the processes, each party began to get a better understanding of their role as it interrelates to other roles. As Schegg states, “The manual brings together documented and undocumented procedures from the standpoint of an operator which proved to be a tool not only for the operator but also engineers and contractors who use the information to modify those processes in the future and hopefully have an advantage when starting a new design.”

The Future

With the success of the three video O&M manuals, RCAC has plans for not only creating more treatment plant manuals, but to expand to other utility operations. “We are currently in the process of finishing a wastewater treatment plant manual and putting together proposals for creating distribution system manuals using the same video format,” Harvey said.

As for whether or not other systems would be interested in video O&M manuals, “Almost 100% of the managers and operators I have talked with would prefer to have an O&M manual with video integrated into the text,” states Harvey. And when asked if she would recommend this style of O&M manual to other systems, Estes replied, “Yes, we would recommend this style to other water systems.” 


Sometimes it seems that everything under the sun as a special day or week devoted to it, but we've come to recognize that these awareness events are a powerful tool for promoting the value of water and the important role of water operators. This week, May 5-11, we're celebrating Drinking Water Week and Public Service Recognition Week.

  • Drinking Water Week, led by the American Water Works Association, has a key mission to educate the public about the role of water in our daily lives. 
  • Public Service Recognition Week seeks to honor those who serve our national at all levels of government, including county and local governments. 

Together these events present a great opportunity to communicate the value of water operators as hometown heroes, emphasizing their critical role in protecting the public. Recently, Treatment Plant Operator magazine initiated The Fire Chief Project, with a simple, long-term goal:

Clean-water plant managers, superintendents and operators are held in the same esteem as the fire chief and firefighters. Boys and girls grow up wanting to be clean-water operators.

We couldn't agree more with this sentiment and we can start working towards that goal this week. 

Bonus Benefit of Awareness Events

We talk a lot about communicating with customers and building trusted relationships, but it can be difficult to know what to talk about. We know that in most cases your main job is to provide clean and safe water - and in many cases you have other jobs too.

These events provide date-specific and topical focus around which to plan special events, deliver awareness messages (online and off), and in generally rally their community around a theme. Here are some other events relevant to the water industry: 

  • National Groundwater Awareness Week - March
  • World Water Day - March 22
  • National Public Health Week - April 
  • National Work Zone Awareness Week - April 
  • Earth Day - April 23
  • Arbor Day - Last Friday in April 
  • National Public Works Week - May (May 19-25, 2013)

Do you know of other awareness events we should include in this list? 


The Tribal Utility Governance (TUG) training series is designed to help the managers of tribal water systems better understand how all the pieces of utility management fit together. Like other water systems, tribes often face competing pressures from the public they serve and the government that ultimately makes many decisions. 

Effective and sustainable utility management requires that a holistic and long-term view serves as the broader context for short-term decision making. A federal government task force committed to working on tribal infrastructure issues states this goal

"Access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation shall be provided through entities that are sustainable and implemented through integrated agency planning that link sthe development goals of the tribe with the need for such services and infrastructure."

Such a large charge to water and wastewater systems means that heads must come together within the tribe to discuss the financial, managerial and technical issues. It is often the utility manager or another senior operator, who must serve as a leader to balance needs and facilitate understanding of all parties. 

To assist with this important communication and education challenge, the task force prepared a short document that outlines commonalities and best practices of sustainable tribal utilities. I'm sure few would disagree that it is often the following recommendation is one of the most challenging:

"Day-to-day management and funding for the utility should be isolated from politics, either through an independent utility board (e.g., NTUA, TOUA) which provides oversight and high-level direction, or a separate entity (e.g., ARUC)."

However, this reference can serve as the perfect launchpoint for discussions that initiate baby steps in the right direction.  


We all know that one of the neat things about the Internet is the ability to find just about anything you might want to know. When you're studying for a certification exam or just trying to refresh your knowledge, online quizzes can be a fun diversion that is also educational!

One of our friends at RCAC shared a link to ProProfs, which is a site where anyone can create a quiz. If you
search for "water treatment" the first few pages of results have some good options. There's even a set of quizzes that follow the California Water Treatment Plant manual. 

Depending on what type of subject you're studying, you can change the search phrase. There isn't anything formal to these quizzes, i.e. they don't "count" for anything. That said, testing your knowledge is one of the best ways to study when you're tired of reading the text book.

Industry professionals: It's also fun to have a group of colleagues take the same quiz and compare your scores. See who knows the most! 

Posted in: Training/CEUs

This year's Water Environmental Federation Technical Conference (WEFTEC) will be held October 5-9, 2013 in Chicago. The annual conference is, according to WEF, "the largest conference of its kind in North America and offers water quality professionals from around the world with the best water quality education and training available today." 

What that means in plain language for operators is a huge opportunity to learn from the best and receive a lot of continuing education credits in one shot. But, we know it's often difficult for those at small systems to travel to conferences. WEF is working hard to make WEFTEC more accessible for everyone across the industry.

This year, for the first time, access to the exhibit halls (and up to 8 contact hours each day) is 100% free for those who register online. Also, registration fees have been reduced to make the conference sessions more affordable. This includes operators who can get a special rate (savings of $300) as WEF members. (If you're not already a member, the cost is much less than that $300 difference!)

If you need help getting approved to go, check out WEF's handy Employer Approval Tips guide with talking points, worksheets and forms. Being prepared with facts and benefits can go a long way when a travel decision is in someone else's hands. 



Did you know that energy consumption is your largest controllable cost of providing water or wastewater services?

Last year we blogged about a new Excel-based tool from the US EPA. The Energy Use Assessment Tool helps small- and medium-sized systems conduct a utility bill and equipment analysis. 

In December, the EPA held another webinar on using the tool. We've embedded the slides below and you can click here to download the presentation with slide notes. 

Examining your energy use and costs is a small but important component of asset management and ensuring system sustainability. Click here to download the Excel tool and access other EPA resources on energy management for water and wastewater utilities. 

The Housing Assistance Council works to improve housing conditions in impoverished rural areas. Basic access to safe drinking water and sanitation is of course an important aspect of their mission. 

In their 2010 report, Taking Stock: Social, Economic, and Housing Conditions in Rural America, this graphic illustrates the geographic distribution of homes without complete plumbing. 

On one hand, we can see that the tribal, border and Alaska Native communities have the most challenges. This is consistant with a 2010 report by the Indian Health Service that indicated that 12% of American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) communities did not have basic access.

On the other, it clearly illustrates that there are safe water and sanitation access challenges that exist across the United States. While the 2005 Census said that only 0.6% of non-native homes lack access, this amounts to more than 1.5 million Americans living without the basics.

Most of you reading this post probably know this.

A Public Perception Problem
We participated in #STEMchat recently, a Twitter chat of parents and educators interested in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) topics. The theme of the month was water, with an emphasis on how we perceive and value the resource. 

When the topic of basic access was raised, conversation quickly turned to developing nations. While no one would argue that significant public health challenges exist outside of the United States, why does the public dialogue most often exclude the problems here at home?

The chat participants seemed surprised and confused when we mentioned the statistics above. Until the public stops seeing water infrastructure access as a "not here" problem, concern and funding for tribal and rural programs will remain inadequate. 

Need help educating the public? The RCAP report, Still Living without the Basics in the 21st Century, is a good place to start. 


The week of March 18-24 is Fix a Leak Week, an awareness event sponsored by EPA's WaterSense program. The campaign is geared towards raising the public's awareness of water conservation, but water systems can get involved in two key ways:

1. Communicate with Customers: Share leak-checking tips and leaky facts with homeowners and businesses in your community. 

2. Be a Role Model: Take this opportunity to ramp up your leak detection efforts and review your water loss control program. We've got a list of resources below to help. Even better, share your leak detection activities with customers via photos on Facebook or your website.  

Leak Detection Resources from the SmallWaterSupply.org database

Leak Detection and Water Loss Control
from National Environmental Services Center
This 4-page tech brief describes the methods used to detect, locate, and correct leaks. Sub-sections include causes of leaks, leak detection and repair strategy, coordinating leak detection and repair with other activities, and beyond leak detection and repair.

Leak Detection Checklist
from Illinois Rural Water Association
This 1-page document is a form to be filled in by operators that details how much water they are losing per day and per minute because of leaks. It also asks the operator what they have done to try to fix the leak.

How to Maximize Water Loss Control
from Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection 
This is a 78-slide presentation that discusses leak detection and prevention in Massachusetts. The slides discuss checking your system for hidden leakage, determining minimum night rate of flow, monitoring non-billed water consumption, and leak detection regulations.

Leak Detections Basics
from Rural Community Assistance Corporation
This 33-page document was used in a presentation that took place on February 9th, 2010. Topics covered include the following: Magnitude of leaks, Causes of leaks, Leak detection technology, Leak detection procedures, and Case studies.  

Water Loss Calculators
These tools can help you perform important calculations about your system's water loss. 

Leak Loss Calculations
from Missouri Rural Water Association
The leak loss calculation app makes it simple to calculate the water loss from a leak. This makes reporting easier, sense you then have the loss amount from the leak to show as accounted for water.

Water Loss Calculator 4.0
from the Kentucky Technical Assistance Center for Water Quality
This is a stand-alone program that allows you to save and print off your monthly report, calculating the money loss, and graphically represent your saved data.



A new infographic from the Rural Community Assistance Partnership illustrates the connection between economic growth and the work done by small system technical assistance providers. In this era of information overload, simple and shareable graphics can help communicate important facts easily.

Water systems can learn from this example by using more illustrations to supplement reports delivered to local decision makers. Use graphs, charts, numbers and comparisons to more effectively present your information. Click here to download a PDF version of Water Infrastructure Creates Jobs




It is the community managers, town boards and other local officials that often make the most important decisions about water and wastewater systems. Many education efforts in recent years have emphasized providing plain-language and practical information to these groups.

This has included several relevant documents from RCAP, including The Big Guide for Small Systems: A Resource for Board Members and two guides for non-operators. 

Recently, the Environmental Finance Center at Syracuse University added to this body of knowledge with a new reference handbook. The Wastewater Management Handbook for Local Representatives provides the specific technical, managerial and financial information decision makers need to know. While broadly applicable, it also includes information specific to the New York area. 

This new guide is available as a PDF download or in print form. With more than 100 pages of content and an invaluable glossary in the appendix, this handbook can serve as the perfect primer for local officials as well as operators who want to understand how all the pieces fit together. Click here to read more or download. 



This article was first published in the Winter 2012 issue of Spigot News, the Ohio EPA's drinking water program newsletter. Many thanks for allowing us to republish it! You may also be interested in previous articles on Common Treatment Deficiencies and Common Source Water Deficiencies

This article is a continuation of the series on common deficiencies, covering source, treatment and distribution deficiencies. This article covers different aspects of the distribution system, including cross-connection, backflow, depressurization events, water age and infrastructure deterioration.

A “cross-connection” occurs in areas of the plumbing system where non-potable water comes in contact with potable water. There are two types of cross-connections: direct and indirect cross-connections.

Direct cross-connections – the potable system is permanently connected to a non-potable system (for example a submerged inlet pipe for a chemical feed system).

Indirect cross-connections – there is a potential for a connection of the potable system to a non-potable system (for example, a garden hose connected to an outside hose bid without a vacuum breaker or a bidet with a douche sprayer or jet that fills the bowl below the rim).

Establish cross-connection control ordinances for municipalities with diligent inspections of new and existing plumbing to prevent possible cross-connection issues. These issues may be identified during a sanitary survey or when real estate is bought and/or sold within the municipality.

Backflow and Backsiphonage
A “backflow event” is when non-potable water is forced by pressure into the potable water supply due to a direct cross-connection. All distribution systems must maintain a minimum pressure of 20 psig and a 35 psig working pressure during all water demands including fires. Distribution systems that fall below these minimum pressures may experience a backflow event if an overpowering pressure differential is experienced by a competing cross-connection within the system.

A “backsiphonage event” is when water flows backward in the water distribution system from a vessel or other contamination source because the distribution system has lost, created or reduced pressure.

Backflow devices (backflow preventers, double check valves, testable reduced pressure zone device, etc.) are required on certain businesses that pose the most threat to a potable water system, but municipalities can require all businesses and homes within their jurisdictions to install and inspect backflow devices every 12 months. Another preventative measure may be to conduct a hydraulic assessment of the distribution system to identify those areas at most risk of a backflow event. Once identified, these areas can be targeted for improvement.  

Depressurization Events
System-wide depressurization events are rare but can occur when mains break or electrical power is lost. When an event occurs, it is strongly recommended to issue a boil alert to those affected. Public water systems can issue a boil alert without consulting Ohio EPA, but boil alerts that affect a major portion of the distribution system must be reported within 24 hours. The municipality may lift voluntary boil alerts after the system is pressurized and the designated operator clears the system for providing drinking water. 
(Editor's Note: Please see your state agency for reporting requirements that affect you.)

The best way to avoid a depressurization is to keep the water and power flowing. When all power is lost through the electrical grid an alternate source of energy that will run the treatment plant and the distribution system critical components, such as a generator, is an excellent choice.

Water main breaks are resolved by isolating the break quickly while maintaining water pressure to the rest of the system. This approach works well when all valves are accurately identified and working properly. A valve exercising program identifies the valves and keeps them working correctly in case they are needed.

Water Age
The issues related to water age are directly attributable to water quantity and quality needs. These vital needs are always in conflict because quantity objectives dictate excessive storage issues while quality strives to minimize storage time while maintaining appropriate disinfectant residuals. Public water systems must strike a balance to minimize water age, effectively limit the formation of disinfection by products (DBPs) such as HAA5s and TTHMs, and keep disinfectant residuals within regulatory limits.

A Distribution System Optimization Plan (DSOP) offers a mix of options for public water systems to meet quantity and quality standards by optimizing treatment and storage capabilities. OAC Rule 8745-81-78 (Note: This is for regulated entities in Ohio.) details the DSOP requirements and options. For more on sanitary surveys for small water systems, read Preparing for a Sanitary Survey for Small Public Water Systems.


Rural communities, tribes and their water are the beneficiaries of environmental justice grant projects, funded by the U.S. EPA at the end of 2012. 

The Environmental Justice Small Grants Program provides financial assistance to eligible organizations to build collaborative partnerships, to identify the local environmental and/or public health issues, and to envision solutions and empower the community through education, training, and outreach.

Several water quality and water education projects that benefit tribal, Hispanic and border communities were funded:

  • Michigan - The Pokagon Band Department of Natural Resources will train tribal youth on the cultural importance of water, water pollution, natural purification methods, and the current state of tribal waters. 
  • New Mexico - Chimayo Conservation Corps (CCC) will conduct a series of workshops to address local environmental and public health concerns associated with impaired water quality.
  • Texas - The Familias Saludables Project is a bilingual outreach and education project that focuses on communities lacking wastewater utilities and residents living in poor housing conditions constructed from salvaged materials. 

Our friends at Southeast RCAP were the recipients of one award, funding a projecting to bring sustainable onsite wastewater treatment to ten rural, low income communities in Delaware. 

"This project will address the environmental, public health and financial burdens of each community and provide assistance in properly maintaining wastewater treatment systems."

Additional water-related projects were funded by this program, including a pilot study about strategies for responding to the potential impacts of climate change on water supplies and infrastructure for New Jersey bayshore communities.

In Mississippi, two small towns will receive assistance in identifying vulnerabilities to drinking water contaminants and in Ohio, communities will be educated on possible water quality impacts of deep shale drilling (i.e. fracking). 


Posted in: USEPA, Funding

Small communities interested in source water protection across their regional area may be interested in a new program from the team behind SmallWaterSupply.org (SWSO). PrivateWellClass.org is a basic education-focused website funded by the US EPA, in partnership with the Rural Community Assistance Partnership (RCAP). 

The Private Well Class centers on a 10 week email course that teaches homeowners how to properly care for and maintain their water well. This includes introductory information on geology, well contamination and water testing. The site is designed to serve the 45 million Americans who rely on a private well for their drinking water and includes a pre- and post-test quiz to test knowledge improvement.

Understanding how to prevent groundwater contamination, both on the property and via cross-connection control, will be addressed in the lessons as well as during a series of three live webinars.  

Steve Wilson, the project manager at SmallWaterSupply.org and a career groundwater hydrologist, has combined his own knowledge with the vast resources already available on private wells. As with SWSO, the goal with PrivateWellClass.org is to distill the best information into user-friendly content and lessons. 

To date, more than 1200 individuals have signed up for The Private Well Class. Enrollment opened in early December 2012 and the team is actively reaching out to state agencies, extension offices and other organizations that serve homeowners. 


During 2011 and 2012, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency conducted a series of face-to-face training events for tribal water and wastewater operators. The training sessions emphasized practical, applicable knowledge about operations and maintenance (O&M) as well as asset management.

The materials have been archived into series of interactive, self-paced training modules. Topics for the new training modules include:

  • Sewer System Overview 
  • Lift Station Overview 
  • Overview of Lagoon System Management 
  • Decentralized Wastewater Systems 
  • Providing and Protecting Potable Water 
  • Drinking Water Distribution System Management 
  • Storage Tank Management 
  • Asset Management 
  • Techniques for Developing a Rate Structure 
  • Water and Wastewater Operation and Maintenance (O&M) Case Studies

While the content was developed with tribal operators in mind, it is highly applicable to most small or rural systems. The format allows an operator, manager or board member to consume the material on his own time and only the topics that are applicable. 


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