Entries for the 'Helpful Tips' Category


The news out of South Carolina has a lot of communities and utilities asking, "What would we do if something like that happened here?" With extreme weather events like tropical storms, tornadoes, and hurricanes becoming more frequent, the importance of having a strong answer to this question grows nearly every day. 

In part three of our series on improving emergency response plans, we want to help you find that answer. The tips and resources below will walk you through the process of developing an extreme weather response plan and provide specific guidance for some of the most common hazards. 

  1. Understand your vulnerability to extreme weather. The Federal Emergency Management Agency is a great resource here. Their PrepareAthon website has information on when and where extreme events are most likely to take place.  
  2. Identify vulnerable assets. Are key equipment located in the floodplain? Are your circuitry and control panels secured for high winds? 
  3. Identify possible mitigation measures would protect vulnerable assets and priority operations. Putting in place a procedure to top off water in storage tanks prior to a hurricane or bolting down chemical tanks in advance of a flood are just a few examples. 
  4. Determine which mitigation measures should be implemented. Keep in mind costs, effectiveness, and practicality when making this decision. 
  5. Identify actions that will need to be taken immediately before and after an event. For example, sandbagging treatment sheds or turning off water meters at destroyed homes and buildings. 
  6. Write a plan to implement mitigation and rapid-response measures. This should be revised periodically and integrated into your utility's overall asset management process. 
  7. Be prepared to act. Include rapid-response measures in your employee training programs and keep staff and other stakeholders up-to-date on any changes. 

For more planning tips and information on common hazards, check out these resources and visit our Documents database. You can also learn more about drought preparedness in part two of this series. 

1. Climate Ready Water Utility: Adaptation Strategies Guide & Planning for Extreme Weather Events
This webinar presentation highlights the Workshop Planner and the Adaptation Strategies Guide, and how a utility can use them both when developing adaptation plans. It also highlights utility experiences with the tools. 

2. Drinking Water Natural Disaster Preparedness Guide
This 3-page document contains suggestions for public water supplies that the Association of State Drinking Water Administrators (ASDWA) recognizes as lessons learned from areas in Louisiana and Mississippi devastated by Hurricane Katrina.

3. Flood Resilience: A Basic Guide for Water and Wastewater Utilities 
With a user-friendly layout, embedded videos, and flood maps to guide you, EPA's Flood Resilience Guide is your one-stop resource to know your flooding threat and identify practical mitigation options to protect your critical assets.

4. Incident Action Checklist – Tornado
Use this comprehensive list from U.S. EPA to prepare for, respond to, and recover from a tornado. 


For those of us outside the arid West, it can be easy to push aside droughts and their impacts as somthing others have to worry about. But a look at the U.S. Drought Monitor quickly reveals that droughts—even long-term ones—are a concern coast-to-coast. In fact, increasing temperatures and changes in rainfall patterns are exposing more and more communities to the risk of droughts and other extreme weather events. 

Incorporating a drought contingency plan into your broader emergency response plan is one of the best ways to ensure your public water system is prepared for water shortages and other drought impacts. And there are a number of resources available to help you do just that.

The templates and guides below can help you design a plan that meets your system and community needs. Whether you use one of these or create your own, keep in mind these seven steps to an effecive drought management plan. These were developed by the Rural Community Assistance Corporation based on the model used by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.  

  1. Seek public involvment by forming a committee of stakholders who encourage and suppor a public "buy-in." 
  2. Define goals and objectives, such as targets for reduced consumption, identifying which customers can and should be restricted and which cannot, legal requirements, minimum flow requirements, etc.  
  3. Assess supply and demand – identify all existing and potential water supply sources and balance these against average and peak demand, historic demand trends, use by customer sector, interior vs. exterior use, and projected future demand. 
  4. Define a system-specific drought index, such as ground and/or  surface water storage, stream flows, soil moisture, rainfall deficit, well drawdown levels, and other indicies. 
  5. Identify potential mitigation measures, such as water audits, alternative supplies, leak detection and repair, public education, restrictions/bans on non-essential use, pricing disincentives (surcharges), and, finally, rationing. 
  6. Assess potential impacts of mitigation measures, such as reduced revenues, customer acceptance, rate equity, legal implications, history, and implementation costs. 
  7. Develop and implement the plan using the management strategies, templates, and statistics assembled during the assessment process. 

If you don't see something that fits your system's needs below, search "drought" in our documents database to find more resources. You can also find information on water conservation, energy efficiency, and renewable energy for small utilities in Sustainable Infrastructure for Small System Public Services: A Planning and Resource Guide. And be sure to read the Part 1 of this three-part series for help building a comprehensive emergency response plan. 

1. Drought Contingency Plan for a Public Water System (Example): ABC Water Company Drought Contingency Plan
This 11-page document provides an example of how to fill out the model drought contingency plan for retail public water suppliers. 

2. Drought Management Toolkit for Public Water Suppliers
This 49-page handbook was developed by the Utah Division of Water Resources to help public water suppliers better prepare for and manage future droughts. This toolkit consists of two main elements: a model drought mitigation plan and a model drought response plan (or contingency plan, which can also be used to address other water shortages). 

3. Drought Contingency Plan summary – Well Levels Known
This 1-page document, when completed, summarizes an operator's plan for a drought. It is broken down into three stages, depending on how severe the drought is. 

4. Drought Contingency Plan: Public Water System
This 36-page template can be used for a drought contingency plan for a tribal public water system. The template covers a broad list of sections and topics with the aim of being applicable for a majority of the water systems. Because tribal water systems vary, it is recommended that the tribe edit and modify the template to best fit their specific situation and context, and only include those sections that are necessary.


Last week, we shared tips to help you lay the groundwork for a successful rate approval process. The strategies focused on gaining public support for your operations as a whole so customers understand its value when it came time to ask for additional funds. Following these will help you gain community buy-in, but how you present a rate increase proposal will still play a vital role in ensuring you have the rates you need.

Here are a few things to remember while you are developing your communication strategy:

  • Timing is key. Community events, especially elections, can have a significant influence on the success of an increase.
  • Anticipating customer concerns and providing answers to questions about the need for the increase, cost efficiency, and how the change will affect individuals up front can do a lot to misunderstandings and foster public support.
  • Whether you're talking to a customers or the board, your messages should be succinct and consistent. Statements like, "Water reliability is at risk due to the need to upgrade the distribution system," clearly convey what is at stake and what actions can be taken.
  • Your local media can be a beneficial partner in utility communication, particularly if you have taken steps to cultivate a relationship.

Working with community stakeholders like environmental groups, industries, and even neighboring utilities can lend credibility to your messages and create champions for the rate adjustment.

For more suggestions, read this report from an expert panel discussion at the 2014 AWWA/WEF Utility Management Conference.

Our partners at the Rural Community Assistance Partnership (RCAP) have released a new instructional video on how to collect coliform samples.

"Coliform sampling is an important part of monitoring the water quality in all drinking water systems. Collecting coliform samples correctly is absolutely critical in protecting public health. Improper sampling is the most common reason for false positive results. Positive results, even false positives, require repeat sampling, which result in extra effort, time, and money. In this video, we will cover 13 steps to proper coliform sampling and discuss how to find a good sampling site."

Coliform Sampling Best Practices from RCAP on Vimeo.


It’s a problem faced by nearly every small system: your existing budget won’t cover the cost of new capital projects or even routine O&M. Raising water rates is no simple task, but there are strategies you can use to gain community buy-in.

We’ll share more tips for rate-specific communication in a later post. For now, let’s talk about what you can do to lay the groundwork. It is hard to ask customers for more money if they do not know and understand the value that you provide. The first step to gaining public support of a rate increase is to gain that support for your operations as a whole.

Here are a few easy ways to boost your public image and set the stage for an effective push for a rate increase:

  • Stop being invisible. Bad news—line breaks, sewer spills, etc.—have a way of getting out. If that is all your customers know about you, they won’t be eager to see their water bills go up. Sharing good news and helping the public and media put bad news in context will foster greater trust in your system and staff.
  • Keep them informed. Whether you’re responding to an emergency or conducting routine repairs that interrupt customer’s daily lives, you can keep the customer on your side by communicating with them often. Tell them what has happened, what you plan to do, and how they can get answers to their questions.
  • Know your product. It’s not the water. It’s the service you offer customers so they can go about daily life. They will remember their interactions with your employees and how you helped them when you bring up a rate increase later.  
  • Heed the warning signs. Watch how your customers react to what you say and do. It’s much harder to mend broken relationships than to maintain them.
  • Show your appreciation. Consider hosting customer appreciation days or sending holiday cards to strengthen relationships with your customers.

For more tips, check out this presentation from the 2014 American Water Works Association Annual Conference and Exposition. 


Whether they’re above or underground, finished water storage tanks can be a potential source of bacterial contamination in your distribution system. In fact, the risk of waterborne disease was enough to drive the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to regulate storage tanks, a shift inspired by implementation of the U.S. EPA’s Revised Total Coliform Rule. As we learned at U.S. EPA's annual Drinking Water Workshop last month, Colorado's new rule requires suppliers to visually inspect the outside of all tanks in the distribution system every quarter and to conduct comprehensive internal inspections at least every five years.

Inspection rules like this one may not be feasible in every state—particularly ones where federal regulations must be adopted ‘as is’—but voluntary periodic inspections can go a long way to preventing contamination. Here are a few key things to watch for:

  • Improper hatches. Lids should be locked and sealed with a rubber gasket to keep birds, bats, and other animals from entering the tanks.
  • Corrosion. With some exceptions, vents and drain and overflow discharges should be covered with a #24 mesh corrosion resistant screening.
  • Unprotected vent openings. The best design for an underground or partially buried tank is an inverted U-shape opening at least 24 in. above the ground or roof.
  • Foundation issues. Leakage, abnormal vegetation growth, ponding, settlement, cracking, gravel spillage, or exposed reinforcing steel are all signs that foundation repairs are needed.

U.S. EPA Region 8 has created a detailed checklist to help public water suppliers monitor and maintain their finished storage tanks. Additional resources on everything from construction to inspection to repairs can also be found on our Documents page—just search “storage tank.” 


The Rural Community Assistance Partnership (RCAP) has released a new video with the dos and don'ts of exercising valves. These tips will help you extend the life of your valves and ensure that they operate correctly in emergencies like a water main break. 

Valve Maintenance from RCAP on Vimeo.


If you regularly check our calendar for free webcasts, or if you’ve seen our free webinar alerts on Facebook and Twitter, you’ve probably noticed that the Water Environment Federation offers a lot of free webinars. These events can be a great resource for learning about current issues and emerging technologies in the wastewater treatment field. But what if your schedule conflicts with the webinar time, or you just don’t have the patience to participate in webcasts? In that case, you might be interested in WEF’s Featured Videos.

At WEF’S Knowledge Center Featured Videos of the Month page, presentations, webcasts, and other videos are posted at a rate of 1-2 per month. On their YouTube channel, they also offer a playlist of Webcasts of the Month, which stay up longer. January’s Knowledge Center video is on nutrient and dissolved oxygen criteria, while recent YouTube video topics include Low Energy Process Control, Fundamentals of Disinfection, and User-Fee Funded Stormwater Utilities. Though you can’t get continuing education credit for the videos like you can for participating in the webcasts, they still offer valuable information and the convenience of watching at any time. And, just like WEF’s webinars, they’re free.

We think these videos are a great option for busy operators, who can pick and choose the topics they find interesting and the times they're free to concentrate and learn. 


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

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.



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.


A few months ago we blogged about several calculation tools that can make your work easier. Since then the Missouri Rural Water Association has released two more apps for Apple and Android phones. We also discovered this proactive organization has a suite of online calculators. 

Here are the details of the helpful tools (relevant to small systems everywhere) developed by this organization:

Smartphone Applications

We will update this post when these new apps reach the iTunes store.

Interactive Water Tools

Have you used any of these tools? Let us know what you think by leaving a comment.


Posted in: Helpful Tips, RWAs

Mathematical calculations can be one of the most challenging, but also most important, tasks performed by a water or wastewater operator. With Internet-enabled computers available in an increasing number of facilities, operators can lean on calculation tools to double-check their math. 

A few years ago the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection developed an Operator Information Center that included a variety of web-based calculation tools. While portions of the website are outdated, these tools still do the job:

Math calculations are also going on-the-go with operators, as smartphone apps are developed by consulting firms and technical assistant providers. The Missouri Rural Water Association has developed three apps to date, for both iPhone and Android.

For further learning about water and wastewater math, there are a large number of resources available in the SmallWaterSupply.org library. Simply input "math" in the Keyword box and click Retrieve Documents. 


At SmallWaterSupply.org we have a strong appreciation for resources that are truly helpful, especially the ones that break it down and make your job a little easier. This chart from HDR is not brand new, but it might be new to you. Below is just one of the two huge pages with great tips for operators. 

With this chart, you can learn how to perform water loss account, how to prevent contamination and how to calculate just about everything. It is the perfect go-to reference to hang in the office at your water system.  

If you don't have an easy way to print it out, you can even order a poster directly from HDR.

 Now that the Tribal Resources page is active, we thought it would be a good time to go through some of the best ways to search our site for tribal events and training.
The Tribal Difference
Tribal water and wastewater operators have a different process for certification.  They follow the certification requirements for the National Tribal Operator Certification program.  Because this certification doesn't follow any state boundaries, a tribal operator can't easily find training nearby using the "State" search in our event calendar, even though one of the options is "National Tribal Operator Certification"  If you select State=National Tribal Operator Certification, your results will include tribal events from all over the country. 
How The 'State' Criteria Works In the Event Search
Our database and search program uses both the location of the event and the state offering CEU's as criteria when you search by state.  So, if you search by State=Arizona, then all events in Arizona, including tribal events, will be displayed.  Any training in a different state that is accepted by Arizona for CEU credit will also be displayed. 
Our System Narrows It Down For You
The best approach for finding tribal events near you is to use a series of conditions.  For instance, if you are in Arizona, then first select, 'State=Arizona", then use the 2nd filter select button to choose 'Category=Tribal'.  You could also put 'tribal' in the key word filter, or if you were searching for training from a specific organization, like the Indian Health Service, you could use the 2nd filter select button to choose, 'Sponsor=Indian Health Service', and only IHS events in Arizona would be displayed.
Be Creative
Searching for information is all about the words you use.  If you are looking for a specific training, say about arsenic, you can use the 3rd filter select button to narrow the search down even further to only those tribal events in Arizona that have a component of the training dealing with arsenic.  Or you could select 'State=National Tribal Operator Certification', and then 'Category=Arsenic' in the 2nd filter. Most of the time you won't need to get that specific, there aren't so many events on the calendar that you have to use the 3rd filter, but sometimes it can happen.   
Here's a what a search would look like after applying all three filters:
Most importantly, if you have any trouble finding events, or documents of interest for that matter, call or email us.  We will gladly assist you in searching for information, or even walking through a short tutorial over the phone to answer your questions and help you find what you are looking for.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has released a new document, the Drinking Water Advisory Communication Toolbox.  This 162 page document was a collaborative effort among 6 organizations that all work in the drinking water and environmental health fields.
What Is It?
The Toolbox provides protocols for communicating with stakeholders and the public about water advisories and has practical information on how to plan for, develop, implement, and evaluate drinking water advisories.
How is this document different?
It is to date, the most far reaching effort to help prepare and assist drinking water systems in dealing with drinking water advisories to their customers that we have seen. The document recognizes the degrees of severity where advisories might be needed, from a drop in pressure,to a hurricane, and everything in between. It has practical solutions that affect the types of tools, planning, and communication needed for specific situations.
More importantly, it was developed by consensus among a tremendous number of stakeholders, industry folks, water systems, and technical assistance providers.  The list of acknowledgements is over 3 pages long and includes over 50 water systems.  They really did their research, compiling over 500 documents related to advisories, and conducting over 100 interviews.
What does that mean for me?
It means it will be a useful tool that you can use when you need to prepare a drinking water advisory. It also means the document is well thought out, organized, practical, and useful.  
That's a lot to read!
We agree, the problem is that it is 162 pages long.  We hope to help with that aspect by breaking the toolbox down in subsequent blog posts and highlighting the things we feel are most relevant for small systems.  Stay tuned for more, but if you get the chance, take a look.  You can find the report here.   

Earlier this year, we shared why we love Facebook Pages as an inexpensive (i.e. free) and easy-to-use method of developing a web presence that also allows you to interact with customers. Today we want to show you exactly how to create a Page.

Setting Up your Facebook Page

This short video shows how easy it is to create a Facebook Page. Below the video, we've added helpful tips. 

  • The URL to get started with your page is https://www.facebook.com/pages/create.php
  • First select Company, Organization or Institution and then Energy/Utility or Government Organization (as appropriate).
  • Follow the wizard to customize your Page
    • Images can be up to 180 pixels wide and 540 pixels tall
  • Make sure to click the "Edit Info" icon to add details about your organization.

What to Post on your Page

Now that you've set up your Page, you may be wondering what is next. If you choose to set up a Page, it is important to post updates on a regular basis. You can post announcements like planned hydrant flushing or simple water-related questions for your customers. The goal is not only to broadcast information but also to develop trust between your business and your customers by talking to them person-to-person.

How to Get Fans for your Page

After you create a Page, you want to encourage your customers to "Like" it so they receive your updates in their news stream and can communicate with you. You can include the address of your Facebook Page in your next bill or even add it to your letterhead so it appears on all bills and letters.

Facebook is a place where you can likely find many of your customers. You can stay on their radar and get them involved in your water and/or wastewater system with a Facebook Page.

How To Run Your System Like A Business is a series at SmallWaterSupply.org, appearing on Mondays

One Of Our Users Asked
We felt this was a pretty relevant topic for many of you so we are posting the following question and response from our operator forum:
"A Diatomaceous Earth plant is experiencing a high Raw and Finish water pH of 8.5 and greater. The source water is near a major road and I am certain road salt is a contributing factor ( I do not have an alkalinity reading yet). Acid dosing of the clear well or filter outlet seems to be in order. I have never used acid to reduce pH in a water pant and am looking for recommendations or reference material to get this process going."
Getting You Answers
When we need answers to technical questions we are lucky to have experts nearby that we can count on.  We are fortunate in Illinois that our rural water training specialist, Wayne Nelson, has seen and done it all. I certainly rely on his expertise when a technical issue comes up. I sent this question to Wayne, and here is his response:

Based on the information given, the addition of an acid in the treatment process could be used to lower finished water pH. I would first recommend finding the exact source of the problem. If the problem is caused by road salt other problems can occur such as high sodium levels causing possible health problems in immuno-compromised persons (hypertension) as well as the addition of chorides to the drinking water. While there is no MCL for sodium levels in drinking water (only a recommended level) high levels can also adversely affect the taste of drinking water in elevated levels.

The most common type of acid used in lowering pH is 23% sulfuric acid fed either straight or in solution with water. I can't address its use in other states from a regulatory standpoint but if an Illinois public water supply plans to feed the acid, it first needs to obtain a construction permit/then operating permit from the IEPA Permit Section before the treatment is implemented. This recommendation applies to the continued use of the acid. A simple one time treatment of the clearwell would most likely not solve the problem since sodium levels in the surface water source could remain constant and also could rise again every time rainfall or snowmelt occurs in the watershed. I hope that this provides some direction for the operator.

Wayne Nelson
Training Specialist
Illinois Rural Water Assn.
Check The Forum Out
Take a look at our forum and let us know what you think.  It will only be as useful as you make it, so join in with questions, or to answer some of the questions we have posted. You do need to register on the site to be able to post to the forum, but its free and pretty painless.  If you have any questions about registering or logging in, check out our help videos on the front page that walk you through the process.
SmallWaterSupply.org Loves: Treatment Plant Operator, a free monthly magazine

We here at SmallWaterSupply.org want to help connect operators with the best industry news, tips, techniques and ideas - but we can't cover it all. Free resources are our favorite to recommend, because we know budgets are tight. Treatment Plant Operator magazine (which also has several sister publications) is geared towards wastewater operators and is completely free.

Each monthly issue (August is already available online!) includes a variety of articles that showcase projects and programs from wastewater plants across the country. While the content is sponsored by advertisements, the articles feature real people and their stories - not product/service endorsements. Sign up for a free subscription by mail or read the articles each month online.
Stuff We Love is posted on Fridays and includes favorite documents, links and other resources for small water and wastewater systems. We'll find the cream of the crop so you don't have to.

SmallWaterSupply.org Loves: SurveyMonkey

Customers are at the center of any good business model and in few other industries is the business so closely tied with public health protection. Communication is essential to understanding customers and we've discussed a variety of ways here to make those connections.

An additional, more modern mechanism of market research is the internet survey. In today's day and age, it is easy to put together a set of questions, collect your data and analyze the results. And with SurveyMonkey, you can develop a questionnaire with up to 10 questions and 100 respondents for free!

I've personally used SurveyMonkey dozens of times and in many applications. It is a simple, easy-to-use tool that walks you through each step. Questions can be formatted in a variety of ways (multiple choice, open answer etc.) and always be made dependent on previous responses. Water and wastewater supplies can use this kind of survey to develop a deeper understanding of the public in their neck of the woods and ideally improve subsequent decision-making.

Stuff We Love is posted on Fridays and includes favorite documents, links and other resources for small water and wastewater systems. We'll find the cream of the crop so you don't have to.
The North Carolina Environmental Finance Center(NCEFC), with funding from the SE-TAC at Mississippi State, conducted a survey of about 300 operators in North Carolina as part of a project looking at how to better retain operators and to recognize them for the work they do.  North Carolina Rural Water Association was also a partner on the project. This is the 1st of several blog posts that will highlight the study results. Today, I want to focus on the perceptions of operators and of the operator profession.
Small Systems
Small systems, especially, have higher turnover rates and this project provides some insights into why that is the case and offers suggestions on what can be done.  The project report can be found here.
I have heard many times that a town board doesn't respect or trust their operator and that they are unwilling to make changes based on the operators recommendations, etc.  It's also commonly said that water customers don't know what their operator does or understand the value of their operator and drinking water.  I agree these are real and common problems.  The real issue is changing perception and its a responsibility every operator, technical assistance provider, and legal authority should take seriously.
Survey Results
The NCEFC survey asked operators if their if they felt their management, boards, and customers recognized their value.  64% said managment DID recognize their value, while 55% said boards DID NOT and 58% said customers DID NOT recognize their value.  Actually, I'm surprised the customer statistic isn't higher.  I find that to be a common problem with most operators I talk to.
What To Do
I have jokingly suggested at a few meetings that we should have a national "turn off the pumps" day, where every water system in the country stops providing water to their customers.  Though I don't seriously advocate such measures, consider what it would do to highlight the value of drinking water. 
What you can do, as an operator, is be a cheerleader for both your system and your profession.  Use available resources to share what you do with your board and customers.  If you would like information that you can pass out to customers, let us know, we can direct you to alot of good stuff.  If you are a very small system with no budget for such things, call us, we might be able to help.  Most importantly, be involved in your community and schools to help educate those you serve.

Last month we blogged about a new type of technology that can help utilities communicate with customers, in A New Era for Public Notification. We’re excited about the opportunities and efficiencies that communication technology will bring to water and wastewater systems in the coming decades. However, there are important regulatory implications we glossed over.

While the Public Notification regulation offers flexibility to allow systems to use these technologies as part of their program, these electronic forms of messaging may not sufficiently reach all residential, transient and non-transient users of a water system, as is required in Tier 1 notice situations. Thus, it is only one piece of the puzzle and a utility owner should not assume all their bases are covered with an investment in the technology.

Ed Moriarty, a team leader in US EPA’s drinking water program, shared with SmallWaterSupply.org: “Regardless of the method to deliver the notice, water systems have to consider the situation and audience, and make the best effort to reach everyone of interest.” To ensure your system’s focus remains on notifying the public in robust and compliant methods, its important to work with your primacy agency in crafting a plan that includes these new technologies. As they become more widespread in the future, SmallWaterSupply.org suspects that the primacy agencies will issue more formal guidance as they pertain to adhering to the PN rule.

Furthermore, we wouldn’t want to suggest that these technologies may eventually replace requirements for distribution of annual drinking water quality reports under the Consumer Confidence Report regulation. While some states are investigating modern methods for additional delivery, the regulation still requires a hard copy be delivered to the customer.

Of course, these caveats do not supercede the fact that SMS and email notification are excellent methods for distribution of non-regulated notification, like billing reminders and local infrastructure improvements. Above all, proactive communication with customers across the spectrum of needs should be an essential component of any system’s business plan.


This is a post from James McAuley, one of SmallWaterSupply.org's student employees.

If you’ve ever looked at the website for the US Environmental Protection Agency, you know that while plenty of good information is available, it can often be difficult to find. Because there are so many different topics that need to be addressed within the water and wastewater sector, the website can look like a confusing maze of links and documents rather than a helpful source of information. We have taken the time to go through the website and have found a few of the webpages that we feel will be most helpful for operators.

Capacity Development

Much of the information useful for operators in small communities that can be found on the EPA’s drinking water site focuses on capacity development and small systems. The Small Public Water Systems and Capacity Development page teaches you the basics of capacity development and how it can be helpful for small system operators. Also included on this page is information to help with operation and management as well as the financial aspects of water operations.

The EPA is divided into 10 regions, each of which is responsible for a different set of states. The Where You Live page provides details about each region, including what states they are responsible for as well as the correct person to contact for capacity development assistance. It is a good place to start if you are looking for assistance from the EPA.

Recent Updates

The Recent Additions page keeps a running tab on any new documents that have been added to the EPA’s website or any updates that have occurred on their water related webpages. It is the easiest way to know if any new resource has been added.

The endless amount of resources available from the EPA’s website can be overwhelming, and knowing where to look is the key to finding the resources that you need.

Posted in: Helpful Tips, USEPA

We're always on the lookout for great sources of news about the water and wastewater industry. Our favorite sources range from Google News and Alltop.com to our colleagues serving small communities, like the AWWA, NRWA and RCAP affiliates.

We're particularly enjoying the news articles from the Rural Community Assistance Corporation (RCAC), the western RCAP affiliate. Not only are they sharing relevant information from across the US, on multiple topics, but they are boiling it down to what matters most for small and rural communities. You can search by keyword, date or topic to find out what's the latest in environmental development news as well as other rural development issues.

Stuff We Love is posted on Fridays and includes favorite documents, links and other resources for small water and wastewater systems. We'll find the cream of the crop so you don't have to.
Problems With Public Notification
Recently, I attended the Wyoming Association of Rural Water Systems (WARWS) Spring Conference and I heard a talk that was really interesting and new to me.  Every system has public notification requirements and the requirements for reporting to your customers can sometimes seem a little outdated in todays technology filled world.  In Wyoming, there are areas where there is no local television station, so there is no one to provide a report to.  In those areas, many people have satellite television with no local news or info.  Also, sending press releases to newspapers can be ineffective, especially today when fewer and fewer homes take the paper anymore.  In a time crucial emergency, such as a boil order, operators are left with putting out hang tags or contacting every customer individually.  This can be expensive, time consuming, and worst of all, hang tags can be ineffective, should they be thrown away without being read or blow off in the wind.
Where Things Are Headed
This was all brought up during a talk by a company that sells public notification services, Swiftreach Networks.  Never heard of these services? Neither had I, or at least I didn’t realize what it was.  What these services do is provide you with a way to contact every customer electronically through cell phone, home phone, email, SMS text, and even twitter and facebook.  These systems are very robust and surprisingly affordable, but what they really offer is a way to be sure that your customers receive your message.  The way they explained it, the system allows you, the operator, to set up a message tailored to your needs, and when you use the system, it sends that message out to every one of your customers.  The system keeps track of who answers, who listens to the whole message, and provides detailed reporting of the status of whether each customer was reached.  It can even require that the customer press “1” to acknowledge that they received the message.  Regardless of availability of other media, having a record of who was contacted is a great feature for your peace of mind.
Why They Are Better
The really special thing about these sorts of applications is that they can be shared by all of your community personnel and emergency responders.  The examples they gave were many, from informing a community to stop drinking their water because of a train derailment and spill, to reminding your community to set out your recycling, to having elderly folks in home environments press 1 to confirm that they are ok each night.  Here at the University of Illinois, they have implemented a similar system for staff and students. It came about because of some of the campus shootings that have occurred across the country, but it is also used to provide timely non-emergency information to the campus community.  It can be used to inform about road closings, upcoming meetings, just about anything you can think of that would be relevant to your customers and community. 
Roxbury Example
Swiftreach Networks gave me a great example of how their system was used to support a community water supply.  Roxbury Water Company had an isolated E. Coli outbreak that only affected a small number of homes, but the news media picked up the story and incorrectly identified the outbreak as system wide.  It caused an immediate scare in the community and the city personnel were faced with how to deal with notifying all of their customers with the correct information.  In addition, they started getting calls from scared customers that were flooding their system.  Using their Swift911 system, the community was able to send out telephone notifications correctly describing the situation right away, which allowed them to reach everyone quickly and also saved their staff tons of time on the phone with concerned customers.  What’s unique about these systems is that your customers can provide multiple phone numbers, numbers for text messaging, and email addresses, so that they are more likely to receive your message.
Our Disclaimer
Swiftreach Networks is one of several companies that provide these types of services.  We at SmallWaterSupply.org don’t endorse any individual company, and we recommend you do your own research to find out which system might best serve your needs.  That said, we greatly appreciate the time Swiftreach Networks gave us to learn more about how these systems work and their track record with small systems is impressive.  Whether you contact them or another company, these services are remarkable and its worth your time to find out how a system like this might benefit your community.
SmallWaterSupply.org Loves: WaterWorld magazine

WaterWorld.com was already one of our favorite sources for an endless stream of water-related news, but their magazine is targeted and helpful. While not specifically for small systems, the information provided is common-sense and to the point. They introduce topics at the more general level before digging into details.

Here's February's digital edition, if you'd like to take a look.

How to Subscribe
Visit this link and choose your desired options. Most likely you'll want to first pick "I am a new subscriber". This will take you to a screen where you can elect to receive your free copy of WaterWorld each month by mail or by email.


Stuff We Love is posted most Fridays and includes favorite documents, links and other resources for small water and wastewater systems. We'll find the cream of the crop so you don't have to.
If you get our newsletter, you already know that on Tuesday we mentioned our new YouTube site.  On it we have not only our 4 help videos, but we have linked to many other YouTube videos we have found related to water and wastewater operations that we feel will provide some benefit to water and wastewater operators.  Our YouTube Channel, SmallWaterSupply.org, will continue to grow, both with videos and operator interviews from us, and with links to other favorites we find.  More and more organizations and TA providers are posting videos on YouTube, and some are definately worth a look. 
The Power of One
One of those sites is CAWastewater.com.  I found their videos on YouTube, but this young wastewater operator also has a website devoted to helping other wastewater operators prepare for the California wastewater exams, specifically the math problems.  His website has 4 videos for the Class 1 exam, 6 for the class 2 exam, and 6 for the Class 3 exam.  His YouTube Channel has all of those, and in addition, 2 videos with math problems related to the Class 4 & 5 exam.
But There is More to this Story
The site is managed by a very young wastewater operator who has been working in wastewater since he was a 16 year old intern (about 6 years!).  He loves what he does, is involved with his WEA section, and understands the need for more qualified operators.  So, he created these videos solely to help others and all are free to use.  It's really great to see a site like this, one guy who just wants to help, that is really making a difference.  And by making a difference, I mean his Class 1 videos already have thousands of views, which tells me they are really filling a need.
I encourage you to take a look at YouTube, and give it a chance.  Take a look at CAWastewater.com and SmallWaterSupply.org's YouTube Channels and let us know what you think.  If you have any ideas for helpful videos, for instance one of the agency's was considering developing videos for things like jar testing, please let us know. As always, if you have comments, questions, or problems finding information, please contact us, and we will be glad to assist you and do the legwork for you.
Stuff We Love is posted most Fridays and includes favorite documents, links and other resources for small water and wastewater systems. We'll find the cream of the crop so you don't have to.
I attended the ABC annual conference last week, which is hosted by the organization that does the certification testing for operators in a little over 30 states.  In attendence were many of the state operator certification staffs and they were there to learn about how different states run their programs, as well as to hear from technical assistance providers about new ideas and information, the status of certification, and the challenges our industry is going to be facing related to certification.  I was lucky enough to give a presentation on SmallWaterSupply.org.
The First Thing I Learned About Asset Management
Heather Himmelberger, from the New Mexico Environmental Finance Center, gave a presentation about her work with the state of Kansas to develop a new asset management handbook for operators.  It sounds like its a no nonsense, practical guide that anyone can use to get started in asset managment and it is supposed to be available after this March.  Thanks to the State of Kansas for funding its development. (We'll let you know when its available.)  But what I wanted to share today is something Heather said.  It makes alot of sense and it is an important first step.  "Go to your board or mayor and get permission to develop an asset management plan".
This seems simple enough, but given that in some communities, the board doesn't see the value of their operator, or is the reason that more business practices haven't been implemented, this could be a major problem.  However, its critical to get buy in from your board and to let them know what you want to do as well as why you want to do it.  If you need support, there is help out there, either in the form of a TA provider who can come to your board meeting to speak on your behalf, or board training manuals and CD's that will help your board understand the value of using business practices in operating your system.  If you are interested and need some help, call us, we will get you in touch with someone in your state that would be glad to help you.
The Second Thing...
When you start an asset management plan, the first thing you do is list your assets, the plant, the pumps, etc., all of the things of value that are needed to run and maintain your system.  It was brought up in one of the talks that the most important assets in MANY small systems are the human assets.  The operator and any additional staff have both site specific knowledge and expertise that would be difficult to replace and should be valued accordingly.  Those making business decisions need to realize what it would take to replace everyone working with that system, especially when some things, like the experience you have working with that system, may be irreplaceable.
How to Run your Small Water Supply like a Business is a weekly series at SmallWaterSupply.org, appearing on most Mondays.
SmallWaterSupply.org Loves: Facebook Pages
If you are reading the blog here at SmallWaterSupply.org, you're likely growing in computer proficiency or already fairly handy. Websites like ours house an endless wealth of information right at your fingertips. Other types of sites were built to help people communicate directly with each other.
The most popular site of this type, also called a social network, is Facebook. You might already know about creating a personal profile on Facebook and becoming "friends" with your real life friends, family and colleagues.
An additional feature of Facebook is the ability for a non-person entity, like a business, to create a page that people can "like". Pages are great ways to communicate with the public about your water supply in a format that they are already using.
3 Benefits of a Facebook Page
  1. Easier to maintain than a website - Maintaining a Facebook page requires no technical, graphic design or programming skills. It is very user-friendly with a lot of "help" pages if you are unsure.
  2. Built-in ability to find the people you know - It's hard to get people to visit your website. Facebook is designed to make it easy for people in your town to find you.
  3. Free communication tool - We know how much paper and printing and stamps cost these days. You can use Facebook as a way to get your message heard for less cost and also solicit feedback from customers.


We plan to share more ideas and tips about using Facebook Pages over time with you. SmallWaterSupply.org sees a lot of opportunity in this tool to help you improve your customer service. If you're interested, we'd even be more than happy to help you set up your own Facebook Page.

Make sure you check out and "like" SmallWaterSupply.org's Facebook page, so you can see what it is all about. If you're not yet a Facebook member, it is completely free to join!


Stuff We Love is posted most Fridays and includes favorite documents, links and other resources for small water and wastewater systems. We'll find the cream of the crop so you don't have to.

We launched an operator forum that allows operators and TA providers to ask and answer questions on any topics related to water and wastewater.  We just made it viewable to the public, but to ask or answer questions, you need to register.
Operators Helping Operators
The idea here is to get a group of operators together who have experience with different aspects of treatment, operation, maintenance, etc, so that when someone has a problem or question about an issue, they can ask and get an answer from someone who has already dealt with that issue.  Our hope is that operators, trainers, and technical assistance providers, who all have an operator background, will use the forum to share experiences that will make it easier on someone dealing with the same issue down the road.
Why Do I Have To Register
Registering is to make sure that those who are participating in the forum are operators, technical assistance providers, trainers, and industry professionals. This forum is for you to talk among your peers to find answers and ask questions of other operators. When you register, you can pick a username that keeps your identity protected if you like, but it's really up to you. Registering allows you to describe yourself in terms of the size of your system, your experience, and the type of system you run.  If you want more information about what registering means, please feel free to contact us directly using the website email or phone number.  We can answer any questions you might have.
So Take A Look
Click on "Forums" at the top of the page and look through the posts that have gotten started.  There isn't any advertising or selling of products on the forum and anyone who does will get booted off.  There are a growing number of operators participating, and we hope you will decide to join the discussion.  It's all free and truly a safe place to ask questions and find answers.  Soon we will have a short tutorial video that describes how to use the forum, similar to the two videos at the bottom of the home page that describe the document and calendar tabs.  But in the mean time, if you have questions about how to use the forum, once you have registered, please contact us.


Continuing with some of the information I learned at the Non-Transient, Non-Community Recertification Workshop in Illinois a few weeks ago, one of the things that really stuck with me was, "Always ask why". You really need to know how it works and what the consequences are of any task you perform with your system.
Operators Are An Independent Bunch
By the nature of their jobs and responsibilities, operators are independent and are used to solving problems by themselves or in non-traditional ways.  They do what they need to, to keep things running and do so typically with limited resources.  Sometimes though, that personality can also lead to situations where they "learn the hard way", or "learn by experience".  The problem with doing that when running a water system is that learning the hard way can affect your customers, cause health problems, or put you at a safety risk.
There's Also Murphy's Law To Deal With
Wayne (the instructor) asked the attendees to think about when problems generally occur with their systems.   Is it on a Monday morning when everyone is at work ready to go, or is it on a holiday, or the day after you've left for vacation and left the system in the hands of your young, new operator-in-training?  Everyone nodded, understanding his point, and everyone could think to a situation where some problem had occurred at a really bad time.  Which is exactly why you and your staff always need to ask why.
Knowledge Is King
It's not enough to know the basic tasks involved with running your water system, "Bob said to add a gallon to the tank after every backwash cycle and I wouldn't have to worry about anything else."  You need to know why you are adding that chemical, what it does, what will happen if you don't, and what will happen if you spill it.  Everyone who might be assisting you needs to understand your system as well as you do, so that if something goes wrong, or a valve sticks, or a pump fails, or the line gets pinched, it won't become a major event that risks the health of your customers or the safety of you and your staff.  Taking shortcuts leads to losing your understanding of both the system and why the guidelines are there in the first place.
Protect Yourself
Most safety hazards can be managed with training and by following safety guidelines on proper handling, use, storage, maintenance, and disposal.  Most accidents occur when these things aren't followed.  If you can't follow the proper procedures because of the cost, have a TA provider come to your board meeting to explain what the costs might be should a preventable accident actually occur (can you say lawsuit?).  Wayne told a really sad story about an operator that was installing pipe and didn't use a trench box for just the last section of pipe.  It cost him his life.  It was a totally avoidable accident caused by being in a hurry.
Some Safety Guidelines Are Overkill
There are reasons for all of the safety measures you are expected to follow as an operator.  Some might seem ridiculous, but the reality is that they are there for a reason, and many times someone before you learned the hard way that its not so ridiculous after all.  After hearing the things that Wayne has seen over the last 30 or so years, the operators who have died or been seriously hurt in avoidable accidents, I would recommend following every safety precaution and guideline that was provided for me.  No guidelines are overkill.
Along with the discussion of chlorine gas safety from Aug 10, Wayne talked about the safety issues related to sodium hypochlorite.  It's becoming the more "popular" choice for small and medium sized water and wastewater plants, but it has issues of its own.
About Sodium Hypochlorite
Liquid bleach is a colorless to light-green colored liquid thats 12%-15% active chlorine. It's a Class 8 corrosive and strong oxidizer. It's considered by some to be a safer alternative to chlorine gas, but in reality, it can be just as dangerous when handled, used, and stored improperly.
  • Sodium hypochlorite is a strong oxider, and as such must be kept away from acids.
  • if adding flouride in your system, any mixing can cause the formation of mustard gas, they must be stored away from each other so spills go to different drains
  • heat and sunlight can cause it to quickly decompose, so it must be kept in a cool area
  • many problems with using it have to do with the chemical-feeder 
Chemical Feeders
There are a number of problems that are easily corrected regarding chemical feeders.  Here are some problems Wayne has seen:
  • located next to same equipment, using same tank or feed pump
  • feeders not labeled to correctly idenify them, several lines side by side
  • containers or carboys not properly labeled
  • no PPE used when handling chemical
  • no eye-wash or shower nearby
  • no encased feed lines
  • using same hand pump for multiple chemicals
  • fill pipes/hoses left submerged can allow back-siphoning
The bottom line is that all chemicals have safety issues and they deserve everyones respect. Learning about your system and the proper use of the equipment and chemicals that you need to provide safe water is always a worthwhile effort and should be a manditory part of your systems management plan.  
At the NTNC Recertification class I attended last week, Wayne Nelson (IRWA) spent a good deal of time talking about workplace safety and disinfectants. Chlorine gas is an important issue because it's still the most widely used disinfectant (at least in Illinois) What really hit home were the real life examples of what not to do that seem pretty simple, but don't always get done when you are short handed, don't have enough resources, or just aren't using your common sense.  All of the information below comes from the class and Wayne was nice enough to let me use some of his material here.
About Chlorine Gas
When used properly, chlorine gas is no more dangerous than other types of disinfectants (sodium hypochlorite-liquid, Calcium chlorite-powder, Potassium permanganate).  In fact, all disinfectants are dangerous if you don't understand how they interact/react with other common chemicals.  Chlorine gas:
  • 2.5 times heavier than air
  • expands 460 times from liquid to gas
  • causes irritation, anxiety, loss of senses, and possible death
  • is rarely a killer
  • injuries occur because of failure to leave area, most of the time
What You Should Know
Here is some practical information that you should know about chlorine gas, it's storage, and use.
  • the fusible plug on chlorine gas tanks melts at between 158-170 degrees
  • if tank can't be opened with a 6-inch wrench, send it back, shouldn't be hard to open
  • you should only open the valve 1/4 turn
  • your water or wastewater plant should have a plan in place for dealing with a chlorine leak (probably more about this in a future post)
  • when changing tanks, should have 2 people involved
  • have appropriate safety equipment available
  • maintain a safe temperature in your chlorine room - too warm can melt plug, too cold can freeze lines and cause leaks
What Not To Do
Wayne went over a bunch of examples of systems that weren't prepared for a leak or weren't managing their chlorine correctly.  Here are some things not to do, or that you should be aware of.
  • Never try to shut off a chlorine valve without a SCOT-pack or hazmat suit, you cannot just hold your breath (a lot of injuries have occurred this way)
  • don't store your SCOT-packs in the chlorine room, this is something Wayne has seen a number of times
  • never spray water to dispel a gas plume
  • don't open the valve 100%, makes it much more difficult to shut off
  • don't try to fix it yourself, follow a plan, get help, be safe
  • don't assume you know how to use the safety equipment, get trained
  • don't be afraid to ask questions, many times someone shows you what to do, but not why its important.  You need to know why, so you will know how to deal with problems. 
I attended the Illinois Non-Transient, Non-Community recertification class yesterday at Kishwaukee College.  The instructor was Wayne Nelson, a training specialist from the Illinois Rural Water Association, who has been an operator since the 70's and he has been with IRWA for the last 16 years.  The things he's seen and done really put things in perspective.
I Sure Learned A Lot
The class covered the things in the Illinois Adminstrative Code that are required for NTNC operators.  In Illinois, NTNC operators are allowed to use the Operator Basics Training CD to complete their recertification, but some have asked for a more traditional class, and this is the 2nd year for the one-day recertification workshop.
The class covered workplace safety, chlorine safety, confined spaces, proper reporting and sampling, cross connections, emergency preparedness, source water protection, and math.  The operators in attendance were from either schools or industry, it was an interesting mix.
What was great about the class, was that Wayne has 30+ years of experience operating water systems and assisting water and wastewater operators, so he had a real life example of what can go wrong for every piece of the class.  It really hits home when you realize how many things are taken for granted, and how many operators get in a hurry and say, "I'll just take this short cut once", and its the last thing they do.
More To Come
Wayne handed out the complete set of slides and notes to the class and he's given me the ok to share some of it with you, so in the next couple of weeks, look for some really interesting and common sense tips, as well as some examples of what can happen if you aren't informed and prepared.  As Wayne said, you can't make this stuff up, the truth is stranger than fiction sometimes.
If anyone is interested in a copy of the Operator Basics CD, email us and we can send you a copy free of charge.


The American Water Works Association is a large world wide organization that is all about helping water operators. They can provide you knowledge on water resource development, water and wastewater treatment technology, water storage and distribution, and utility management and operations to improve the quality and supply of water. Through the AWWA you can find all sorts of information to help you run your water system.

Navigating AWWA
Although the AWWA is a large organization, it’s divided into regional, state, or local sections. On the national organization web page there are links to rules and regulations and other general topics. On the local, state, or regional section web pages, there are links to training events, conferences, publications, and other useful resources for water operators.
For instance, if you work in Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, or Vermont, you would be part of the New England Water Works Association. Most sections have their own web page or share a web page with other states. Find your local section web page here and you can start looking for local program opportunities for water system growth or contact them for help and technical assistance.
Benefits From AWWA Resources
You will find training workshops, events or conferences that provide learning on the section web pages. Training workshops cover all sorts of topics such as cross connection control, exam preparation, disinfection methods, and more. Conferences are a great as they typically entail demonstrations/exhibits, provide info on research, offer technical sessions, and are a great place to network. Look for other special events, webinars, online guides, etc on the section web page.
From June 20-24, AWWA is having their Annual Conference & Exposition event in Chicago. Water professionals from all over the world attend to stay on the cutting edge of water research and best practices as well as for technical sessions. AWWA EXPO.
For more events in your area, search our SmallWaterSupply.org website in the calendar tab.



The Rural Community Assistance Partnership (RCAP) is an organization that we at SmallWaterSupply.org believe offers great resources for water and wastewater operators across the country.

Regional Partners

RCAP is divided into six regional partners who provide services for water and wastewater operators in rural communities. For example, they may provide loans for water and wastewater infrastructure, technical assistance, training sessions, and useful publications. Check out the national RCAP website to see what regional partner your state is a part of:
The Rural Community Assistance Corporation (RCAC) is one of these regional partners. The RCAC serves rural communities in 13 western states: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming. The RCAC is great for water and wastewater operators because it provides numerous training opportunities that are free of cost.
For example, on July 14 the RCAC will host a workshop in Redding, California titled “Water System Inspections and Sanitary Surveys.” This practical 1-day workshop will provide you with the necessary tools to be able to conduct a sanitary survey for your water system and qualifies for 6 contact hours in California. For more information on workshops such as these, take a look the RCAC’s website, http://www.rcac.org, or use SmallWaterSupply.org’s event search.

State Offices

Each RCAP regional partner is further divided into state offices which provide additional assistance for water and wastewater operators. Each RCAP state office has a different name. The Illinois RCAP office, for example, is called the Illinois Association of Community Action Agencies (IACAA), while the West Virginia RCAP is called the West Virginia Community Action Partnership (WVCAP).
Ohio has a very active state office which is part of the Great Lakes RCAP regional partner. On August 24-25, the Ohio RCAP is hosting a conference titled “Small Towns, Big Futures.” This conference will feature useful training sessions for operators on topics such as rate-setting, collecting water and sewer bills, and fixing leaks. For more information on this conference, check out the Ohio RCAP’s website:
We at SmallWaterSupply.org try our best to keep our document database and event search up-to-date with useful organizations such as the Rural Community Assistance Partnership.

Email = Information

If you have an email address, then you can get access to many sources of information.  Most national organizations, like the National Rural Water Association and the American Water Works Association, have weekly email updates that are a newsletter of sorts for keeping you up to date with current events, new technology, ideas, and other things. 

How Do I Sign Up?

The AWWA sends these updates to their members, but for other organizations, they have a place for you to subscribe on their webpage.  You simply go to their page and type in your email address. They will send you a confimation email that you follow, and then you will get an email on some regular interval, typically once a week.

Other Types of Information

Some states and state organizations have started providing updates by using these same services.  In these cases, they are usually to announce a new program or an update to the information they provide on the web.   For instance, you can sign up at the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality website to receive notification of any updates to their webpage and programs. This can prove really valuable if you are an Idaho water or wastewater operator.  The Minnesota Department of Health sends out information on grants and loans, as well as rules and guidance, and they have several quarterly newsletters that you can subscribe to.  All of these services mean that you don't have to go look for the latest information, they send new information directly to you, you just have to sign up.

Other organizations that provide these services include The Missouri Rural Water Association, the Michigan Water Environment Association, USEPA, National Rural Water Association, Rural Community Assistance Partnership, Water Environment Research Foundation, and the Water Resources Education Network.  There are many others, probably some in your state. Please send me others that you know of, I'll be sure to include them in a later post.

Our Blog Posts Via Email

Of course, you can also get our blog posts emailed to you by signing up on our webpage.  See the "Getting Blog Posts by Email" article under the Featured Posts section on our blog page (or click on the link!).


The Source Water Collaborative is a coalition of 23 organizations who share a common vision for protecting the lakes, rivers, and aquifers that provide drinking water to all Americans.  These organizations include many of the groups that we regularly talk about here at SmallWaterSupply.org, that work with or on behalf of water supplies.  For instance, the National Rural Water Association, the American Water Works Association, the Association of State Drinking Water Administrators, the National Environmental Services Center, the US EPA, the Environmental Finance Center Network, and the Rural Community Assistance Partnership are all member organizations.  The Collaborative is an effort to better coordinate and give citizens and communities someplace to go to find out information about protecting their sourcewater.

New Custom Brochure

At www.yourwateryourdecision.org, there is a program that you can use to create a custom brochure about source water protection.  The goal being to get local policy makers involved in your source water protection issues.  There are a series of steps to run through that allow you to add contacts and state specific information, and then an opportunity to add in your own local information to create a brochure that is custom and specific for your needs.

Where It Can Be Useful

If the source of your water supply is shared by more than one user, for instance a large regional aquifer or a surface water source that provides water to more than one water supply, then this brochure is one tool you can use to create awareness among all of the users you share your water source with.  If you have a local issue, or there is a regional issue that might affect a group of water supplies from the same source, this brochure is an inexpensive, to-the-point way to get information out to those that need to get involved and have a better understanding of source water protection.

What SmallWaterSupply.org Can Do To Help

The only expense for you is printing the brochure. If that is a concern, we might be able to help.  If you are a water supply serving under 3300 people and would like to get copies of your brochure printed, just email it to us and we will print 100 copies for you.  We believe the Collaborative web page is a great resource for anyone interested in protecting their water supply and we are glad to help support their efforts. 



The US EPA has a number of great resources for water operators, and their information covers many significant aspects of water and wastewater operation. A good example is an EPA web page which contains 10 categories of helpful wastewater “technology” fact sheets, all available in downloadable PDFs.
Here is a list of the categories and few examples of the documents you’ll find on the US EPA Technology Factsheets page…
Combined Sewer Overflows Treatment
Read about alternative disinfection methods for wastewater treatment, as well as prevention techniques for pollution and other contaminants. This category contains documents helpful for the operation and maintenance of sewers and treatment systems.
“Sewer Separation” PDF:
Storm Water
Covers everything from technologies in record-keeping and inventory checks to dust control, wet detention ponds, contamination, and much more. A great resource for professionals working with storm water and detention.
This category covers the technological basics of disinfecting with chlorine, ozone, and ultraviolet methods.
Biological Treatment
Including both secondary and advanced, this section contains documents fine bubble aeration, and sequencing batch reactors.
“Sequencing Batch Reactors” PDF:
Water Efficiency
A collection of documents pertaining to toilet technology can be found in this category.
Decentralized Systems Technology
A lot of informational PDFs on septic tank technologies can be found under this category. Also includes information on filtering, pipe systems, and more.
Collection Systems O&M
Mostly information on sewer systems, this section provides PDFs for professionals dealing with pipe bursts and general operation and maintenance of these specific water systems.
“Pipe Bursting” PDF:
Biosolids Technology Factsheet
Learn how to successfully manage biosolids with the information provided in this category. Topics include odor control, heat drying, and alkaline stabilization, just to name a few.
Wastewater Technology Factsheet
This category contains the largest collection of documents, all pertaining to wastewater treatment. Expect to find any information you need on the topic in this category!
“Disinfection for Small Systems” PDF:
So be sure to check out this web page. All of the documents are easily categorized and labeled, and some are even available in Spanish. As always, if you want a copy of any documents you find on the web sent to you in hardcopy or on CD, contact us, we’d be happy to print and send it, free of charge.


Why Is A Website For Consumers Important?
We all have heard about the likely operator shortage around the country, and some areas may already be seeing some of those issues happening now.  There are a number of issues that factor into this problem, and a big one is the public's perception/understanding of their water system.  We can just about universally agree that, in general, the public takes their water supply for granted, which means they are likely taking their water operator for granted as well.
More Than Public Awareness
Taking you for granted would be tolerable, if thats all that it was.  But, residents in small communities, especially those rural communities that have "always done things the same way", they've "never had problems with their water before", and feel like "there is no reason to raise water rates" need to understand whats really going on.  There are serious funding shortages, and operator pay has not kept up with the increasing responsibilities operators have today. Some small communities are going to find out too late that they can't afford an operator anymore because there are larger systems that can offer better pay, benefits, and support.  For some communities, that's what its going to take unfortunately, but hopefully for others, increasing awareness will lead to positive changes.
What They Don't Understand Is:
- Things haven't always been done the same way, you've just adapted to the new regs and rules as they have come along and dealt with it.
- There have been problems before, they've just been taken care of.
- Water rates have been too low for a long time, and now with new rules, more reporting requirements, and systems are getting older, communities must prepare and be willing to plan for the future now.
What Can We Do About It?
Inform your customers. Educate them about the costs and work that goes into providing safe water in your communities. Ask your Technical Assistance providers and Operator Associations for information you can send out and examples of what can happen when communities don't take care of their water system and operator, as well as examples of those that do.
Here's A Place To Start
The USEPA website for consumers can be found here
You can also search our website to find materials to share with your consumers, or direct consumers directly to the site.  Searching the document database using "category=consumer information" and typing "public" in the keyword filter will turn up a number of good factsheets and helpful information from the USEPA and a number of other organizations that you can share with your customers.
So Why Should We Make Work For Ourselves?
Because public perception is a tough nut to crack.  It's going to take all of us, operators, community leaders, TA providers, and regulators, all working together, to change attitudes and peoples appreciation for their drinking water.
What is NESC?
NESC is the National Environmental Services Center at West Virginia University.  Many of you probably know of, or have heard of the National Drinking Water Clearinghouse, which is a part of NESC's program of support for drinking water professionals and others interested in drinking water issues. 
On Tap and Tech Briefs
According to NESC, there are about 24,000 subscribers to On Tap magazine.  On Tap is a quarterly publication that provides helpful information for water operators across the country.  According to their website, "On Tap informs people about: technical, financial, operations and maintenance, management, source water protection, and health issues relevant to small drinking water systems." You can download all of the issues and sign up for a subscription at http://www.nesc.wvu.edu/ontap.cfm.  It's free, and has articles on relevant topics written by experts from across the country.
One of the great features in On Tap is its "Tech Brief", a 4-page fact sheet that comes with each issue of the magazine.  NESC's website says, "Each fact sheet provides concise, technical information about a drinking water treatment technology or issue relevant to small systems."Tech Briefs" are written for drinking water professionals, particularly small system operators. Tables and descriptive illustrations are provided, as well as sources for more information."
For More Information
To see all of the available Tech Briefs, go to: http://www.nesc.wvu.edu/techbrief.cfm.
There are 51 tech briefs listed on NESC's site, on a wide range of topics, ranging from Corrosion Control, to Leak Detection, to SCADA systems, to water meters, and everything in between. 
NESC's website is comprehensive, with information on everything related to small drinking water and wastewater systems.  Check them out at: http://www.nesc.wvu.edu/index.cfm
What is "Operator Basics"?
The Operator Basics CD is a training series developed at the Montana Water Center, through their Technical Assistance Center (TAC) program for Small Drinking Water Systems. This is a remarkable tool for small water supply operators.  It has proven so popular, that it has been through several printings, with more than 40,000 CD's distributed so far. The National Environmental Services Center (NESC) has copies available, free for water operators.  SmallWaterSupply.org also has a limited number available to operators for free.
The latest version, the 2005 edition, has the following courses:
  • Ground Water Systems (10 hours)
  • Surface Water Systems (12 hours)
  • Wastewater Lagoon Systems (8 hours)
  • Water Explorations Showcase (1.5 hours)            
Additional features include:
  • Math Practice (500 problems)
  • Exam Preparation (500 questions)
  • Resources
  • Glossary Games
CEU Acceptance
It is currently accepted in most states for continuing education or recertification credit.  The operator basics webpage has a map of the U.S that indicates which states accept it.  To find out how many CEU's the training CD can be used for, you should contact your state certification/training office, it varies by state.
Other Montana Water Center Products
The Technical Assistance Center Program at the Montana Water Center has developed a number of useful CD's that can be used for training and continuing education.  Though we plan to highlight each one specifically on our blog as we move forward, anyone interested in seeing the complete set now can find them at:
All of the CD's can either be downloaded directly from their website, or can be requested from NESC.
Blog = Information and Advice
So, what is a blog?  It's nothing more than a current news article or summary about a topic that provides useful information.  We want our blog to be a useful tool, just like the document search page and the event search page are proving to be.  So, our intent is to provide some of the following types of information on our blog:
  • highlighting new things we have found on the internet that will give a small water supply operator new knowledge or provide a straightforward explanation on a topic, whether that be related to a regulatory requirement, treatment option, or best practice.  
  • providing helpful tips for day to day things that will make life a little easier for an operator, whether that be a suggestion about how to collect a sample to avoid contamination, or an explanation of how to easily set up a new email account and use a feature on our site or someone else's. 
  • interviews and guest articles by others in our industry, such as tips from the lead person on the groundwater rule at a state regulatory agency, advice from a circuit rider on a given topic, or an interview with an operator who has just had to face a difficult situation with his system, board, or customers, and what he found that helped him deal with the issue.
What Do You Suggest?
The best way to be sure that you actually like the information we provide in our blog is to address the issues and information needs that you have.  So, we need your input.  Please email or call us if you have questions about a topic, or would like to hear from an expert on how to deal with a specific issue.  Send us your questions, we will find out the answers and post them here so that others can benefit as well.  It's almost a certainty that if you have a question about a topic, there are many other operators who have the same question. 
Better yet, click on "comment" at the bottom of this post and leave your idea there. That way, others can see your idea and acknowledge that they are also interested or suggest additional issues that are specific for them.  We feel our role is to find the answers and provide them here, so please ask, we will do the searching and work to meet your needs.