Entries for the 'Training/CEUs' Category


Many small systems find access to quality training to be a challenge. Finding money in the budget and time in the day to make it to training events can feel like too much work on top of regular operations duties, leading to a scramble for CEUs once renewal time comes around. To help small systems with this challenge, the American Water Works Association, in partnership with the Rural Community Assistance Partnership and the Environmental Finance Center Network, is offering a series of trainings and e-courses for both operators and utility managers.

What Counts as a Small System?
To qualify for these trainings, you need to work for a small public water system. For this program, small systems are public water systems serving a population of 10,000 or fewer, including Non-Transient Non-Community Water Systems and Transient Non-Community Water Systems. For more on the kinds of systems served by this program, see the “How do I know if I qualify?” section at the top of this page.

Small System Operator Training
Free operator training is offered in two formats: in-person workshops and eLearning courses. In-person technical workshops are offered by RCAP in conjunction with the state AWWA sections. These workshops cover Safe Drinking Water Act topics, including Revised Total Coliform Rule, Lead/Copper, Groundwater Rule, water treatment (microbial contaminants), disinfection byproducts reduction and control, and distribution system operation and maintenance. To see which in-person workshops are being offered near you, check the full list here. (Technical trainings are the ones co-hosted with RCAP; workshops co-hosted with EFCN are on managerial topics and are sometimes also good for CEUs.) Most of these workshops are good for CEUs in the state where they are being held; if a training near you hasn’t been approved for your state, check with your certification authority to see if you can get credit. You do need to register for the courses in order to receive credits, but you do not need to be a member of AWWA to attend.

In addition to the workshops, AWWA and RCAP have developed an eLearning course on the Revised Total Coliform Rule. It’s also free, and you do not need to become a member in order to access it, though you will have to create a (free) account on AWWA’s website. Operators can complete it on the computer at home. It covers basic RTCR topics, including how to perform an assessment under the RTCR, sample site evaluation, source and treatment assessment, and distribution system operations and maintenance practices assessment. Upon successful completion of the course, registrants will receive a certificate of completion to file with their states for continuing education credits.

Small System Manager Training
Small water system managers often face an overwhelming set of challenges along with their operators. For them, AWWA has partnered with the Environmental Finance Center Network to offer free in-person workshops on a range of financial and managerial topics. To see if there are any of these trainings offered near you, and what they cover, check the full list here. (Note that only the workshops co-hosted by EFCN or EFC are aimed at managers. The ones co-sponsored with RCAP are designed for operators.) In addition to these workshops, there is an eLearning course on financial sustainability and a webinar series in development. Bookmark this page to stay up to date.

Want to look for more trainings in your area? Check out our events calendar and sort it by your state. Interested in webinars you can attend from your computer? Sort instead by Type=Webinar.


Posted in: Training/CEUs

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. 

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

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. 


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

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.” 


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. 



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. 



The Water Sifu "turns ordinary water workers into black belts." We stumbled across this free podcast developed by an operator in California. Over the course of 28 episodes, Ty Whitman tackles a range of topics covered on water supply treatment and distribution certification exams. 

"Interesting, informative, and fun talk about the drinking water industry. This podcast is created by a water worker not only for anyone in the industry, but anyone who's ever been curious about it, with a mixture of classroom style and "just for fun" style shows."

If you're not familiar with podcasts, they are short audio episodes of one or more people discussing a topic. Some share time-sensitive information and others, like this one, are more timeless in the featured content. You can listen to podcasts on the web, download them to your computer, or use them on your mobile device. Episodes of The Water Sifu are available for direct listen and download or you can subscribe through iTunes

While Whitman does share his own opinions and anecdotes in the episodes, the uniqueness of this podcast makes this a fun supplement to traditional certification exam prep. As with face-to-face training sessions, the added human touch of the audio format makes learning easier. We're not endorsing these, but the instructor also has math DVDs available for purchase.


Posted in: Training/CEUs

Many tribes face a mosaic of environmental challenges, with water and wastewater treatment as only one piece of the puzzle. As tribes grapple with these issues, tribal colleges provide one source of natural resource training and information. Though we were not able to find any tribal colleges that currently offer operator-specific programs, several do offer classes and degree programs that could be of interest to those invested in preserving and managing water and other natural resources.

Hydrology Program at Salish Kootenai

Salish Kootenai College, located on the Flathead Indian Reservation in Montana, offers Associate of Science and Bachelor of Science degrees in Hydrology. The Associate’s degree is intended to prepare students for work as a water quality or geo-technician for a variety of agencies. The Bachelor’s degree can prepare students to design and direct research projects on water resources, go on to graduate school, or qualify them for work as managers and directors of a variety of water resource-related programs, both public and private. Like many environmental science programs offered by tribal colleges, this program seeks to provide technical and theoretical expertise from western science, while at the same time seeking to highlight the importance of water resources to tribal traditions, culture, and spirituality.

Environmental Science at Tribal Colleges

As is mentioned above, many tribal colleges offer environmental sciences classes, sometimes as part of a standalone associate’s program, sometimes as preliminary coursework for earning a bachelor’s at a four-year institution. The courses offered vary depending on the school, but many schools include watershed or water resource management classes in the required curriculum. Most also offer classes on the importance of the environment to the tribe’s spirituality and cultural heritage, and discuss the ways that western resource management practices dovetail with those cultural traditions. To see if there’s a tribal college near you, and what classes they offer, check the membership roster of the American Indian Higher Education Consortium.

Is there a program we missed, or one you think is particularly worth highlighting? Tell us in the comments!



Since SmallWaterSupply.org launched in 2010 we have seen more and more training offered via free and for-a-fee webinars. These topical training events generally last an hour or two and are a very efficient way to deliver information. 

This week the National Rural Water Association, in conjunction with their Water University online training program, announced Water Pro to Go. Water Pro is the association's annual technical conference for education in operations, management, boardsmanship and governance. This new "to Go" option will offer conference attendees a way to view concurrent session materials. 

Perhaps more significantly, Water Pro to Go will allow those who cannot travel to the event to experience much of a full conference for free from the comfort of their desk chair. The online version of the conference will feature live streaming, recording sessions, live chats and a discussion forum. 

Will you attend? Is online conference attendence the wave of the future... or can Internet-based networking ever measure up to the real deal?

Please leave a comment on this post sharing your thoughts. 

Posted in: RWAs, Training/CEUs

Resources for Tribal operators are spread out all over the web, and it can often be difficult to find the information needed. While a great deal of material is based on the websites of Federal agencies like the U.S. EPA, it can take quite some time to locate specific information related to regulations, training, and the like.

Northern Arizona University, and specifically their Institute for Tribal Environmental Professionals, works with Federal agencies to develop programs related to the specific needs of Tribal waste management, emergency response, and similar environmental needs.
Their Resource Information Center (PDF brochure) contains hundreds of documents on a range of environmental subjects including solid waste and water management, among others. You can search the Resource Information Center by category as well. The information available includes lesson plans, technical documents and guides, and more.
For the latest information, they also publish a newsletter that includes news on grant opportunities, courses and training, and conferences.
While there is not yet a central resource providing all of the information that tribal operators and environmental professionals need, the Institute for Tribal Environmental Professionals is a valuable site that can help navigate more easily to the specific information you need. Contact them with questions or to find out if they have or offer what you’re looking for. 

SmallWaterSupply.org Loves: USEPA's Energy Use Assessment Tool 

These days we're hearing a lot about the intersection of water issues and energy issues. It is no doubt the challenges are intertwined, especially for small communities. 

The US Environmental Protection Agency has developed a Microsoft Excel-based tool that helps small-to-medium water and wastewater systems conduct a utility bill and equipment analysis to determine their individual baseline energy use and costs.

This type of simple assessment is the first step a system should take before conducting a full-scale energy audit. Looking at your energy usage is one way to reduce operational costs and improve the financial sustainability of the system.

Before you get started using the tool (or attending the training below), you might want to check out this handout on Understanding Your Electric Bill

Learn How to Use the Tool
Join USEPA for an instructional webinar on Thursday, May 31 at 1:30pm Eastern. Find out how your system can become more energy efficient by using this simple tool. 

 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.

There is only one thing we love more than free webinars and easy access to them: a repository of past webinars ready-for-viewing! We came across two different listings of archived webinars recently:

1. Webinars on Demand from The Groundwater Foundation
Fifteen webinar trainings on relevant groundwater topics. Perfect for newer operators as well as board member training.

2. Past Webcasts from USEPA's Watershed Academy
More that 60 archived webcasts on a broad range of clean water issues.

We know you don't have a ton of extra time, but web-based training is often the next best thing to in person interaction. You can see and hear examples, which makes the information easier to digest and remember. We'll be adding these to our document library so you can always find the training you need, when you need it.


Earlier this year, we picked free & low cost webinars as one of the things we love here at SmallWaterSupply.org - and we still love 'em. Webinars are web-based training seminars and events that you watch and listen to from your computer.

In fact, so many other organizations love them too. In the face of budget cuts, many training providers are turning to these online training formats to still reach you. So many in fact, we have found the need to do a better job of keeping track of them all for you.

On the front page of SmallWaterSupply.org we've swapped out out around-the-nation style events calendar for a listing of free (and only free) webinars that you can attend wherever you have an internet connection. Just as we did before, we'll keep this listing updated with the events coming up soon. Some of these events offer CEUs!

Do you attend webinars? We've love to know what you think of this format. Please tell us in the comments.



As you may or may not realize, some of the Federal programs that support operator training and technical assistance for small systems were not funded this fiscal year (starting Oct 1).  This will affect many states as training providers look at charging for training that has been free in the past, and technical assistance providers struggle to maintain staff levels.
Small System Technical Assistance
The programs I am referring to are for the state Rural Water Assocations and the Rural Community Assistance Partnership (RCAP) affiliates.  Here in Illinois, the message from the most recent Illinois Rural Water Association newsletter is that training will no longer be free.  We have seen the same from several other state Rural Water Associations, as some have eliminated part of their training programs or lost staff altogether. It's the same for the RCAP affiliates and their state programs.  Many are losing staff and that will mean fewer services provided. Its a frustrating time as we watch the organizations operators have come to rely on struggle with funding issues. It's also a worry that the expertise these folks provide may not come back, and thats everyone's loss.
Understanding Value
As a small system operator, now is the time to realize that this may be the new normal for the forseeable future.  Free or not, you still have to maintain your CEU's.  That means you need to budget for training, some of you for the first time in a number of years.  What it also means, I hope, is that any operator who has taken advantage of the free training opportunities in the past realizes how valuable a service it has been.

Ready to get your feet wet with asset management? US EPA is now offering a free self-paced learning module on Asset Management 101. This interactive training is the first of a six part series to complement the Agency's user-friendly software, CUPSS.

CUPSS, the Check Up Program for Small Systems, was designed to help small drinking water and wastewater systems get started with asset management. It is a downloadable application that runs on your PC and helps you store information and make better decisions.

The training modules all contain audio and written narrative to complement the slide presentation. Included are also videos to further enhance the session. This first module will tell you exactly what asset management is and how it can help your system.

How to Run your Small Water Supply like a Business is a series at SmallWaterSupply.org, appearing on Mondays.


The ways and means of training water and wastewater operators is changing and evolving with technology. Many agencies and organizations are now offering one-time and series-based trainings on the web. By coupling audio and visuals (most often slides), these "webinars" (web + seminar) can offer much-needed educational information to participants across the country.

Benefits of Webinars

  • No costs of travel or time spent traveling
  • Many are free or very low cost (< $50)
  • Can be recorded for later viewing

A few years ago, webinars were not as easy to access and thought to be for the more tech-savvy crowd. Today, however, the software that powers that training events is faster and more easy-to-use than ever. Often nothing needs to be installed on your computer.

Water and wasterwater operators can deeply benefit from taking advantage of the new web-based trainings offered today. Many of these can be found on our event calendar.

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.
You've spent time studying for a certification exam but aren't quite sure you're ready. Or, it's been a while and you want to make sure you're still at the top of your game. Online quizzes for operators are a great place to practice and Minnesota Rural Water has a great selection to start.

MRWA's collection includes 39 different quizzes in the following topics, a majority of which are not state-specific:
  • Minnesota Water Works Operations
  • Operator Math
  • Water
  • Wastewater
  • Non-transient Non-community Water Systems
The benefit of an online quiz is instant gratification. The quiz will tell you whether you are right or wrong and provide the correct answer. This makes studying easier and helps you use your time effectively. Plus, taking a quiz on the Internet is even pretty fun!
We'd love to know, do you know of other organizations with online quizzes? Link them up here in the comments.
The Montana Technical Assistance Center
The Montana Water Center at Montana State University is home to the Montana Technical Assistance Center, one of 8 technical assistance centers around the country that provide assistance to small water systems.  The Montana TAC is well known for the training materials they have developed, specializing in CD training courses such as Operator Basics, Water Quality Expedition, Virtual System Explorer, and Small Utility Board Training, just to name a few.  You can see a complete list of their training materials here.
 Newest CD - Saving Water & Energy in Small Water Systems
On September 1, the Montana Technical Assistance Center released their newest CD, Saving Water & Energy in Small Water Systems.  Their press release details the CD as having four 45-minute training modules covering customer conservatrion programs, energy management, alternative energy sources, and water accounting.  Each module includes case studies highlighting the experiences of small systems.
For more details, check out the Saving Water & Energy website.
CD's are being distributed to states and technical assistance organizations, and additional CD's will be available from the National Environmental Services Center (product #DWCDTR29).  The modules and resource files can also be downloaded at the CD's website.
We don't have any copies yet, but will soon.  If you are at a Conference or workshop and see our exhibit, there will be a signup for all of Montana's materials, we will gladly get you a copy and send it to you completely free of charge.  You can also call or email us.
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 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.

The Virtual System Explorer CD is an easy and fun way to learn the basics of water system operations. Users will learn how to recognize system deficiencies, perform a security risk assessment, and improve the financial and management capacity of a system. The CD takes users on a virtual journey through three small water systems: an untreated groundwater system, a treated groundwater system, and a surface water system.

Exploration Basics- This course presents an overview of public water system operations and covers the following topics:
-Distribution and Storage
-Pumps and Facilities
-Regulations and Monitoring
-Management and Operations
Exploration activities- allow you to experience system operation scenarios in a virtual environment
Video Tours- showcase examples of actual small water systems from source to sink.
Glossary- introduces you to need-to-know terminology.
How to use the Virtual System Explorer
The Virtual System Explorer program can be used in either a computer or DVD player.
Computer- Allows users to interactively train and track their progress.
          DVD- Allows users to view the material as a training video.
Earning Credit
It may possible to earn continuing education credit upon the completion of the Virtual System Explorer program. The certification agency in your state can let you know if it’s possible to receive CEU credit.
Virtual System Explorer is free!
You can download the program from the Montana Water Center, one of the 8 USEPA Technical Assistance Centers for Small Water Systems at http://watercenter.montana.edu/training/ve/default.htm.
If you want a hard copy, they are available from the National Environmental Services Center, or we’d be happy to send you a copy of free of charge! Simply email us at info@smallwatersupply.org, or call us.




What’s it All About?
The Microbial Risk Assessment Tool is an excellent training tool for water professionals. This easy-to-use software prepares operators to identify potential risks in water systems. The National Environmental Services Center distributes this educational CD developed by Montana Water Center, in combination with U.S. EPA. TACNet, and Montana State University to give managers and operators a crash course in system support.  It can also be downloaded directly from the Montana Water Center here.
Features of the CD
Users are given the opportunity complete a survey and enter their answers into Excel. Contamination risks are ranked on the spreadsheet in the order of urgency and redial actions are suggested. There are four features on this disk that assist in helping operators develop monitoring skills:
Getting Started Tutorial- This is an accelerated resource in Microsoft Excel that prepares beginners to use the tool right away.
Ranking Tool- This is an excel spreadsheet developed by Dr. Phil Butterfield, PhD, PE, Montana State University Bozeman. This tool was developed to provide information for answering system questions and develop an understanding of water system’s risks and ways to minimize contamination.
Small Water System Survey- This is an in-depth account of small system components and prospective areas of contamination dangers.  The survey collects information from various water system components. Numerical scores for each system are evaluated and used to evaluate pump station and water sources. Survey is divided into six parts.
Part 1- Completion of survey forms for water system
Part 2- Address the source(s) of water for water system
Part 3- Treatment facilities associated with water system
Part 4- Questions regarding pump station or storage tank
Part 5- Transmission Pipelines and Distribution Systems
Part 6- Monitoring for microbial safety.
Surveys should be printed and completed for each area of the water system.

Guidance Material- Helpful information on how to accurately and efficiently complete the surveys will be provided.

Also note that this program was developed to run with Windows XP. It also may be compatible with Windows with Windows Vista.
Earn Credits!
Earning continuing education credit may be possible at the completion of this program and what’s a better way to earn it, than in your own home? Your state certification officer can tell you if your state has CEC hours for this training program. 
This is an excellent tool for any operator. To obtain one of these Training CDs, email us at info@smallwatersupply.org, or call us! We'd be happy to send you a CD, free of charge.

Whats it All About?

The "Illinois Source Water Protection: A Guide to Developing a Source Water Protection Plan" CD is a great resource for operators who are doing just that. Packed with information and guidance on the subject, this CD has a variety of learning tools, including text, photos, illustrations, video-clips, and games, all of which contain valuable information pertinant to developing an SWP. 

Features of the CD

It is easy to navigate. To begin, users fill out their information on the opening screen and “sign on” with a created username. Following, there is an easy-to-follow checklist with all of the tasks the operator must complete. The “tasks” including reading up on information about Illinois’ SWAP program, steps for developing a successful source water protection plan, groundwater concepts, contaminants and more. The great thing about this CD is that it tracks your progress in its Logbook feature, and you can check back on it whenever you like to see what you have completed.

Another helpful tool is the Glossary of terms. Here, you’ll find games like Word Search, and study tools like Flashcards, that will help you memorize important words and definitions. This CD also contains sets of information on case studies in Illinois, including ones in Mackinaw, Loda, Springfield, and Peoria; and, contained in this information are downloadable PDFs with even more facts and data. Contained on this CD are other great resources, too. You’ll find a set of videos and documents, all available for your viewing pleasure. They really are not lacking ANY information on this program!

Earn Credits!

Best of all, upon completion, operators can receive CREDIT! A printable certificate is awarded to the user at the end of the course, and can be sent in to a certification agency for review and approval. What better way to earn Operator Credits than sitting at your own computer?

To obtain one of these Training CDs, contact us here on our website, through email, or call us! We'd be happy to send you your own copy, free of charge.


Posted in: Training/CEUs
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.