Entries for the 'Water Treatment' Category


It's a topic that makes some a little squeamish, but booming populations and continued droughts have led a few states and countries to take a closer look at processes that bring wastewater back to potable standards. For example, California's Department of Public Health is expected to deliver a report to the legislature next year detailing the feasibility of developing uniform direct potable reuse (DPR) standards for the state. And a DPR facility is already up-and-running in Big Spring, Texas, where groundwater quality is low and the surface water supply is unreliable. 

Despite this growing interest, DPR remains an emerging technology shrouded with concerns about cost, implementation, and public acceptance. Fortunately, these are the very questions tackled in a report released earlier this month at the 30th Annual WaterReuse Symposium in Seattle.

Framework for Direct Potable Reuse provides basic information about potable reuse broadly and the potential benifits DPR can provide utilities plagued with unreliable water supplies, mounting water and energy costs, and pressure to preserve resources and lower their carbon footprint. The 190-page report also addresses health effects associated with DPR, discusses how the process fits into the existing federal regulatory framework, outlines strategies for process monitoring and residuals management, and highlights the importance of operator requirements and maintenance programs. It concludes with a discussion of future regulatory, technological, and public outreach needs. 

Framework for Direct Potable Reuse was developed by WateReuse, the Water Environment Federation (WEF), the American Water Works Association, and the National Water Research Institute. 

The full report is available at the link above. A 4-page summary can also be downloaded on the WEF website


Our partners at the Rural Community Assistance Partnership (RCAP) have released a new instructional video on how to measure chlorine residual in the distribution system.

"This video will cover taking a good chlorine sample and methods for analysis. Effective measurement of chlorine residual is essential for protection of public health. The presence of the residual not only provides disinfection, it also serves and an indicator of water quality. Loss of residual can be an indicator of a water quality problem. Chlorine residual may be measured for compliance or non-compliance purposes. While the analysis will remain the same, how you collect the sample may differ. This video will discuss measurement of chlorine residual using a colorimetry and a handheld spectrophotometer."

Posted in: Water Treatment

This series of 13 videos from Indigo Water Group walks through the procedures for solving common water or wastewater math problems. Viewers are able to learn how to solve problems in a step-wise process by following along with the video, which demonstrates and explains each step.

The playlist contains three unit conversion tutorials, five geometry tutorials, three dosing tutorials, one that calculates pump run time to reduce MLSS concentration, and one that calculates VSS loading rate to an anaerobic digester.


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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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


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

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


This article was first published in the Summer 2012 issue of Spigot News, the Ohio EPA's drinking water program newsletter. Many thanks for allowing us to republish it!

Ohio EPA conducts sanitary surveys at least once every three years at community public water systems (PWS) and once every five years at non-community PWSs. The purpose of a sanitary survey is to evaluate and document the capability of a water system’s source, treatment, storage, distribution, operation and maintenance, and management. Each of these may favorably or adversely impact the ability of the system to reliably produce and distribute water that meets drinking water standards. 

This article is the second installment in a series of articles to help small water systems identify the most common problems found during a sanitary survey or other investigatory site visit conducted by Ohio EPA staff. The first article focused on source water (well) deficiencies. This article will focus on some of the more common treatment equipment deficiencies which are found during inspections of small water systems.  Future articles in this series will cover distribution deficiencies and other topics. 

Backwash discharge lines: If you have a softener or a pressure filter, you backwash your equipment to clean and replenish the media. The waste that is produced when you backwash discharges into a floor drain or another pipe, which carries the waste to where it will be treated.  If the pipe carrying the backwash wastewater from your treatment equipment is too close to, or even inserted into, the drain or pipe that carries the waste to treatment (see Figure 1), you could end up with back-siphonage.

This could occur if the pipe carrying the waste to treatment backs up and the wastewater is siphoned back into your drinking water treatment equipment, contaminating your treatment equipment with whatever waste the pipe is carrying. Solution: Ensure there is a sufficient air gap between the backwash waste pipe and the floor drain or the pipe conveying the waste to treatment to prevent backsiphonage (see Figure 2).

Softener tanks, cover, and salt: Softener brine tanks should be kept in sanitary condition. The brine solution should be kept free of dirt and insects. Solution: The best way to accomplish this is to completely cover the brine tanks with an appropriately fitting lid. The lid should not be over- or under-sized and should be kept in place on top of the tank. Also, the brine tank should not be overfilled such that the lid does not fit snug on the tank (see Figure 3). 

All substances, including salt, added to the drinking water in a public water system must conform to standards of the “American National Standards Institute/National Sanitation Foundation” (ANSI/NSF).  This is to ensure it is a quality product that will not introduce contaminants into the drinking water. Solution: Ensure the ANSI or NSF symbol can be located on the bags of salt you use or ensure your salt supplier can provide you with documentation from the salt manufacturer that it is ANSI or NSF certified. 

Cartridge filters: Over time, cartridge filters will become clogged with iron or other minerals from your source water. When clogged, the filters become a breeding ground for bacteria. Solution: Ensure filters are replaced in accordance with the manufacturers’ specifications or even more often, depending on the quality of your source water.

General maintenance: Water treatment equipment should be accessible and cleaning solutions and other non-drinking water chemicals and materials should be kept away from the equipment. If treatment equipment is not accessible for Ohio EPA staff to inspect during a sanitary survey, it will not be accessible to the water treatment operator for routine maintenance or during an emergency. Likewise, non-drinking water chemicals stored in close proximity to treatment equipment can be an invitation for a mix-up or, even worse, intentional vandalism (see Figure 4). Solution: Keep clutter and non-drinking water chemicals and equipment away from drinking water treatment equipment. Preferably, these items should be stored in a different room.



In any new water project, the structure and management of the project are important factors of success. You need to know how things will be done and whom will do them. These details are often required when applying for loan or grant funding in the form of a Quality Assurance Project Plan or QAPP. 

The U.S. EPA has a number of resources related to Quality Assurance Project Plans. Generally the EPA requires a Quality Assurance Project Plan when projects are directly conducted by the EPA, or when they are funded by a grant, contract, or other agreement from the EPA.

The QAPP lays out the procedures and other technical information related to data collection, modeling, and other items needs to gather a clear picture of the scope of a project before it is undertaken.
The EPA’s website offers a great deal of information on QAPPs, from explaining them to developing them. For instance, they developed a guide for Alaska Tribal QAPP which can serve as an introduction and template for other tribal operators developing similar documents.
Additionally, they have a Quality Assurance Project Plan Development Tool, which is a series of documents and guides to help in the step-by-step development of your unique plan. And they have published a self-guided course online which consists of both Powerpoint and Word documents that offer an introduction to plan development. There are also a number of examples and additional online resources available.
The QAPP can be viewed as a blueprint for collecting the relevant data to ensure a successful project. A Quality Assurance Project Plan is required in addition to a Quality Management Plan, as the two documents provide unique information needed for any project.  
The links above provide a good introduction to Quality Assurance Project Plans, and the EPA’s website has additional material to assist in understanding and developing a plan. 

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. 

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.


A few years ago I shadowed a Maryland Department of the Environment sanitary survey of a small system in western Maryland. It was an eye-opening experience, especially since I was pretty green in the industry at the time. One thing really stuck with me: the importance of a cross connection control program. I also learned that this is one of the most commonly noted deficiencies in sanitary surveys.

A cross connection occurs whenever there is an actual or potential physical connection between the public drinking water system and any possible source of contamination.

We have documents from many states in our database (including specific regulations and requirements); these below are some of the most helpful introductory materials. What is included is not only helpful for water system operators, but also the public. Homeowners and businesses in your community play a large role in backflow prevention and this is not commonly understood by the general public.

Cross Connection Control: A Best Practices Guide
from US Environmental Protection Agency

This 4-page document is a fact sheet answering common questions about backflow and cross-connection control. It also contains information about the risks of cross-connections and well as some preventative advice. Technologies that are available to control cross-connections and prevent backflow are also covered.

Backflow Prevention and Cross-Connection Control: Protecting our Public Water System
from Ohio Environmental Protection Agency
This 2-page flier presents information on backflow prevention. It discusses what it is, concerns associated with it, how it occurs and what it causes, and what can be done to protect the system. Some specific topics discusse include auxiliary water systems and booster pumps.

Cross Connections Can Create Health Hazards
from Washington State Department of Health
A 2-page brochure that explains what cross connections are, how contaminated water can flow backwards into a consumer's plumbing and the public water system, and where to get help to prevent backflow from occurring. It is intended for consumers and also mentions 12 common places that cross connections are found.

Cross Connection and Backflow Prevention
from National Environmental Services Center
This 4-page tech brief examines the problems associated with cross connections and backflow and provides practical solutions for controlling or eliminating them. Some of the common questions that are answered include: What is a cross connection? What is a backflow? What about terrorism and water security?

Commercial Cross-Connection Survey Form
from Nebraska Rural Water Association
This 2-page document is a survey conducted by utilities to assist customers in reporting potential backflow hazards and to comply with regulations. It is intended for consumers to fill out and return to their water providers. This form must be filled out every five years by consumers.

Further Reading
For additional technical support in developing your program, we recommend US EPA's Cross Connection Control Manual. This 50-page guidance manual contains information on cross connections, backflow prevention, system management and public health. It describes the health significance of cross-connections, how back flow events occur, how to prevent backflow and backsiphonage, how to test preventers, how to develop a cross-connection control program, and information on ordinances.

SmallWaterSupply.org's Document Search can help you find valuable references, resources and educational materials to make your job easier.


Simultaneous Compliance is a big phrase for something that is essentially very simple: being in compliance with all regulations while operating one or more treatment processes on your raw water. As an operator you know that every action has a reaction. Simultaneous compliance techniques help find that special balance.

You may be most familiar with this term in relation to maintaining sufficient disinfectant residual in the distribution system while minimizing disinfection by-products and maximizing corrosion control to prevent introduction of lead and copper. It's not always easy and unfortunately, increasingly complex regulations make finding this balance even more difficult.

Addition of new treatment for removal of arsenic or radionuclides, for example, can introduce cascading effects across all your processes. Fortunately, there are a couple of tools designed specifically for helping small systems make sense of all this:

  • WaterRF Simultaneous Compliance Tool
    This web-based tool utilizes a framework of technology-based rules to identify potential unintended consequences based on user defined treatment and source water quality parameters.

Have you encounted simultaneous compliance issues? How did you address them?

Posted in: Water Treatment
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.
As a small water supply seeks to comply with a new regulation, it may need to work with design engineers and product vendors for the first time (or the first time in a while). If you don't have an existing relationship, this can sometimes be intimidating when you know their job is to make money.
We're not saying that industry professionals are not reputable (the vast majority are), but that its helpful to be prepared for getting the most out of the interaction. You can help ensure that a solution is not over-designed and is the best fit for your water supply if you know the right questions to ask.
EPA released a document in 2005 called "Evaluating Engineers and Vendors: A Brochure for Drinking Water Systems" that is still very relevant today. While a portion of this brochure was designed to help a small water system evaluate potential treatment for arsenic, there are some very helpful worksheets for any situation.

These fill-in worksheets include information summaries for a water system, engineering firm or vendor in addition to the brochure's many helpful for evaluating proposals. While gaining a reputation read on a potential service provider is often rooter in instinct and gut, being armed with a checklist can make the process even easier.
How to Run your Small Water Supply like a Business is a series at SmallWaterSupply.org, appearing on Mondays.
Next Wednesday, from 1-3pm eastern time, there will be a lead and copper control webinar that will cover all of the basics of lead and copper speciation, solubility and treatment.  It's a free webinar, you just need to sign up in advance.
Topics Covered
The webinar will cover the following topics:   
  • Oxidizing power of disinfectants
  • Copper speciation and solubility
  • Lead speciation and solubility
  • pH adjustment and phosphate treatment
  • Stagnation behavior of lead versus copper
  • Sequential sampling and contributions of different plumbing materials
  • Effects of different metal deposits
How To Sign Up
To reserve your "seat" at the webinar, sign up here.  After registering, you will get a confirmation email with information for joining the webinar.  Seating is limited, so don't delay.  This is the registration page, click to sign up!




I spent a few days job shadowing a circuit rider from the Illinois Rural Water Association. A memorable stop we made was a small town in Illinois that has a reverse osmosis (RO) water treatment plant. This state-of-the art plant, which is just over 8 years old, took 3 million dollars to build. It takes two operators to run the RO plant; Mark is the lead man, and has been a water operator for 23 years, and Travis has been an operator for three years. Mark and Travis gave me a tour of the plant and explained how they work to provide their town with clean water.
From Well to Tap
Before the town updated their water supply, water in the town was said to be black. The distribution system was also outdated, built in 1889. When the town decided to build a new treatment plant, they also decided to drill new wells in order to obtain cleaner groundwater. The town drilled three 85-foot wells located about ten miles outside of town. Two of these wells are run at a time.
From the wells, the groundwater is pumped to the treatment plant and sent through iron and manganese removal sand filters. From these filters, about 600 gpm (gallons per minute) of the water is sent to an RO unit, while 215 gpm is sent to a holding tank. Of the water sent to the RO unit, 150 gpm concentrated is sent to a settling lagoon. The rest is aerated for carbon dioxide removal, mixed with the holding tank water, and sent to town. It takes about three days for the water that leaves the plant to reach the town. The town has around 1775 service connections and uses about 395,000 gallons of water a day.
Reverse Osmosis Treatment
Water that is treated with reverse osmosis is forced through the RO unit at a pressure of 134 psi. To put this into perspective, tap water runs at 50 psi. I was told that the membranes are so small that even a virus can’t fit through. Because of this, the water becomes 100% purified. RO is such an efficient process that it removes essential nutrients, so it’s necessary to add untreated water to the RO water before it is sent to town. Although the process is complex, the town’s residents are happy to have some of the highest quality tap water around.


 Next Tuesday and Wednesday, August 24th and 25th, there will be an informational webinar on current research in Disinfection By-Product Control.  Hosted by Penn State Harrisburg's Environmental Training Center (also one of the 8 Technical Assistance Centers), this event will be from 11am to 12:30pm each day.
Tuesday August 24th
Dr Robin Collins, Director of the New England Water Treatment Technology Assistance Center at the University of New Hampshire will be discussing "Post Treatment Aeration to Reduce DBP for Small Systems".
Wednesday August 25th
Dr Enos Inniss, from the Missouri Technology Assistance Center at the University of Missouri, will be presenting, "DBP Control Considerations: Missouri's Experience with Small Systems". 
To Register and Logistics
The webinar can be viewed live through the web via Adobe Connect.  You will need a Penn State digital ID to log in for the webinar, and that can be obtained for free at https://fps.psu.edu/.  For additional details and a summary of the presentations, go here.  To register, download the registration form here and email it to Alison Shuler at ajs28@psu.edu or fax it to the number on the registration form. If you have any questions or need any assistance, you can also call Alison at 717-948-6388. Lastly, you can review the event summary for this event on SmallWaterSupply.org here.
Some Details
I encourage you to look at the details in the linked information to get a better idea of what the talks are about. On Tuesday, Dr Collins will be discussing technologies, how water quality affects DBP formation, and more.  On Wednesday, Dr Inniss will be presenting the results of their efforts to help small communities in Missouri that have DBP problems and case studies of systems that they evaluated to improve their performance.