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.


Record flooding in South Carolina has focused new attention on the water quality threats posed by stormwater runoff and created an opportunity for utilities and others to educate the public on this critical issue. This video from the North Central Texas Council of Governments—complete with a nifty pollution prevention jingle—can help you reach some of your youngest consumers.  


Hazard resilience and emergency planning were front-and-center at the U.S. EPA Drinking Water Workshop last month. Stories of drought, bacterial contamination, and power outages highlighted the struggles of effective emergency planning. Fortunately, there is a suite of resources available for utilities—and small water suppliers particularly—to help you prepare for the unknown and plan for the rare events. 

This is the first of a three-part series with guides and tips to help you build a comprehensive emergency response plan. The free templates provided here will help you get started. 

Emergency Response Planning Template for Public Drinking Water Systems

This 20-page document developed by the Rural Community Assistance Partnership is intended for use by any water system serving a population of 3,300 or fewer and can be modified to fit specific system needs. The template is intended to be used as a starting point based on what is relevant for the type, size, and complexity of the system. 

Rural & Small Water and Wastewater System Emergency Response Plan Template

This 48-page template is designed to be a guide for Emergency Response Planning. Emergency Response planning should be a coordinated and planned process. Proper planning can lessen the impact of an emergency. All staff should be trained as to their responsibility within the plan and how it will be implemented. This template was designed to address various emergency hazards that may occur in rural and small systems. It incorporates emergencies that may be the result of terrorism. Regardless of the type of emergency whether natural or man-made each system has the responsibility to be prepared to protect the public health and to restore services that may be impacted. 

Disaster-Specific Preparedness/Response Plan for Public Drinking Water Systems - XYZ Water System Template

This 25-page template has been developed to help you prepare your Emergency Response Plan. The ERP Guide (see separate document, here) and Template is intended for use by any water system and may be modified to fit the specific needs of each system. The ERP guide follows the outline in the template—section by section 

Emergency Response Plan Template

This 26-page form is an outline of an emergency response plan for water operators to fill out and complete. This document is  in pdf form, but the fillable Word format of this document can be found here

Emergency Response Plan of Action 

This 40-page template is used to create an emergency response plan for a public water system. There are many situations that may cause impairment of water quality or disruption of service. In Maine, the most common is loss of water pressure or contamination of the water supply, source, or lines. Some common examples include main breaks, power outage, treatment failure, numerous types of contamination, extreme weather and or structural damage, floods, and equipment failure. This template goes over each topic to create the most efficient ERP. 

If you don't see something that fits your system's needs, search "emergency response plan templates" in our documents database to find more resources.     


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


This video from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency highlights the City of Fredericktown's efforts to reduce their vulnerability to climate change, particularly drought and its effects on their source water. City officials used EPA's Climate Resilience Evaluation and Awareness Tool (CREAT) to help identify and evaluate the potential impacts of climate change on their utility and develop adaptive management strategies. 



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’re on staff at a water utility, you’re probably very familiar with your system’s shortcomings: the equipment and infrastructure that need to be replaced, the pipes that are already pushing their lifespan, the upgrades that are essential for continued service. But because water infrastructure is largely invisible to the general public, communicating that urgency to your customers and other stakeholders can be difficult. The Imagine a Day Without Water campaign, scheduled for early October, is here to help you get the message out.

Imagine a Day Without Water, scheduled for October 6-8, 2015, is a national campaign to educate the public on the importance of water and the need to invest in water infrastructure. It encourages water utilities to reach out to local news organizations ahead of these dates to help get the word out about local water issues and needs. News organizations can sometimes have a hard time finding an “angle” on local infrastructure issues, particularly when it’s difficult to feature video footage, photographs, or audio recordings of infrastructure that spends most of its time buried or locked away in secure buildings. The Imagine a Day Without Water materials can help you work with your local media to put together a story that meets their editorial standards while also reminding your community of the importance of your work and your need for investment. Resources offered by the campaign include an outline of 11 ways to participate (some of which work particularly well when combined), tips for hosting a good press event, a sample op-ed template, and a FAQ.

To suggest additional materials to be added to the campaign, use the contact listed in the FAQ. To see public outreach materials on a broad range of topics, go to our document database and use the search category “Consumer Information.”

Posted in: Public Education

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

The struggle to provide safe drinking water in the face of the Gold King Mine spill is reminding many utilities and operators of the importance of knowing what to do if water service is disrupted. But creating a strong emergency plan is often easier said than done—and the middle of an emergency is the worst time to discover you’ve forgotten something.

Hosting a water emergency roundtable discussion is a great way to boost plans for service disruptions and help others in your community do the same. These events also provide a unique opportunity to connect water security with broader preparedness and community resiliency efforts underway in your region.

Here’s a quick glance at what you can do to host a successful discussion:

  1. Consult with partners within your water community to identify the groups that need to be at the table. Some groups to consider include hospitals, schools, farm operations, industrial parks, municipal pools, and first responders.
  2. Set a date and secure a meeting place that meets your meeting needs.
  3. Work with partners or co-hosts to ensure that the room has the equipment needed, such as a laptop, PowerPoint projector, and pens and pads for meeting participants.
  4. Have your water utility manager or superintendent call the groups to invite them to the event. A personal call typically results in a more positive response and can be followed by a formal invite and RSVP request.
  5. Call confirmed participants to outline what types of information participants will need to bring with them, how the discussion will be facilitated, and how sensitive information will be treated.
  6. Confirm with partners or co-hosts who will be responsible for facilitating the discussion, compiling participant data, putting together registration packets, welcoming participants, presenting, taking notes, and writing a meeting summary.
  7. Arrive at least on hour before the event is scheduled to set up materials and manage last minute details.
  8. Use meeting notes and discussed action items to develop a short report for participants.
  9. Write and distribute an internal and external report on progress towards action items approximately six months after the event.
  10. Determine the need for a follow-up meeting.

For more tips and sample invitation scripts, read the Water Emergency Roundtable—Outline for Discussion developed by the Association of State Drinking Water Administrators and EPA Region 5. 


Our partners at the Rural Community Assistance Partnership (RCAP) have released a new instructional video on hydrant inspection and flushing. 

"This video covers basic inspection and flushing of a fire hydrant. All fire hydrants in a water system need to be inspected on a regular basis. Inspection is needed to ensure a high degree of confidence that hydrants will perform properly in an emergency. A number of circumstances can affect a hydrant's performance, including vandalism, accidental damage, wear and tear, and mechanical malfunction. Hydrants may also be flushed periodically to improve water quality."


As smart phones and tablets become more and more common, many organizations and individuals have found that they can be useful, portable resources in an emergency. One resource available to utilities as they plan for and react to emergency situations is the EPA’s mobile Water Utility Response site.

Water Utility Response On-The-Go is a site specifically formatted to be comfortably viewed on smart phones and other mobile devices. The homepage displays a menu of links for tracking severe weather, contacting response partners, responding to incidents, taking notes and recording damage, informing incident command, and accessing additional planning info. The weather tracking and response partners links use location data to help you access forecasts and contacts specific to your area. The Respond to Incidents section includes action checklists for drought, earthquake, extreme cold and winter storms, extreme heat, flooding, hurricanes, tornado, tsunami, volcano, and wildfire. The option labeled Take Notes and Record Damage leads to a section that includes a generic damage assessment form, while Inform Incident Command includes ICS forms 213 and 214 (the General Message and Activity Log, respectively), as well as additional information on Incident Command. The section on additional planning info includes links to EPA webpages on emergencies/incidents, planning, response, and recovery, as well as to WARN and mutual aid info.

Some of the external links from the site are not formatted for mobile viewing, and the .pdf forms may require an Adobe Reader app if you wish to fill them out on your mobile device. However, the site overall is well organized and easy to navigate, and can be a great tool for utilities dealing with weather emergencies and natural disasters. For a visual overview of how the site works, see the EPA’s video, below.

Interested in attending training or finding more information on emergency planning? Search our calendar and document database using the category “Water Security/Emergency Response.”



In addition to the operations and management challenges we’ve previously outlined, many tribes face broader issues that can also have an impact on public works. Often, tribes find themselves at an early point in utility development and need to begin assessing the infrastructure they already have in order to plan large-scale expansions or improvements.

Geographic Information System mapping (or GIS mapping) is a common approach to some of these large-scale issues, including surveying tribal lands, mapping existing distribution systems, and planning future infrastructure improvement projects. In addition to these practical considerations, mapping tribal land can often have a spiritual component, since the land often plays an important role in the tribe’s culture and traditions.

Tribal GIS solutions are a common topic at various tribal environmental conferences, and the Bureau of Indian Affairs offers GIS resources for tribes. One additional resource we’ve found is TribalGIS.com.

GIS From a Tribal Perspective
TribalGIS.com is facilitated by the non-profit National Tribal Geographic Information Support Center (NTGISC) with support from Wind Environmental Services, a 100% Native American owned and operated GIS firm. It offers GIS support specifically aimed at tribes, including a collection of videos on a tribal approach to GIS, an annual conference in November, and a community forum. All resources seek to integrate the practical GIS needs of tribal communities with the cultural and spiritual tradition of mapping and describing land. The forum and conference also highlight technical questions and topics regarding use of GIS technology. Other GIS resources available through the site include links to GIS programs at tribal colleges and an interactive map server.

The above resources are freely available on the site (with the exception of the conference, which is conducted in person). With site membership, tribal GIS workers can also participate in an email listserv and receive discounts when registering for the conference.

For tribes facing challenges that can be solved by GIS, TribalGIS.com is a great place to find community and network with other tribal personnel in a similar position. For more on TribalGIS and a basic introduction to GIS in Indian Country, you can watch their eight-minute video
For more on tribal topics, see our calendar and document databases, and search for Category=Tribal.

Posted in: Tribal Systems

The Environmental Finance Center at the University of North Carolina has developed a series of free Financial Sustainability and Rates Dashboards for water and wastewater systems. These interactive dashboards provide utility managers with a benchmarking tool that allows them to compare their rates with other similar utilities and see where they stand in regards to affordability for customers, cost recovery, and financial sustainability. Dashboards are currently available for ten states, each of which has its own unique features, but for the purpose of this blog post we will be focusing on Arizona.

The Arizona Water and Wastewater Rates Dashboard contains rate structure information from 355 utilities from across the state. To begin comparing rates, you must first select a utility from the dropdown menu; Arizona is one of the states that allows users to manually input information from their own system, so if your utility was not surveyed for the dashboard you can still compare it. After selecting comparison criteria on the left side of the page, your results will be graphically displayed in four simple dials on the right side of the page. These dials, which represent bill comparison, conservation signal, cost recovery, and affordability, are color-coded with greens, yellows, and reds to provide users with a clear illustration of where their utility stands in comparison with others. Users can then adjust their comparison criteria to see what would happen if certain variables changed, for example if they raised rates or if water consumption increased.

If you are interested in learning more about the specifics of the rates dashboard, the EFC created a 9-part video tutorial series on YouTube to walk you through the features and benefits of the tool.

Posted in: EFCs, Videos

As more exaggerated weather variations accompany climate change, many utilities are being forced to adapt. Coastal utilities may be particularly aware of their vulnerability to storms after Superstorm Sandy, but other parts of the country are projected to experience more frequent flooding, drought, and other severe weather events as well. One resource designed to help utilities prepare for climate changes is the USEPA’s Climate Ready Water Utilities (CRWU) program.

Tools to Help You Prepare
If you click on the Tools tab of the CRWU page, you’ll find a number of resources intended to help you evaluate your utility’s climate readiness and plan for the future. These resources include links to maps of projected climate changes, storm surges, and hurricane strikes; the CRWU Toolbox; an adaptation strategies guide; reports on utility resilience exercises using the Climate Resilience and Awareness Tool (CREAT); and various reports and links to relevant materials from other programs. It also links to the CREAT homepage, which includes even more information on the tool and its use.

Climate Planning Guidance
In addition to the materials listed under the Tools page, the CRWU website also includes a Training tab, with slides and video recordings of training webinars on CRWU and CREAT topics. This page includes several presentations introducing the basic of CREAT, CRWU, climate change, and climate change planning. It also includes some more advanced topics, such as methods of future planning, case studies, and financial planning. For utilities who need some background before jumping into the resilience evaluation process, these presentations can be a good place to start.

What Climate Planning Might Look Like for You
All of these resources may sound well and good, but what does climate change planning actually mean for your utility? Stocking up on tinfoil hats? Getting your Chicken Little dance down? Thankfully, the answer is much more practical. In this video, CRWU profiles a small utility in Kentucky that was forced to adapt to increased flooding.

Climate planning can provide the extra ounce or two of prevention that is worth several pounds of cure. If you’re interested in investigating ways to protect your utility from weather variation, CRWU can be a great place to start. For more resources, type “climate change” into our document database keyword filter and click “Retrieve Documents.”

Posted in: Sustainability

A healthy environment can make an area a pleasant place to live, visit, and do business. For water utilities, healthy ecosystems are often associated with compliance, whether they contribute to cleaner sourcewater, or indicate a properly adjusted TMDL. However, healthy environments don’t always happen on their own, particularly when humans get involved. If your local government needs help managing environmental issues, LGEAN can be a good place to get started.

Water Environmental Resources
The Local Government Environmental Assistance Network (LGEAN) is intended to provide environmental management, planning, funding, and regulatory information for local government officials, managers, and staff. Water utilities will likely find their water topic areas to be of most interest, with pages for drinking water, groundwater, stormwater, wastewater, watersheds, and wetlands. These topic pages include issue summaries followed by links to resources from the EPA and other federal and non-government programs, as well as links to relevant publications, databases, and financial assistance programs. These resources may not provide detailed information on specific problems a utility is facing, but they can be a great place to begin wrapping your head around an important issue in your community.

Other Environmental Issues
In addition to the water-specific resources, it can be worthwhile to explore the other topic areas on the site. For example, the environmental management systems and smart growth sections can provide good context for community-wide approaches to problems like watershed management and distribution/collection system expansion projects. And the financing section can be a good place to skim for programs related to issues your area is facing.

Stay Up-to-Date
If you find the resources at LGEAN useful, you can also sign up for their email update, which keeps subscribers informed on new funding opportunities, federal policy updates, and upcoming conferences/events, among other topics. (For an example, see the most recent update here.)

If environmental issues are a problem at your utility (and where aren’t they), LGEAN can provide a great starting point for your response. If they have a particularly helpful program we’ve missed here, tell us in the comments!


If you’re reading this blog, you’re probably already aware that the Internet exists, and hopefully you think some websites (like ours!) are useful. But have you considered getting a website for your own utility? If you don’t have a website already, here are some things to consider.

Benefits of Going Online
A utility website can provide a number of services, both to you and to your customers. At the most basic level, a website can house the information people ask you for all the time: utility fee information, FAQs, maybe some fact sheets on common local concerns like water conservation or winterizing. Not only does this provide a convenient place to direct people for more information, but some people may Google first, and find what they’re looking for before they have to try tracking you down by phone.

Beyond this basic usefulness, websites can be outfitted with customer service contact forms, new service request forms, CCRs, board meeting schedules and minutes, online bill pay options, and other resources. Contact forms usually feed into an email account, which can be used to collect and organize non-emergency customer communication even when you’re not available. Online bill pay is a convenience for your customers, and online CCR distribution, if your utility is eligible, can be a convenience for you.

Rural Water Impact
If you’d be interesting in gaining the convenience of a website without having to set one up on your own, there are services that can help. As an example (but not an endorsement), Rural Water Impact provides website setup and migration services specifically for small water utilities. In addition to the utility information, contact forms, online bill pay, and other features mentioned above, Rural Water Impact also offers unlimited web support and a subscription service that can send text alerts from you to the people who have signed up for it. If you already have a website, Rural Water Impact also helps you move it to their service. There are fees: a one-time setup fee of $199, plus either a monthly rate of $32.50/month or an annual subscription for a reduced rate of $356.50/year. At the time of this blog post, they were offering a free 14-day trial period as well.

Planning for the Future
The convenience and organization of a good website can provide plenty of benefit in the present. But those benefits can stretch into the future, as young people accustomed to cell phones and internet use start getting old enough to pay the bills. In addition to providing convenience to you and your customers now, having an established website can prepare you and your utility for a new, more digital future.


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.


Emergencies in the water industry happen every day. Your system may be able handle small events, but are you ready for the big one?

Do you have security procedures in place? Could you quickly handle unexpected hazards? Do you know where to find technical and financial resources to recover? WaterISAC can be one answer to many of these questions.

WaterISAC is a community of water sector professionals who share a common purpose: to protect public health and the environment. It serves as a clearinghouse to provide America's drinking water and wastewater systems with a source of information about water system security and with a secure Web-based environment for early warning of potential threats. Relying on information gathered from federal intelligence, law enforcement, public health, and environmental agencies, and from utility security incident reports, WaterISAC analysts produce and disseminate physical and cyber security information to the water sector.

How WaterISAC works:
WaterISAC analysts collect and review infrastructure protection information from government and private sources to share with members. Analysts tap into classified intelligence and open source information 24 hours a day to track security incidents across the world. Members are alerted increased risk of contamination, terrorism, or cyber threats so they can take quick action to reduce or prevent damage or injuries.

WaterISAC allows its members to be updated with news affecting water and wastewater operations through a regularly published e-newsletter prepared by a team of security experts. A threat notification is sent immediately in cases of imminent threats. Through confidential incident reporting, members can participate in protecting our critical infrastructure by confidentially reporting security breaches and suspicious activity.

WaterISAC offers two level of memberships, the WaterISAC PRO and WaterISAC Basic. A free 3-month PRO membership trial is offered to new members and the annual dues scale is sliding, based on population served. (For example, membership for most small drinking water systems would be $249 each year.) For more information about WaterISAC membership, you can visit their website.

For more water security resources, search our document database under the Water Security/Emergency Response category.

Posted in: Security

The most recent state to experience widespread severe drought is California. Water restrictions are going into effect and everyone seems to be having in-depth discussions about the future of water resources in the state. Though California’s drought is particularly severe, a glance at the latest Drought Monitor report shows several areas of the country are feeling a little parched. And even if your region of the country isn’t experiencing a drought right now, it doesn’t hurt to have some plans in place for next time things dry up for a while. One place to start on that project could be the Rural Community Assistance Corporation’s drought resources page.

A Great Starting Point for Drought Contingency Planning
RCAC has collected drought contingency planning resources from a number of states and organizations with previous drought response experience. These resources include Drought Contingency Plan templates from both Texas and IHS, the TCEQ handbook for drought contingency planning, presentation slides from RCAC drought contingency planning training sessions, the Urban Drought Guidebook from California DWR, several resources for calculating irrigation needs for landscape plantings and lawn sprinkler systems, and an Action Plan for Emergency Drought Management co-developed by RCAC and the New Mexico Environment Department Drinking Water Bureau. In addition, there’s a brief summary of a report on climate change and water in the Southwest, for background on the current water situation. Some of these materials should be useful to any utility that wants to be prepared for the next time water resources run low, while others will be most helpful for utilities with no previous plan in place that need one in a hurry.

California Resources Also Available
Since the RCAC page was created in response to California’s current drought crisis, it makes sense that some of the resources would be specific to California. In addition to the general resources mentioned above, RCAC has also collected sample water conservation and water use restriction resources from the Water Resources Control Board, and a spreadsheet of California licensed water haulers. They’re also where we heard about the Water Resources Control Board’s CAA Interim Emergency Drinking Water financial assistance program. This fund is intended to provide interim replacement drinking water for economically disadvantaged communities with contaminated water supplies, but is only available to eligible California utilities. See the link for details on the program.

More Drought Resources
If you want to check out more resources, you can search our documents database by typing the keyword “drought” into the search box. If there’s more drought response or planning resources we should know about, tell us in the comments!


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

For wastewater operators, one of the most challenging aspects of the treatment process is the mathematical component. Working with the calculations and conversions involved with wastewater treatment can be intimidating, particularly if these skills are not used on a daily basis. Opportunities for math review outside of stressful classroom and exam settings are not always readily available or easily accessed, but can be valuable to operators looking to strengthen their skills through practice.

Wastewater Technology Trainers make available in their blog a “Problem of the Day” which provides operators with a great opportunity for review. The problems posted during December and January involve calculating the removal efficiency and influent pounds per day of TSS, VSS, and BOD, influent and primary effluent concentrations of VSS, primary sludge volatile content (VS and VSS), TSS and VSS pounds per day removed, surface over flow rate, and primary clarifier detention time. Detail is given to show step by step how each problem is solved, including how to work out the necessary conversions. Take a look at one of the sample problems here.

To access the sample problems, select "Problem of the Day” under Blog Categories from WWTT’s blog page. Each problem is provided in the form of a downloadable document containing a page or two about working in the wastewater treatment industry followed by the sample problem. Although each of the documents appear similar at first, you’ll find the problems generally begin on the second or third page following a schedule of problems provided on earlier dates. So, if you are looking for a little math review to work at your own pace, this could be the tool for you!

Posted in: Wastewater

Wastewater treatment lagoons can sometimes feel like the unwanted stepchild of municipal wastewater treatment systems. While trainings and materials for activated sludge abound, lagoon training and resources can be hard to come by. This is why we were so excited to hear about LagoonsOnline.com.

Help for Small System Operators
LagoonsOnline.com is a free website funded by the state of Maine. It includes a wealth of resources compiled from Maine, New England, and around the country, as well as original material created for the website. Topics covered include general information on lagoon design and operation; lagoon aeration (including general information and a series of short papers on technical issues); operations articles, mostly on nutrient removal and control; a laboratory section covering various testing requirements and laboratory terms; lagoon microbiology; and sludge management options for lagoon systems. Most of these topic areas include information that should be of interest to municipal lagoon operators from any area of the country. There are also a number of resources that deal with the effects of cold winters on lagoon processes. In particular, many of the operations articles collected by the website deal with cold temperature nitrification.

Networking Opportunities for Lagoon Operator in Maine
For Maine lagoon operators, there may be even more information that would help them connect with local experts and resources. A Lagoons in Maine section includes brief profiles of municipal lagoon systems around the state. This can be a great resource to operators looking for other operators with lagoon experience who might be nearby. It’s also an interesting way of seeing how other systems are set up. Lagoons Online also has links to a Yahoo! operator discussion group and a list of areas of expertise for Maine operators, though these resources may not have been updated recently.

Have you found a really great municipal lagoon operations resource of your own? Let us know in the comments!

Posted in: Wastewater

NASA's new SMAP (Soil Moisture Active Passive) satellite will provide worldwide soil moisture readings every 2-3 days. This data will be invaluable to scientists, engineers, and local decision makers alike, improving flood prediction and drought monitoring.


As a small water system operator, the journey of supplying safe, clean water to consumers begins at the source. Source water protection is best approached through collaboration and can be enhanced with the use of voluntary conservation practices by local agricultural professionals. That’s why the Source Water Collaborative (SWC) developed a simple 6-step toolkit designed to facilitate collaboration between source water stakeholders (like you) and landowners through USDA’s agricultural conservation programs.

Step 1: Understand How Key USDA Conservation Programs Can Help Protect and Improve Sources of Drinking Water
In order to foster beneficial relationships for source water protection, it is important to understand what national, state, and local organizations can be of service to you. Two USDA sponsored organizations are highlighted in the toolkit: the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and the Farm Service Agency (FSA). The NRCS exists to provide technical and financial assistance to both landowners and operators for the enactment of voluntary conservation practices. The FSA works to provide farm commodity, credit, conservation, disaster, loan, and price support programs. Having a working knowledge of specific programs, key contacts, and common vocabulary are vital first steps to take in your source water project.

Step 2: Define What Your Source Water Program Can Offer
Next you’ll need to understand NRCS and FSA programs and how they relate to specific information and regulations in your state. This can be done quickly by browsing by location for NRCS State Offices at nrcs.usda.gov and at fsa.usda.gov. It’s important to note that the staff of these organizations often times are the most aware of regulatory structure of environmental programs, so be sure to make it known that you wish to work collaboratively. You should then focus on identifying what specific areas or projects that collaboration with conservation practices could help protect. This is your opportunity to share valuable information such as source water data and GIS maps in order to identify potential water quality improvements.

Step 3: Take Action
Step 3 of the collaborative toolkit focuses on making concrete moves to begin an action plan. It’s suggested you start by contacting your Assistant State Conservationist for Programs as a beginning reference point. Be clear about your intentions to foster a partnership regarding source water concerns and NRCS programs that can be of assistance. Linked in the toolkit are initial talking points, draft agenda for first meeting, and key USDA documents to help you begin your first steps to action.

Step 4: Find Resources
This is where you do your homework. Step 4 lists several links of very useful conservation and source water resources. Resources include a list of NRCS conservation programs, state drinking water programs, watershed projects, maps of nutrient loading, and much more. These resources will ensure you develop your project with the correct programs and people.

Step 5: Coordinate with Other Partners
This crucial step enables you to make sure that you are partnered with the people that will give your project the highest probability of being successful. The links listed in this step are for key partners who can bring data, technical capabilities, useful state and local perspectives, and other important stakeholders. These links include EPA regional source water protection contacts, state source water program contacts, state clean water programs, and other federal agencies that can make your efforts more productive.

Step 6: Communicate Your Success & Stay Up-to-Date
Finally, share your source water protection experiences with SWC to allow improvement in the toolkit as well as influencing source water colleagues by promoting the toolkit.

Finding the right partners for voluntary, collaborative conservation practices is a progressive step for improved source water protection. By utilizing the resources and tips provided in the collaboration toolkit, you can put yourself in the best position to maximize your source water protection potential. Visit Source Water Collaborative for more information on any of your protection questions.


Water conservation can be an attractive utility management strategy, particularly for utilities concerned about drought or those with water rights permits. However, once managers start digging into the details of water conservation options, things can get complicated in a hurry. Will customers adopt the necessary policies? What if they do? Won’t consumers who use less water hurt the utility’s bottom line? One resource we’ve found to help utilities navigate planning a water conservation program is the Twin Cities’ Metropolitan Council’s Water Conservation Toolbox.

The Water Conservation Toolbox provides resources approaching all aspects of water conservation. From a basic assessment standpoint, they offer downloadable Excel workbooks for cost benefit assessment, program prioritization, and rate structure evaluation. But this webpage goes much further than a few workbooks. The toolbox provides links to additional resources for five program categories: regulatory programs, incentive programs, education programs, water conservation rate structures, and stormwater reuse. These links include actual consumer information resources, regulations and ordinances, rebate programs, and rate structures used by utilities in Minnesota and around the country. The stormwater reuse section is particularly rich in helpful materials, with links to factsheets, presentations, and reports on stormwater reuse topics, as well as a stormwater manual, a calculator, and a downloadable zip file containing a 130-page stormwater reuse guide and accompanying Excel workbooks.

Some materials, such as certain state-wide regulations, might be specific to Minnesota, but most of the information in the tool is generally applicable to anyone interested in starting a water conservation program. If that describes your utility, this toolbox can be a great starting point.

If you know of other helpful water conservation resources, tell us in the comments!

Posted in: Asset Management

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

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”)



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in: Tribal Systems

TEDx events are independently-organized TED-like conferences to help communities spark conversation and connection. Heather Himmelberger, director of the Southwest Environmental Finance Center, recently delivered an effective talk on the value of drinking water at TEDxABQ.

We love seeing these ideas brought to the public sphere and hope this recording gets wide circulation. Thanks to ASDWA for sharing this cool news!


Back when our Tribal Utility News newsletter was just getting started, we surveyed our subscribers on tribal utilities’ biggest challenges and education needs. We’ve discussed the challenges they told us about here; today we’re going to talk about the education needs.

A lot of the topics suggested for emphasis in tribal utilities went hand-in-hand with the challenges we discussed in our previous post. Management support and general operations training topics came up more times than any other category, with water and wastewater treatment topics coming in a distant second.

Need for Management Training in Utility Topics
The management support topics covered the full range from record-keeping, ordinances and enforcement, and asset management; to rate-setting, budgeting, and funding sources. In our previous post on this survey, we mentioned that many respondents felt tribal councils didn’t always fully support the tribe’s utilities. So some of these educational needs could be related to that challenge. However, there has also been increasing awareness that managerial support is a need for many small systems. Operating in a small community can present special challenges. Finding funding can be more difficult, particularly for tribes. And things like enforcing ordinances or collecting past-due fees can be awkward when you know all of your customers personally. However, when the utility managers feel able to tackle these challenges, the whole utility is able to provide better service to the community and a better work environment to its operators.

An Introduction to General Operations
For operators, survey respondents focused on general O&M topics like SCADA, safety, and general mechanical training. Water and wastewater treatment and distribution topics were mentioned, but much less frequently. Many small rural utilities have difficulty keeping trained operators on staff. The isolation and other challenges mentioned in our previous post make this just as true for tribal utilities. This means many utilities have to periodically start from scratch, introducing apprentice operators to the basics of operation and maintenance. On a related note, a few survey respondents mentioned a need for awareness about certification programs for operators. Because clean drinking water and the sanitary disposal of waste are so essential to public health, it benefits communities to have operators who have received the proper training to achieve these goals. Operator certification programs are a way of ensuring that training takes place.

Other Topics?
The good news is that there are a growing number of resources addressing these topics, both for small systems in general and for the specific challenges facing tribes. But first, we want your opinion on these survey results. Are these the training topics you would want at your tribal utility? Are there any topics you would add to the list? Comment and let us know.

Posted in: Tribal Systems

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.


Are you preparing to take a wastewater certification exam? The CAwastewater YouTube channel offers a series of HD-quality math tutorial videos. 

The series of 19 videos, created by an operator, offers instruction, examples, and advice on the math topics covered by the the Grades 1-5 exams offered in California. 


Posted in: Wastewater, Videos

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

Posted in: Security, Videos

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

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


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

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


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

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

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


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

What's Getting Back to Normal

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

What's Changing

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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in: TA Providers, RCAPs

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Posted in: Enforcement

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in: Wastewater, Videos
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