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? 
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