States Find Creative Solutions for Common Problems

A couple of weeks ago, ASDWA invited state drinking water programs to share interesting or innovative efforts that you have undertaken that would be of interest to others – particularly in the arenas of capacity development, operator certification, or other small system focused initiatives.  Within 24 hours, ASDWA heard back from two states – Rhode Island and Nebraska.  They offered two completely different efforts but each is remarkable for its creativity in meeting the needs of small drinking water systems.

 Fast Track to Compliance is a 5”x7” booklet shared by Steven Boudreau, Capacity Development Coordinator in the Rhode Island Office of Drinking Water Quality.  The Office of DWQ Capacity Development program has developed this Fast-track to Compliance Program in an effort to highlight the collaboration efforts of our Capacity Development, Operator Certification, and Drinking Water State Revolving Fund programs and our Compliance and Enforcement efforts.  Once a failing system is recognized, Capacity Development staff and DWQ management undertake an evaluation of the system’s ability to provide safe drinking water to its consumers.  Our assessment of the capacities required to effectively meet this obligation provides an analysis of their current and future sustainability. The evaluation involves a 5-step return to compliance process that applies the Principles of Effective Utility Management (EUM); is managed by Capacity Development staff and is carried out over a 4 – 6 month timeframe.

Here is a PDF copy of the booklet: Fast-Track to Compliance

Small PWS Cross-Connection and Backflow Models:  Mike Wentink, the Nebraska Operator Certification Coordinator in the state’s Environmental Health Services Section, shared a very creative way to use some of Nebraska’s Expense Reimbursement Grant funds:

We have just completed a contract with University of Nebraska – Lincoln for the design, and construction of small PWS cross-connection and backflow models.  These 3 models are used to educate water operators of small systems and others about the hazards associated with backflow from cross-connections on the distribution system.  It was about a two-year project; I drafted the contract in November, 2009 and concluded the contract September 30, 2011. Two students from the senior design class in the Civil Engineering Department were the “lucky” project people for this one.

What is unique about these models is their convenience of use and visual perspective.  Each model has four different cross-connection scenarios that are representative of what can be found connected to the distribution system – a private domestic well, pressure vessel (boiler), broken water main in close proximity to a sewer line, stock tank being fed by a water line, etc.  [Editor’s Note:  See photos below for a great visual!]

Other models currently in use for this purpose were explored but we decided that we wanted something easily put together, transportable in a typical “state issued” vehicle, and representative of situations found in small water systems.  These models consist of distribution system from clear rigid and flexible plastic tubing, an elevated water storage facility, small pumps, valves, and other appurtenances found in a small water system.  Food dye in the water source for the model provides the visual aspect of actual backflow occurrence in these scenarios.  The small scale representation of distribution system hydraulic conditions to make these scenarios realistically work was a challenge.  It was a unique means for utilization of ERG funds.  The couple of small demonstrations performed with a model thus far seemed to hold people’s attention.

A website location for the project materials (design, parts list, etc) has not been decided yet but it will be posted and available to share.  I’m still working with the University on that.

Here are some photos that showcase the models:



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