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What Does a Superior Rating Mean for Your Water System?

Posted By Kelsey Copeland, Friday, December 1, 2017

A public water system (PWS) is a system that provides water via piping or other constructed conveyances for human consumption to at least 15 service connections or serves at least 25 people for at least 60 days each year. As of June 28th, 2017 the State of Texas regulates 6,952 PWSs, providing drinking water to 27,456,677 customers.

 

Unlike many other states, Texas uses outside contractors (rather than the system itself) to assess the state of these systems. This objectivity helps guarantee correct reporting; in fact, failure to report violations is common in some states because it is difficult to report on things that haven’t yet been tested.

 

The Texas Health and Safety Code under Chapter 341.0353 provides the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) with the authority to evaluate public drinking water supplies at least once each year and as often during the year as conditions demand. The information gathered during the evaluation is then used to assign a rating to the water system of “Approved” or “Superior.” But what does this “superior status” mean to the consumer?

 

Adequate Oversight — To be recognized as a superior system, a minimum of two licensed operators (additional operators for larger systems) are required. This ensures the system is adequately staffed, which ultimately leads to increased oversight and a smaller margin for error.

 

Safe and Reliable Water — The most important factor for a consumer is safe, reliable water. TCEQ administers the Public Drinking Water program under primacy authority from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). In this context, a superior system has met standards that prove the system can consistently provide quality drinking water.

 

Under the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA), the EPA sets national limits on contaminant levels in drinking water to ensure the water is safe for human consumption. When awarded this status, a system has gone 24 months without microbiological violations.

 

To attain the superior status, TCEQ requires compliance with EPA drinking water standards for two types of contaminants. In this industry, the phrase “potable and palatable” is often used to describe these standards. While potable refers to the safety aspects, palatable references things like taste and appearance.

 

  • Primary standards are set to protect consumer health by setting maximum levels on contaminants such as arsenic, fluoride, nitrate, lead, copper or chemicals used for water disinfection. A superior status is awarded only when microbiological sampling ensures water is potable and free of pathogens.
  • Secondary standards are set at levels that, in most cases, aesthetically alter the water: this could include taste, odor or discoloration.

Effective Planning and Preparedness — As communities evolve, it is important for systems to maintain sustainability. To this effect, certain requirements are set forth to ensure a superior system can adequately provide for consumers, even in the event of an unforeseen situation.

 

For example, a superior system is required to have at least two wells, two raw water pumps or a combination of these to provide average daily consumption even with the largest well or pump out of service. Consumers depend on reliable sources, and this requirement helps ensure safe water despite inflation or unexpected circumstances regarding the wells, pumps or water.

 

To further implement preparedness, TCEQ also includes a capacity requirement for the system based on its service area. Capacity is crucial because it enables the system to a) reach consumers and b) reach them efficiently. This distinction is made because systems with low capacities often have low water pressure, and low pressure can increase the likelihood of outside infiltration.

 

Good Housekeeping — Lastly, TCEQ includes standards that help enforce optimal operations. It may be comforting to know that a superior system must comply with operating practices that include but are not limited to: documenting, reporting, flushing, etc. This gives added assurance that procedures are being executed.

 

The water system is also required to be well-maintained and present a pleasing appearance to the public. While the general appearance of the facility does not affect the water quality, these requirements hold the system to a higher standard. The underlying principle includes other aspects associated with superiority in clean water; tidiness and transparency is not a quality exclusive to the product.

 

The Texas Rural Water Association works hard every day to protect rural Texas’ drinking water. We have resources and expert staff that help rural and small systems with a wide-range of issues, including compliance and legal challenges. We are passionately engaged in representing the interests of rural water at both the state and federal legislative levels. We are here to help ensure rural Texans have access to efficient service and clean, quality drinking water. We represent over 750 small and rural utilities that serve communities that enjoy #qualityontap and #drinklocalwater.

Tags:  contamination  drink local water  EPA  groundwater  rural water  superior status  Texas water  TRWA  water quality 

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Most People Don’t Know These 10 Things about Being a Water Utility Operator

Posted By Allison Kaminsky, Thursday, February 23, 2017

You may not realize it, but water utility operators play an important role in our society. Every day, certified water operators are ensuring we have safe drinking water by maintaining equipment and processes to monitor and affect water as it moves through the treatment and distribution cycles. The following are 10 things most people don’t know about the occupation that helps ensure our public health, making such a large impact on our lives on a daily basis.

  1. Drinking water operator certification is managed on a state-by-state basis. In Texas, licensing requirements are managed by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ). Operators can be licensed in a variety of areas, including water, wastewater, distribution and reuse.
  2. Texas has required all public water systems to have a licensed operator since the 1950s, though the EPA did not require licensed operators for public water systems until 2001.
  3. Public water system operators must have at least a high school diploma or a GED, as well have required training courses and experience to test for their license. They then must renew their license every three years, requiring continuing education hours to do so.
  4. There are several levels of licensure for being a water operator. As an operator advances from a “D” to an “A” license level, their expertise expands, including a strong working knowledge of math and chemistry necessary to ensure proper chemical dosages.
  5. One major task of water operators is to disinfect our drinking water and maintain a disinfection residual, usually a form of chlorine, in the distribution system. A residual is a low level of the disinfectant that remains in the water after its initial application to protect against waterborne contaminants.
  6. To ensure the water is properly safeguarded, the water operator conducts daily tests to measure the disinfectant residual in the water distribution system.
  7. Water operators must flush all dead-end mains, and also must flush water distribution lines when they receive customer complaints. Once flushing starts, the operator cannot stop flushing until the water is clear and the desired chlorine residual is reached.
  8. Fire hydrants and flush valves are designed to catch “trash” in the water and provide a place to remove this “trash” from the distribution system. This is why fire hydrants and flush valves usually flow “dirty” water when they are first opened.
  9. On a monthly basis, water operators are required to take bacteriological samples from the water distribution system and have these samples tested by a state-approved laboratory.
  10. Operators are on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to make repairs and respond to emergencies on the water system.

The Texas Rural Water Association works hard every day to protect rural Texas’ drinking water. We have resources and expert staff that help rural and small systems with a wide-range of issues, including compliance and legal challenges. TRWA provides classroom and online training courses to help Texas water and wastewater operators get the training they need. We are here to help ensure rural Texans have access to efficient service and clean, quality drinking water. We represent over 750 small and rural utilities that serve communities that enjoy #qualityontap and #drinklocalwater.

Tags:  contamination  drink local water  education  quality on tap  rural water  Texas water  water operators  water quality 

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10 Things You Might Not Know about Rural Water

Posted By Allison Kaminsky, Tuesday, December 20, 2016
Updated: Tuesday, December 20, 2016
  1. Ninety-four percent of water utilities nationwide are rural or small municipal systems serving populations of less than 10,000.
  2. Rural water systems are held to the same quality standards as big city systems. They are regularly inspected and are required to resolve any violations in a timely fashion.
  3. Rural water systems are operated and governed by people whose families drink the water every day and by people who are locally elected by their community.
  4. Rural water operators are all professionally licensed and take the same training and licensing exams as operators at larger systems. All water operators are required to take continuing education to make sure they stay up-to-date on rules, regulations and requirements.
  5. Water operators are public servants who take great pride in their work, which is to safeguard the public health of their communities. In rural areas, the operators know their community members, applying that personal knowledge of their neighbors to their daily work.
  6. Every day, someone is watching for changes in complex water delivery systems, making second-to-second decisions about adding essential purifying chemicals, killing pathogens and keeping your family’s water safe.
  7. A large number of rural systems voluntarily participate in source water protection programs, which includes searching for potential sources of contamination and educating customers on practical steps they can take to protect their drinking water supply.
  8. Rural water systems strive to provide high-quality drinking water while also being sensitive to disadvantaged communities and the affordability of water rates.
  9. Most systems have a water loss program where they check for and fix leaks on a regular basis to minimize waste and costs, eliminate potential sources of contamination and mitigate drought conditions. Operators also check meters to make sure customers aren’t losing water on their end.
  10. Rural systems are part of a larger network. All 50 states are served by a rural water association.  These associations provided over 75,000 onsite technical assistance visits and 150,000 hours of training to more than 37,000 utilities in the last year. Rural water association training and technical assistance covers every aspect of operating, managing and financing water and wastewater utilities.

The Texas Rural Water Association works hard every day to protect rural Texas’ drinking water. We have resources and expert staff that help rural and small systems with a wide-range of issues, including compliance and legal challenges. We are here to help ensure rural Texans have access to efficient service and clean, quality drinking water. We represent over 750 small and rural utilities that serve communities that enjoy #qualityontap and #drinklocalwater.

 

 

 

Tags:  contamination  drink local water  education  quality on tap  rural water  source water protection  Texas water  water loss programs  water operators  water quality 

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