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WaterOperator.org Blog


Jennifer Wilson
Jennifer Wilson
Jennifer Wilson's Blog

The Best Podcasts for Water and Wastewater Professionals

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More than one-third of Americans listen to podcasts regularly and the numbers are increasing every year. Audio content builds trust and connection with the audience in an easily-accessible format. Professional podcasts in particular have found a home as "background music" during quiet parts of the work day.

Below you can find a list of podcasts that may be of interest to water and wastewater industry professionals. You can find all of these shows in Apple Podcasts and typically in your favorite alternate podcast app as well.

Water-Focused Podcasts, Recording New Episodes

Tap Talk: The Drinking Water in Rural America Podcast from WaterOperator.org

"Everyone has a role to play in protecting public health. Tap Talk connects professionals across the drinking water community with ideas to extend and enhance our work."

Talking Under Water from One Water Media

"The preeminent podcast for the water industry, including municipal and industrial water and wastewater, residential water treatment, storm water management and erosion control."

waterloop from Travis Loop

This show "features conversations about water in our lives and communities with a focus on solutions for sustainable future."

Words on Water from WEF

"Words On Water features conversations with people who work on water issues and discussions about the opportunities and challenges facing one of Earth’s most precious resources."

The Water Values Podcast from Bluefield Research

"This podcast series explores water issues from a variety of perspectives with the goal of uncovering the true value of water."

Water-Focused Podcasts, Not Currently Recording

Audacious Water from John Sabo

"The podcast that seeks opportunities to create global water abundance and equity for everyone."

Water in Real Life from Rogue Water

"Water in Real Life was created for water professionals who believe that if you desire to build the right relationships with your community then your ability to connect with them through storytelling is essential."

Related Podcasts

The Brookings Cafeteria from The Brookings Institution [Not Currently Recording]

From 2013–2022, the Brookings Cafeteria podcast presented experts, ideas, and solutions across a range of policy topics.

  • See also: 17 Rooms, a podcast about actions, insights, and community for the Sustainable Development Goals and the people driving them.

Power Source from Citizens Utility Board [Not Currently Recording]

"Are you really saving money by unplugging your appliances? How do you make the switch to solar? Is your refrigerator running (efficiently?) Power Source answers your burning utility questions, all in 15 minutes or less."

Pumps & Systems Podcast from Pumps & Systems Magazine

"Pumps & Systems is the voice of the international pump and rotating equipment industry. As the leading media brand for pump users worldwide since 1993, it delivers relevant industry news and powerful technical information."

SDG Talks from Kevin Sofen and James Armour

"SDG Talks Podcast highlights Change Makers and their work around the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)."

Tap Talk Podcast: Season 2 Recap

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Launched in spring of 2022, the second season of Tap Talk discussed a wide range of water issues that coalesce at the community level. Our conversations with experts from across the industry focused on the importance of human-centered and practical decision-making as the foundation of real, sustainable progress.

  1. TT013 – Water is an Economic Development Problem
  2. TT014 – Building Civic Engagement in Rural Water Issues
  3. TT015 – Selecting Appropriate Water Treatment and Ethical Providers
  4. TT016 – Listening to People and Data
  5. TT017 – Creative Collaborations in Water (Part 1)
  6. TT018 – Creative Collaborations in Water (Part 2)
  7. TT019 – Water and Children’s Health
  8. TT020 – Community-centered Infrastructure Planning
  9. TT021 – Education and Funding Options for Well Owners
  10. TT022 – Best Practices in Webinar Training
  11. TT023 – Environmental Justice, Water, and Public Health
  12. TT024 – Thinking Differently about Infrastructure

You’re invited to discuss the episode in our LinkedIn Group. If you decide to share on Twitter, please use the hashtag #TapTalkPodcast. And, of course, make sure to subscribe in Apple Podcasts or your favorite podcast app.

Tap Talk Podcast: Season 1 Recap

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With our work here on WaterOperator.org and on our sister program PrivateWellClass.org, our team has a unique national role that weaves in and out of environmental health, water infrastructure, and public policy. While we use our science backgrounds to get the job done well, our purpose is fundamentally about communication. We want to connect people with information and each other.

Tap Talk: The Drinking Water in Rural America Podcast was born from noticing and facilitating these connections over the past decade. The first season was released in Fall 2021 and featured twelve episodes:

  1. TT001 – The Drinking Water in Rural America Podcast
  2. TT002 – Private Wells vs. Public Water Systems
  3. TT003 – Mastering Well Owner Education
  4. TT004 – The Problem with Springs
  5. TT005 – Controlling Nitrification in Chloraminated Systems
  6. TT006 – Protecting Well Users in North Carolina
  7. TT007 – Helping the Smallest Water Systems
  8. TT008 – Asset Management for Rural America (Part 1)
  9. TT009 – Asset Management for Rural America (Part 2)
  10. TT010 – Understanding Groundwater Quantity and Quality
  11. TT011 – Risk Communication and Perception
  12. TT012 – Water Supplies and Renter’s Rights
Listeners can subscribe to Tap Talk via their favorite podcast player, including Apple Podcasts.

Most Clicked Links from the Innovations Newsletter

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With growing efforts to enhance water quality and to protect public health, 2021 brought many new innovations to the water sector. From innovative PFAS treatment technologies to enhanced wastewater surveillance to track the spread of COVID-19, the following list highlights the most accessed resources featured in the Innovations for Small Systems newsletter's 2021 archive.

Small Drinking Water Systems Webinar Series
A webinar series hosted by EPA to communicate the latest information on solutions for challenges facing small drinking water systems.

EPA Cybersecurity Best Practices for the Water Sector
EPA published a webpage featuring resources to help water and wastewater utilities implement cybersecurity best practices. This new page contains various cyber resilience resources available from EPA.

Tracking SARS-CoV-2 RNA through the Wastewater Treatment Process
This paper presents data on SARS-CoV-2 RNA concentration and removal rates during the different stages of the activated sludge wastewater treatment process to better understand the fate of the virus at the different stages

EPA Drinking Water Treatability Database (TDB)
The TDB presents an overview of over 120 regulated and unregulated contaminants found in drinking water with current information on treatment processes. EPA updated the TDB on May 19 to include new references and treatment options for PFAS.

Expedited Approval of Alternative Test Procedures for the Analysis of Contaminants Under the Safe Drinking Water Act; Analysis and Sampling Procedures
On May 26, EPA approved 17 alternative testing methods for use in measuring the levels of contaminants in drinking water to determine compliance with national primary drinking water regulations.

EPA Identifies Drinking Water Contaminants for Potential Regulation
EPA announced the Draft Contaminant Candidate List 5 (CCL 5) on July 12 to include 66 individual chemicals,12 microbes, and three chemical groups – per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), cyanotoxins, and disinfection byproducts (DBPs).

Performance of rapid sand filter – single media to remove microplastics
This paper aims to analyze the effectiveness and mechanism of rapid sand filters (RSF) for the removal of microplastics (MPs) during drinking water treatment and analyze the effect of research variables on the performance of filter media. 

Cyanobacteria Assessment Network Application (CyAN app)
On August 3, EPA launched the CyANWeb Application, which is an easy-to-use web browser-based tool that provides access to cyanobacterial bloom satellite data for over 2,000 of the largest lakes and reservoirs in the United States.

Tap Talk: The Drinking Water in Rural America Podcast
The Private Well Class program has launched a new podcast series, Tap Talk, which highlights the unique challenges which small public water systems and many private well users experience.

18th Annual EPA Drinking Water Workshop: Small System Challenges and Solutions
This free, annual workshop, which was presented virtually in September, provided in-depth information and training on solutions and strategies for handling small drinking water system challenges. This workshop will be virtual again for 2022.

Zapping Untreated Water Gets Rid Of More Waterborne Viruses
Texas A&M University researchers published a paper in September 21, where they highlighted their research validating the effectiveness of Iron Electrocoagulation in the removal of viruses from water.

EPA Awards $6 Million in Funding to Research Human Viruses Found in Wastewater Intended for Reuse
EPA announced on October 27 that five grants have been awarded funding to research on existing and novel alternative methods to detect and monitor viruses that are excreted with feces in wastewater intended for water reuse applications. 

ASDWA Publishes New PFAS MCLs White Paper for States that are Considering or Developing PFAS Drinking Water Standards or Guidelines
ASDWA published a PFAS Maximum Contaminant Levels (MCLs) White Paper on November 5, to serve as a resource for states that are developing or considering developing PFAS drinking water MCL regulatory standards or guidelines.

EPA Announces Over $3 Million in Funding to Small Businesses to Develop Environmental Technologies
EPA announced on December 14 that 30 American small businesses will receive funding to develop novel technologies to address pressing environmental and public health problems such as domestic greywater, microplastics, and lead service lines.

Nutrient Smart Recognition Program
WEF and EPA launched the NutrientSmart (NSmart) program in December to help reduce nutrient loadings in waterways by encouraging the adoption of enhanced nutrient management practices by water utilities and distributing information on tools and methods for lowering nutrients.

Fifth Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule
EPA published the fifth Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule (UCMR 5) on December 27 to better understand the national occurrences and levels of 29 PFAS found in the nation's drinking water systems.

Check out past issues of the Innovations newsletter.

Outstanding Webinars: Plan, Promote, and Present

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The pandemic changed the game for online learning, with webinars becoming a staple for many organizations. At the end of 2020 we shared a webinar on best practices for planning, presenting, and promoting your webinar event. If you are a seasoned trainer, you might glean something new from this presentation. 

For informational purposes only. We are unable to offer certificates for watching a video recording.

Advanced Social Media Tips and Tricks for Public Water Systems

In 2020, we partnered with the Illinois Section AWWA to deliver two social media webinars. Both were recorded. (See the 101-level webinar.) The advanced-level webinar helps public water systems take their online presence to the next level, enhancing visibility and trust of your organization. Topics will include content planning, scheduling tools, customer service SOPs, proactive strategies, local collaborations, and more! The value of “personal-professional” social media profiles will also be discussed.

The recording is available for free with registration and is pre-approved in Illinois for 1 training credit hour for operators and engineers.

Social Media 101 for Public Water Systems

In 2020, we partnered with the Illinois Section AWWA to deliver two social media webinars. Both were recorded. (See the advanced-level webinar.) The 101 webinar debunks some of the top social media myths and help public water systems understand the importance of maintaining an active presence. The most popular platforms will be introduced, along with content examples, etiquette and expectations, and best practices for starting (or expanding) your social media activity.

The recording is available for free with registration and is pre-approved in Illinois for 1 training credit hour for operators and engineers.

Elevating Women in Water

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Contributed by Margaret Golden

Women make up over half of the population, but account for less than 20% of workers in the water industry. The work that women contribute to the water industry is necessary and important, offering valuable insight to bring the industry into the future.

With a new generation of workers on the rise, it is important that women feel empowered to work in the water. Brianna Huber, chemist with the City of East Moline, is on a mission to not only recruit women into the industry but see equity in their opportunities. Her non-profit, Her2O, is currently seeking members who are ready to forge lasting change.

Women across the country are already making great impacts, breaking glass ceilings and blazing their path to the top of the water world. Two leaders in the water industry recently discussed what it means to them to be a woman in the water industry.

Newsha Ajami, the Director of Urban Water Policy at Water in the West at Stanford University, discussed in a podcast what we need to do to transition to 21st century sustainable water management. Michelle Harrison talked about her favorite parts about working as a wastewater treatment operator at the Northwestern Water & Sewer District.

Many organizations take the time to specifically acknowledge the women in their work place during women's history month. Last spring the U.S. EPA highlighted Sandhya Parshionikar, Director of the Water Infrastructure Division, Center for Environmental Solutions and Emergency Response. Rural Communities Assistant Partnership highlighted Ines Polonius, CEO of Communities Unlimited.

Cuyamaca College in El Cajon also hosts an annual symposium dedicated to Women in Water.

Wastewater Collection System Components

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Contributed by Phil Vela

A wastewater collection system is a series of pipes, tunnels, conduits and other devices that transport wastewater from homes, businesses and industries to a central treatment plant. Transport of the wastewater is either by gravity (the preferred method) or with the use sanitary lift or pump stations to either a location that gravity can be used or to another lift or pump station and finally to the wastewater treatment plant. In either case, the collection system has many functioning parts as shown and described below.

Figure 1 (source) shows the different types and sizes of sewer lines in a typical wastewater collection system. They range from the smallest (approximately 4 inches) located at the home or business to the large truck mains (minimum 12 inches and can be as large as 27 ft tunnels in large cities) that carry the sewerage to the waste treatment plant. A brief description of each follows.

Here's house the Louisville Metropolitan Sewer District describes each of the components:

House Sewer conveys the sewerage from a building to the lateral or branch lines.

Lateral & Branch Sewers are the upper ends of the municipal sewer system. Laterals dead-end at their upstream end with branch sewers collecting the wastewater from several lateral sewer lines.

Sub-main Sewers are collectors for numerous lateral and branch sewers from an area of several hundred acres or a specific neighborhood or housing development They convey the wastewater to larger trunk sewer lines, to lift stations or to a neighborhood package water quality treatment center.

Trunk/Main Sewers serve as the main arteries of the wastewater collection system. They collect and convey the wastewater from numerous main sewer lines either to a water quality treatment center or to a interceptor sewer.

Interceptor Sewers receive the wastewater numerous from trunk sewers and convey it to a water quality treatment center. These are the largest diameter lines in the sewer system and the furthest downstream in the system.

Lift or Pump Stations are utilized in gravity sewer systems to lift (pump) wastewater to a higher elevation when the route followed by a gravity sewer would require the sewer to be laid at an insufficient slope or at an impractical depth. Lift stations vary in size and type depending upon the quantity of wastewater to be handled and the height it must be lifted.

This video from American Water College describes the components of a wastewater collection system: