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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.

SURE! Sustainable Utilities Research and Education


SURE! is a program within the Cal Poly School of Civil and Environmental Engineering that seeks to find solutions within the water-energy nexus that will provide sustainable solutions to wastewater recycling and resource recovery. The mission of the SURE! program is to help expand the wastewater recycling workforce and develop new sustainable technologies. The program received a WEF award for its commitment to water treatment education and research. The SURE team has worked on algae-based wastewater treatment, algae biofuels, conversion of wastewater solids to energy, potable re-use, and dairy wastewater treatment. 

Most Clicked Newsletter Sources in 2021

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Over the course of 2021, we published dozens of newsletters relaying the most important and applicable information throughout the year. There were some sources that stood out to our readers more than others. Listed below are the most clicked sources that were listed in our newsletters throughout 2021. 

‘They thought I was so low’: Women say they were harassed, bullied, ignored at the powerful water agency
This Los Angeles Times article discusses the experiences of three different women in the water industry around California who have each experienced various forms of harassment at work. 

Water Infrastructure Receives Low Grades on ASCE Infrastructure Report Card
The water sector continued to receive poor marks on the American Society of Civil Engineers 2021 Infrastructure Report Card. 

Florida Officials Warn of 20-Foot ‘Wall of Water’ if Reservoir Breaches
A wastewater treatment facility in Piney Point Florida had a leak so concerning it caused hundreds of people in the surrounding area to be evacuated. 

Deadly Water Tank Explosion Caught on Astonishing Video in Central Valley
A 1.5 million gallon city water tank exploded in Central Valley California and it was caught on camera.

Chlorine Shortage: Cities Ask People to Reduce Water Use
States across the West were experiencing a chlorine shortage that was beginning to impact their drinking water utilities.

Worsening Climate Extremes and Failing Infrastructure are Inexorably Intertwined
In the United States, we are seeing that the effects of climate change are exacerbated because of the country's failing infrastructure.

Ida Remnants Pound Northeast With Rain, Flooding, Tornadoes
Hurricane Ida wreaked havoc on water and wastewater utilities across the country. 

“Flushable” Wipes are Ruining Sewage Plants
Verge Science explains why "flushable" wipes are not actually flushable.

Resilient Strategies Guide for Water Utilities
This tool can help utilities develop plans that address their unique needs and priorities.

WEF Announces Operator Scholarships
The Water Environmental Federation (WEF) announced the availability of scholarships of $2,500 to $5,000 for operators seeking certification or professional development.

River Runner Tool
This innovative tool can be used to track the path of a raindrop from anywhere in the United States. 

Water Affordability Dashboard
A dashboard of information about the cost of water services and affordability for single-family residential homes in the United States. 

Child Dresses Up as Water Tower for Halloween 
A TikTok video went viral of a little girl who dressed up as a water tower for Halloween. 

Operator Educates Millions on TikTok
A wastewater treatment plant operator gained millions of views on TikTok after posting numerous informational videos on various wastewater topics.


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.

Decentralized Wastewater Infrastructure Challenges in the Alabama Black Belt


A quarter of Americans rely on decentralized wastewater systems, including septic tanks, because they are too far away from municipal sewers or the local environment cannot support a wastewater treatment plant.

Decentralized wastewater treatment facilities can offer economic and environmental benefits to a community, but they can also be dangerous to public health and the local ecosystem if they are not designed properly.

In the Black Belt region of Central Alabama, the rural landscape and heavy clay soils make it difficult to establish a traditional wastewater facility. These communities have struggled with wastewater management for years and the U.S. EPA (with many partners) has been working to help develop long-term solutions.

Impermeable soil, high rates of poverty, and no sewer access can result in difficult choices. Some communities in this region use straight pipes to carry wastewater to a nearby location like a ditch or woods, where residents can then be exposed to raw sewage.

Decentralized wastewater treatment systems can use a variety of different approaches to process a community’s wastewater, but there are also financial and managerial solutions that can be explored. Responsibilities can be better distributed and organized with community leadership. Individuals who attend community meetings and communicate with their state and local government officials are more likely to have their voice heard. 

The newly passed infrastructure bill is set to contribute $150 million in decentralized household grants over five years to help low-income homeowners construct or repair failing septic systems. Investments are also needed in cost-effective treatment technologies and innovative approaches to help municipal wastewater systems reach rural communities. 

Dig Deep, an organization that helps bring running water and adequate sanitation to communities across the United States, created a decentralized wastewater innovation cohort to help connect rural communities with innovative solutions. 

The Alabama Black Belt is just one of many regions of the United States that are struggling, with a history of environmental injustice compounding logistical challenges. Roughly 2.2 million Americans across the United States still do not have running water or adequate sanitation. 

The information in this blog post was presented at a U.S. EPA webinar in May 2021. A recording is available to explore this topic in more depth:

An Epidemic of Distrust in American Tap Water


Covid-19 is not the only public health crisis in the United States. A large number of Americans also don't trust their tap water. Some have good reason, others do not.

A study published in 2021 found that nearly 60 million people in the U.S. do not drink their tap water as of 2017- 2018, with these numbers higher among Black and Hispanic households, particularly after the Flint lead crisis.

Environmental injustice plays a significant role in the disparities that exist, according to the study, deepening health impacts as individuals replace water with sugary beverages. The researchers suggest that this issue can be tackled on an individual and systemic level, and that both are necessary and effective.

Greater investment in water infrastructure, especially in historically disadvantaged communities, can help prevent frequent failures in the water system, the study concludes. The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act is set to fund led service line replacement, address contaminants like PFAS, and specifically aid small water systems. 

The water industry also needs to build back trust in the tap, the researchers say. Customers usually have more faith in their water when their water utility communicates with them often, and especially during a crisis. The community drinking water advisory guidance document found on our document database offers answers to many commonly asked questions during a drinking water advisory.

Cities like Philadelphia are trying to take a stand against this crisis in innovative ways by helping their communities regain trust in their tap water. Making sure water quality reports are accessible can help customers feel empowered to understand how they receive safe water and when action is necessary.

The research also made sure to take into account the roughly 2 million Americans who don't have access to safe drinking water

Board Member Training Resources

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Board members play an essential role in sustainable and well-functioning water utilities. As part of a governing body for a water or wastewater system, it is the job of a board member to approve major decisions about it. They share responsibility with the water system manager(s) and operator(s) for protecting public health and the environment.

In order to make sound decisions, board members need an understanding of the technical, managerial, and financial components of their community's water infrastructure. And as there are different issues and challenges between water and wastewater, board members need appropriate topical training.

Here are a selection of resources from our document library:

The Big Guide for Small Systems: A Resource for Board Members
Rural Community Assistance Partnership
This 172-page handbook is intended for both new and experienced members of the board of directors of a drinking water or wastewater utility or members of the highest governing board of a system.

A Drop of Knowledge: The Non-operator's Guide to Wastewater Systems
Rural Community Assistance Partnership
This 60-page handbook explains in simple, everyday language the various components/operations of a small wastewater system from when the customer flushes his/her toilet through collection, treatment, and return to source. 

A Drop of Knowledge: The Non-operator's Guide to Drinking Water Systems
Rural Community Assistance Partnership
This 52-page handbook explains in simple, everyday language the technical aspects of drinking water utilities from source to tap.

A Guide to Selecting Consultants for Rural Communities
Rural Community Assistance Corporation
This 67-page handbook outlines a step-by-step process for selecting and hiring consultants to plan, design, and manage the construction of public water and wastewater facilities.

“Basic Training” for Drinking Water Board Members On-Line Course Reference Guide
Massachusetts DEP
This 72-page guide provides information to support the work of the governing boards, as they work to understand the complexities of managing a drinking water system and remain in compliance with strict public regulations.

The State of California Drinking Water


California has long been an epicenter of water issues, but the current megadrought and chronic infrastructure underfunding has brought the crisis to a head. According to a recently published study, California's water systems are beginning to fail across the state. Medium and small-sized public water systems are especially vulnerable.

The report claims to be the first comprehensive analysis of how safe water is provided in California. The study sampled 2,779 public water systems and nearly half proved to be at some risk of failing to provide safe drinking water. Roughly one-third of state small water systems sampled in the study were found to potentially contain contaminants like nitrate and arsenic

The greatest takeaway from the findings was that more funding is needed and that investments should prioritize the most at-risk and underserved communities. However, in the short term, bottled water or home filtration systems could be provided to communities that need drinking water immediately, according to the report. Long-term solutions to these problems include enhancing water treatment, consolidating small and underperforming water systems, and recruiting experts that can advise communities on how to improve their systems.

Preparing Your Water System for Winter Weather


Is your water system prepared for winter this year? The extreme weather that can come with the winter season is only growing more severe as climate change intensifies. Many areas across the country have experienced some of the coldest temperatures they have ever had in the last decade. In this era, winter weather can even impact the most unexpected places. 

The historic winter outbreak that occurred in Southeast Texas earlier this year proves that unexpected winter weather can happen anywhere. The storm caused power outages, broken pipes, and billions of dollars in damage because the state was not prepared for winter weather. Even though you think your utility might not have to worry about preparing for winter because you live in a historically warm climate, it never hurts to be prepared.

Preparing for winter is also a smart financial decision. Water officials say that allowing backflow preventers and outdoor water pipes to freeze can be a costly mistake. Frozen water lines can also cause expensive water leaks. Although winter weather can be intense and unpredictable, there are things that you can do to be more prepared. 

Impacts of Extreme Cold and Winter Weather
Cold weather can bring freezing temperatures, heavy snowfall, and ice storms that can have multiple compounding impacts on a community that may include, but are not limited to: 

  • Pipe breaks throughout the distribution system.
  • Loss of power and communication lines.
  • Limited access to facilities due to icy roads or debris such as downed tree limbs.
  • Reduced workforce due to unsafe travel conditions throughout the service area.
  • Source water quality impacts due to increased amount of road salt in stormwater runoff.
  • Potential flooding risk due to snowpack melt and ice jams (accumulations of ice in rivers or streams).
  • Potential surface water supply challenges as ice and frozen slush can block valves and restrict intakes.
Wastewater Cold Weather Maintenance 
Much like drinking water utilities, wastewater utilities can experience ice formation in various process components and reaction rate changes in chemical, physical, and biological reactions. However, they also experience ones specific to wastewater facilities.

Cold weather can impact the bacteria that many wastewater treatment plants use to treat their wastewater. This is because the bacteria typically perform best between 75 and 100 degrees Fahrenheit and when the temperature dips below that the bacteria struggle to consume the waste. When bacteria slow down their consumption of waste BOD (Biological Oxygen Demand) and COD (Chemical Oxygen Demand) levels in the effluent rise. One way to maintain acceptable effluent levels is by adding additional chemicals through the process of bioaugmentation. 

Strengthen Your Resiliency 
Tips to help prepare your utility: 

  • Make sure all your employees have the proper equipment.
  • Check your supply inventory.
  • Stock up on supplies in case your employees need to stay overnight.
  • Exercise your valves.
  • Weatherproof your booster stations.
  • Note whether your employees have the equipment they need for these conditions.
  • Stock extra fuel.

The 2017 small systems FYI from the Indiana Section of AWWA covers additional winterizing tips for water utilities specifically related to security, hydrants, storage tanks, backflow, emergency preparation, wells, worker needs, and pumping equipment. The U.S. EPA recommends coordinating with your state’s Water/Wastewater Agency Response Network (WARN) if an emergency should arise. 

Customer Communication
Communicating with your customers is an important part of preparing your utility for winter weather. Communicating with customers helps to create a trustworthy relationship, especially during an emergency like an extreme weather event. 

You can help make sure your customers are prepared by sharing resources like information on how to winterize their homes and prevent frozen pipes. You can also draft water advisory messages ahead of time to ensure they follow public information protocols and have appropriate distribution channels.

Are Solar Powered Water Treatment Plants the Future?


Clean water and clean energy are both essential on the road to a more sustainable future. To be able to tackle two issues at once and provide clean water using clean energy is exactly the kind of innovation that the world needs. A few wastewater treatment plants across the country are taking matters into their own hands and converting their plants to solar-powered energy. 

The solar farm for the Wastewater Treatment Plant in New Stanton was just finished. The Federalsburg Wastewater Treatment Plant just received over one million dollars in grant funding for the construction of a solar panel system. The city of Danbury, Connecticut is also considering a solar installation that would power their city’s wastewater treatment plant. The Diablo Water District also installed a solar power system in their facility to help them achieve their ambitious goal of being carbon neutral by 2027.

Powering water treatment plants with solar power helps the environment and it can help facilities save money because it can lock in electrical rates. It also makes facilities more resilient to power outages from natural disasters or other power grid failures. Utilities that convert their water treatment facility to solar power help their community and country work towards achieving the renewable energy goals the world is striving towards.