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WaterOperator.org Blog

Water and Wastewater Operations & Maintenance

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The operation and maintenance (O&M) category encompasses the broad spectrum of services required to assure the built environment will perform the functions for which a facility was designed and constructed. Operation and maintenance typically includes the day-to-day activities necessary for the system to perform its intended function.

We have 2,786 resources (and counting) on Operation and Maintenance in our Documents Database that provide valuable information on this topic. You can search for documents that explain how utilities can maintain economic and social health for the community, compliance tips for small, mechanical wastewater treatment plants, knowledge retention spreadsheet for small water systems, and many other useful guides that will help you to deliver safe and clean water to utility customers. 

To access the wealth of knowledge on O&M within our database just select "CATEGORY" in the dropdown then choose "Operation & Maintenance." Once you make that selection, a second dropdown will appear where you can choose "HOST," “TYPE,” or “STATE” to narrow the search even further. If you have a specific search term in mind, use the “Keyword Filter” search bar on the right side of the screen.

This is part of our A-Z for Operators series.

Who Is NOWRA and What Do They Do?

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The National Onsite Wastewater Recycling Association (NOWRA) is the premier non-profit organization in the United States that is dedicated to advancing the onsite and decentralized wastewater industry. All types of related professions are represented in membership; including installers, regulators, manufacturers, suppliers, educators, and more.

The association has been advocating for sound practices, public awareness, and solutions to challenges for the onsite and decentralized industry since its founding in 1992. NOWRA’s national headquarters are located in Westford, Massachusetts, though a number of state-level affiliates can be found throughout the U.S. and Canada.

NOWRA’s official mission statement is:

  • To strengthen and promote the onsite and decentralized wastewater industry through activities that support recognition and promotion of professionalism for industry practitioners.
  • To implement best management practices throughout the industry that provide sustainable wastewater infrastructure solutions.
  • To achieve greater public awareness of the economic, environmental, and public health benefits of onsite and decentralized facilities.
  • To serve the public interest.

This mission’s execution is guided by a Strategic Framework for Unsewered Wastewater Infrastructure. The principal goal of this framework is to achieve sustainable development and protect both human health and environmental quality. Click here to read more about the framework and its seven components.

NOWRA’s website has a number of resources available for members, including a news & publications page, a documents library, an events calendar with national & state-level events, and a signup form for the group’s email newsletter. You can locate septic system professionals through the Septic Locator tool; all NOWRA members are automatically listed to the locator database.

Perhaps most importantly, NOWRA has a wealth of educational courses available to register for on its website. NOWRA’s “Installer Academy” ensures that all industry professionals can access quality training. Courses are available both in self-paced online formats or in-person through trainings arranged with NOWRA’s expert instructors. The popular online courses include “NOWRA A-Z,” an overview of onsite wastewater treatment; “NOWRA Installer Training,” an overview of installation for both new and experienced installers; “NOWRA Troubleshooting,” an overview of the typical treatment process; and “NOWRA Design,” a framework for designing decentralized systems.

NOWRA online courses can be purchased by both members and non-members, but are available to members at a discount. You can find which states have pre-approved NOWRA’s courses for continuing education credits at this page.

The association also has a number of resources available for community education. Decentralized wastewater systems and the advantages they provide are often poorly understood. A long list of resources explaining the benefits, details, and funding of onsite and decentralized systems may be found here — including resources from NOWRA itself, as well as the Environmental Protection Agency and National Environmental Services Center.

Each year, NOWRA holds an onsite wastewater mega-conference in conjunction with the National Association of Wastewater Technicians (NAWT) and the State Onsite Regulators Association (SORA). The 2023 event was held in Hampton, Virginia, and papers and presentations from the conference are available to review here. This year’s event will be held from October 20-23, in Spokane, Washington. Registration will open by late spring or early summer.

If you are interested in lobbying, NOWRA is constantly working in Washington, D.C., at the Capitol and the EPA, advocating to make sure there is always a seat at the table for those in the onsite and decentralized wastewater industry when it comes to wastewater policy and funding. There are a variety of ways you can get involved in the advocacy and lobbying arm of NOWRA.

From furthering education to assistance in growing businesses to information and outreach to national advocacy, there are many reasons to become a NOWRA member. To learn how to join the national organization or one of the 23 state-level affiliates, visit this page. Direct NOWRA membership costs $150 per year for industry professionals, $95 per year for industry regulators, and $35 per year for students.

At WaterOperator.org, we currently have 125 NOWRA resources indexed in our documents database. To find them, select "HOST" in the dropdown menu, then choose "National Onsite Wastewater Recycling Association." Once you make that selection, a second dropdown will appear where you can choose "CATEGORY," “TYPE,” or “STATE” to narrow the search even further. If you have a specific search term in mind, use the “Keyword Filter” search bar on the right side of the screen.

Nutrient Control for Wastewater Treatment Plants

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The control of the discharge of nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorus) from municipal wastewater treatment plants is critically important to the achievement of the water quality goals of the Clean Water Act. Through National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits, effluent limitations on the concentrations of nutrients are set to support designated uses, based on state water quality standards.

We have 479 resources (and counting) on Nutrient Control in our Documents Database that provide valuable information on this topic. You can search for documents about resource recovery as a viable nutrient control alternative, phosphorus removal, costs associated with nutrient pollution, and many other useful guides that will help you to deliver safe and clean water to utility customers. 

To access the wealth of knowledge on Nutrient Control within our database just select "CATEGORY" in the dropdown then choose "Nutrient Control." Once you make that selection, a second dropdown will appear where you can choose "HOST," “TYPE,” or “STATE” to narrow the search even further. If you have a specific search term in mind, use the “Keyword Filter” search bar on the right side of the screen.

This is part of our A-Z for Operators series.

Webinar Recording: Cybersecurity for Wastewater Operators

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Watch this webinar recording to discover some of the most helpful cybersecurity resources and to learn how to use our search tools at WaterOperator.org to find additional resources and training events. This is the first webinar in our new series for wastewater operators!

The webinar answers questions such as:

  • What is WaterOperator.org and how is it a useful tool for wastewater professionals?
  • What are the best resources we have relating to cybersecurity in the water and wastewater sector?
  • How can you find more cybersecurity resources and other similar resources on WaterOperator.org?

This free series will cover topics relevant to wastewater operators, including funding, asset management, compliance, and water quality. Upcoming events in the series include:

  • Source Water Protection for Communities with Decentralized Wastewater (April 23)
  • Funding Wastewater Infrastructure Projects (June 25)

Certificates of attendance for each session will be delivered upon request. Check with your certification body for acceptance criteria.

Here is the recording of the first webinar, held in February 2024. We cannot provide certificates of attendance for watching the webinar recording.

Non-Community Public Water Systems

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Non-community systems are public water systems that regularly supply water to at least 25 of the same people at least six months per year, but not year-round. Some examples are schools, factories, office buildings, and hospitals which have their own water systems.

We have 198 resources (and counting) on Non-Community Systems in our Documents Database that provide valuable information on this topic. You can search for documents on how to tell if you are considered a public water system, instructions on seasonal public water system startup, a seasonal supply determination chart for noncommunity public water supplies, and many other useful guides that will help you to provide safe and clean water to your community. 

To access the wealth of knowledge on Non-Community Systems within our database just select "CATEGORY" in the dropdown then choose "Non-Community Systems." Once you make that selection, a second dropdown will appear where you can choose "HOST," “TYPE,” or “STATE” to narrow the search even further. If you have a specific search term in mind, use the “Keyword Filter” search bar on the right side of the screen.

This is part of our A-Z for Operators series.

Decentralized Stakeholder Partnership Renewed

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In 2005, the Environmental Protection Agency formed a Decentralized Wastewater Partnership with eight initial public and private sector partners, with the goal of improving the overall performance and management of decentralized systems. The partnership’s Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) is renewed every three years with the following five priorities:

  • Increase outreach and public education about decentralized wastewater/septic systems.
  • Identify and utilize current information about decentralized wastewater/septic system use and performance in the United States.
  • Promote advanced decentralized treatment technologies to the wastewater industry and the public.
  • Share information on funding options to help communities and homeowners with decentralized wastewater/septic system repair and replacement.
  • Address workforce, education, training and research needs related to the decentralized wastewater industry.

The partnership has created more awareness of decentralized issues nationwide through SepticSmart Week and other promotional activities the group has planned. It has also led to more interaction between member organizations, helping to develop more consistency in messaging as well as more cooperation and working relationships, which helps advance the goals of the MOU.

The partnership’s MOU was most recently renewed on December 5, 2023, for the seventh signing. The partner organizations have grown in number from eight to 25 as of the newest MOU. Five organizations joined the partnership for the newest cycle, including the United States Department of Agriculture Rural Development (USDA-RD) and the WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme for Water Supply, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH). 

The new MOU “[renews] the commitment of EPA and its partner organizations to work together to encourage proper management of decentralized systems and increase collaboration among EPA, state and local governments, and decentralized system practitioners and providers.” The renewal document can be read and downloaded here.

Decentralized MOU Signatories, December 5, 2023

Decentralized MOU Signatories, December 5, 2023

Accomplishments of the 2020 MOU

The chief accomplishment of the 2020 MOU cycle was the implementation of the “Closing America’s Wastewater Access Gap Community” initiative. A team from the EPA and USDA-RD launched and led the program, with technical assistance provided by the Rural Community Assistance Partnership (RCAP), the National Rural Water Association (NRWA), and the Environmental Finance Center Network (EFCN). The pilot program worked in 11 historically underserved communities from Arizona to North Carolina to tackle wastewater management challenges and protect community health.

2022 marked the 10th anniversary of SepticSmart Week, the annual celebration led by the EPA of septic system management. SepticSmart Week 2022 featured a photo challenge which helped create 800,000 impressions on social media. Community and educational events were held across the country.

Partners also released a host of new educational materials throughout the MOU cycle, including reports, position papers, and fact sheets. Notably, RCAP and the National Onsite Wastewater Recycling Association (NOWRA) released a guidebook and training courses for homeowners with septic systems. The MOU Partnership together updated the online training module “Water Infrastructure and Resiliency Finance Center,” and released a series of reports addressing the decentralized industry’s workforce issues.

Among partner organizations, the National Environmental Health Association (NEHA) assisted the Center for Disease Control and Prevention in developing the Private Water Network, which trains professionals to manage private water sources effectively. The Water Research Foundation (WRF) completed two major research projects on improving decentralized technologies. RCAP completed over 150 technical assistance projects in 45 states and territories; 26 of which were specifically decentralized and onsite projects.

For our part, the team at WaterOperator.org and the Private Well Class has been an active non-member of the MOU Partnership, participating in meetings, calls, and assisting with the SepticSmart Week committee and activities.

Read the full report on the 2020-2023 accomplishments of the MOU Partnership for more details on these and many more accomplishments.

For More from the Decentralized Wastewater Partnership

Nitrate Levels in Drinking Water

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U.S. EPA regulates nitrate in drinking water to protect public health. Nitrate may cause health problems if present in public or private water supplies in amounts greater than the drinking water standard set by U.S. EPA. There is also concern about nitrate in wastewater effluent.

We have 204 resources (and counting) on Nitrate in our Documents Database that provide valuable information on this topic. You can search for documents on how to address the presence of nitrate, analytical methods recommended for drinking water monitoring of secondary contaminants, case studies on controlling nitrification in a distribution system, and many other useful guides that will help you to deliver safe and clean water to utility customers. 

To access the wealth of knowledge on Nitrate within our database just select "CATEGORY" in the dropdown then choose "Nitrate." Once you make that selection, a second dropdown will appear where you can choose "HOST," “TYPE,” or “STATE” to narrow the search even further. If you have a specific search term in mind, use the “Keyword Filter” search bar on the right side of the screen.

This is part of our A-Z for Operators series.

Compliance Monitoring for Water Systems

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Regulations can require compliance monitoring at specific locations and at specific times and intervals. This can look like the collection of water samples or recording information about the system from gauges and dials. Often, samples must be shipped very quickly to the laboratory before the sample degrades. It is recommended that systems also complete voluntary monitoring for operations and maintenance purposes to diagnose potential problems.

We have 2,350 resources (and counting) on Monitoring in our Documents Database that provide valuable information on this topic. You can search for documents on sampling protocols for PFAS, comparison of coliform media, algal toxin removal capabilities of common drinking water treatment processes, Consumer Confidence Reporting (CCR) compliance checklist examples, and many other useful guides that will help you to deliver safe and clean water to utility customers. 

To access the wealth of knowledge on Monitoring within our database just select "CATEGORY" in the dropdown then choose "Monitoring." Once you make that selection, a second dropdown will appear where you can choose "HOST," “TYPE,” or “STATE” to narrow the search even further. If you have a specific search term in mind, use the “Keyword Filter” search bar on the right side of the screen.

This is part of our A-Z for Operators series.

Lead and Copper Pipe Replacement

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Lead and copper enter drinking water primarily through plumbing materials. Exposure to lead and copper may cause health problems ranging from stomach distress to brain damage. The treatment technique for lead and copper requires systems to monitor drinking water at customer taps. If the action level for lead is exceeded, the system must also inform the public about steps they should take to protect their health and may have to replace lead service lines under their control.

We have 521 resources (and counting) on Lead and Copper in our Documents Database that provide valuable information on this topic. You can search for documents on how to collaborate with organizations to replace lead service lines (LSLs), case studies that analyze LSLs in small community water systems, how to reduce lead in drinking water in schools and childcare facilities, how to address lead in drinking water with the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (DWSRF), and many other useful guides that will help you to deliver safe and clean water to utility customers. 

To access the wealth of knowledge on Lead and Copper within our database just select "CATEGORY" in the dropdown then choose "Lead and Copper." Once you make that selection, a second dropdown will appear where you can choose "HOST," “TYPE,” or “STATE” to narrow the search even further. If you have a specific search term in mind, use the “Keyword Filter” search bar on the right side of the screen.

This is part of our A-Z for Operators series.

Technology and Innovation in the Water Sector

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Innovative water treatment technologies refer to advanced and unconventional methods explored to purify and manage water resources. These solutions often leverage cutting-edge technologies and scientific advancements to address water management challenges including emerging contaminants, water scarcity, energy efficiency, resource recovery, decarbonization, etc. These technologies are often still being researched and benchmarked through laboratory or pilot-scale studies. 

We have 364 resources (and counting) on Innovative Water Technologies in our Documents Database that provide valuable information on this topic. You can search for documents about identifying water system leaks with the help of dogs, alternative water resources as we face degrading water quality and supplytreatment options for taste-and-odor problems, approaches to drinking water technology approval, and many other useful guides that will help you to deliver safe and clean water to utility customers. 

To access the wealth of knowledge on Innovative Water Technologies within our database just select "CATEGORY" in the dropdown then choose "Innovative Water Technologies." Once you make that selection, a second dropdown will appear where you can choose "HOST," “TYPE,” or “STATE” to narrow the search even further. If you have a specific search term in mind, use the “Keyword Filter” search bar on the right side of the screen.

This is part of our A-Z for Operators series.