Drinking Water: Rural Water Conference Provides Training, Builds Relationships

By Michael Grange

Safe, clean drinking water is important to Utah residents, whether they live in a large metropolitan area or a small, rural community. But did you know that 75 percent of Utah’s community water systems serve less than 3,300 people, and that 50 percent serve less than 500 people? While these small systems serve fewer customers than large municipal systems, they face similar training, certification, and reporting requirements.

The Division of Drinking Water (DDW), in partnership with the Rural Water Association of Utah (RWAU), provides year-round support to these small-system operators. The annual RWAU conference provides us with a unique opportunity to work one-on-one with these operators on system requirements, reporting, funding, and plan review.

The operators of these smaller water systems, many of whom work part-time, must ensure that the water they deliver meets state and federal requirements for clean drinking water. This responsibility entails training, certification, knowledge of ever-changing drinking-water rules, monitoring, reporting, and planning. It can be a daunting task, and we are there to help.

Over 1,800 people attended this year’s RWAU conference in St. George, Utah, which gave us an opportunity to not only provide information and assistance to our system operators but also build personal relationships with them. Almost half of our DDW staff was on hand for the conference, offering everything from group presentations to individual consultations.

We offered workshops for conference attendees on a wide variety of topics:

Our staff was also available to help operators prepare their annual Consumer Confidence Reports (CCRs). These reports provide consumers with information on the quality of their drinking water and are often distributed in customer’s water bills.

One of the most important offerings at the conference is the water operator training and certification. All system operators are required to be certified to ensure the sanitary quality, safety, and adequacy of the water in community systems. Registrants attended training sessions Monday through Thursday and took the exam on Friday.

DDW also covered a broad range of issues during their presentations to the group. Some of the featured sessions included:

New this year to the conference was a session specifically for county planners that introduced them to the roles and responsibilities of the different agencies involved in drinking-water system management and regulation, including DDW, the Public Utilities Commission, and local health departments.

All in all, we were very busy during the week of the conference. To give you an idea of what we were able to accomplish in those five days, here is an overview of what we did:

  • Made 24 presentations
  • Prepared 120 CCRs and 140 other reports
  • Conducted 70 engineering consultations

In addition, eighty-two operators participated in the four-day operator certification training and took the operator certification exam on Friday.

Most importantly, we were able to reach out to system operators we aren’t able to see in-person on a regular basis and talk one-on-one with them. Building and maintaining relationships with our operators is an important part of our program, and we were happy that we could provide them with personalized assistance during the conference.

Want to know more about your drinking water? Check out your Consumer Confidence Report for an overview of the water quality from your drinking water system. Discover what steps you need to take if your water service is interrupted during an emergency. Find out the rating DDW gave your water system. For specific questions, feel free to contact our office at 801-536.4200.

23march2105_michaelI joined DDW in October 2006 and became Section Manager in October 2011. As the Construction Assistance Section Manager, I oversee the financial assistance programs offered by the Division. I earned degrees in Chemical Engineering and Business Administration from the University of Utah. My work experience includes 14 years in the private sector as a laboratory technician, process engineer, and consulting engineer focusing on water and waste water treatment and environmental assessment and remediation.