By Ken Bousfield
It’s easy to take your safe drinking water for granted, whether it’s coming out of your kitchen faucet or the tap at your son’s Boy Scout camp. One of our jobs at the Division of Drinking Water is to conduct sanitary surveys—onsite inspections of drinking water systems—to ensure that the water they supply to you is safe to drink. In keeping with the objectives of Governor Herbert’s
SUCCESS Framework, we have developed a customized electronic version of our sanitary surveys that saves time and increases the efficiency of our inspection process.
A sanitary survey reviews the facilities, equipment, operations, maintenance, and record keeping of a public water system. These surveys ensure safe drinking water and help reduce the risk of waterborne illnesses and identify areas of the system that need to be improved to meet state rules and requirements.
Sanitary surveys are remarkably thorough…and lengthy. The survey questions alone cover 23 pages. Currently, we fill the forms out by hand in the field, transcribe them when we got back to the office, and download them to our database. This can be very time-consuming and inefficient.
With our new proposed electronic system, inspectors can access survey questions, answer them on a tablet, and upload the information directly to the database. During our initial trial phase, one staff member used a tablet and another entered information on his laptop. Both report saving a significant amount of time by using the new system. We’ve seen that the onsite electronic data helps us:
- Eliminate duplicate data entry: Inspectors don’t have to fill out a form by hand and then key in the same information into a database.
- Access rules and other reference material quickly: Staff have the information they need at their fingertips.
- Increase turnaround time to finalize reports: The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requires us to finalize the report within 30 days of the final inspection.
- Provide a more accurate list of deficiencies and Improvement Priority System (IPS) deficiency points at the completion of the field work: System operators need this information to help them prioritize and correct deficiencies found during inspections.
- Increase efficiency: Staff doesn’t have to spend as much office time finalizing reports, providing them with more time to attend to their other work duties.
We’re in the process of evaluating tablet hardware to determine which product will be the most effective in the field—we need something that is rugged and easy-to-read in bright sunlight. Once we make that determination, we will have tablets available for staff use.
The Division of Drinking Water is always looking for new ways to use technology to leverage our staff and resources more efficiently. From our online training screencasts for water system operators to our popular Public Water System Reports, our division continuously looks for cost-effective ways to deliver information to our stakeholders and the public and streamline operations in our drinking water programs.
So the next time you sit down with a cold glass of water on a hot summer’s day, think of us. We are here to make sure your water is clean and safe to drink. Visit us on the DEQ website to learn more about our programs, check out our consumer information resources, and find answers to some of the more commonly-asked questions about safe drinking water rules, regulations, and the work of our division.
I have worked with the Utah Division of Drinking and its predecessor agencies for more than 38 years and have been Division Director for more than seven years. I have a bachelor’s degree in Engineering Sciences from Brigham Young University and am a registered Professional Engineer in Utah. I grew up in Los Angeles City and now live in Sandy City. My wife Gail and I celebrated our 43rd wedding anniversary last September. We have four children and seven grandchildren.