Certified Operator training and technical and engineering support, particularly for smaller rural water systems, are critical for the safe delivery of water to residents. Utah has 789 small water systems that serve less than 500 people. Since many operators for small water systems work on a part-time or voluntary basis, they depend heavily on DDW for technical assistance and training.
Proper training and certification safeguard water supplies by ensuring that water-system operators are knowledgeable about operation and maintenance procedures as well as regulatory requirements. This protects the health and safety of customers served by these systems as well as the traveling public visiting or passing through the communities served by these water systems. Under Utah law, all community and non-transient, non-community water systems must have a certified operator who is responsible for the proper operation and administration of its system. DDW’s operator certification program works in collaboration with local health departments and the Rural Water Association of Utah to administer written, oral, and online certification exams.
DDW also provides study guides and presentations to help applicants prepare for the certification exam. DDW’s Cross Connection Control program trains and certifies backflow technicians who make sure that water cross-connections (217 KB) don’t allow contaminants to enter a drinking-water system from back siphoning or back pressure.
Once certified, operators are required to complete continuing education unit (CEU) credits to stay current on the latest technological and regulatory developments. DDW offers online training screencasts and webinars to help operators obtain CEU credits towards certificate renewals.
Success Story: Drinking Water Webinars
DDW launched a monthly educational webinar series in 2017. The webinars are free and broadcast live via YouTube to water professionals working across the state. Certified water operators are eligible for CEUs by watching the webinars and filling out a short quiz and feedback form.
DDW’s use of webcast technology increases access to updated training across the state, particularly to rural communities where in-person training is less frequent. Each webinar begins with a brief overview of current issues relating to drinking water in Utah, reminders of upcoming deadlines and events, and changes coming from DDW.
In 2018, DDW expanded its free, 30-minute monthly webinar offerings to address new topics of interest. For example, the webinars updated water operators on upcoming rule changes, explained the sanitary survey process, and provided quick reviews on important compliance issues (e.g., how to submit chlorine residual data using an online tool).
DDW also uses this technology to connect with water operators beyond the monthly webinars. Under certain circumstances, DDW will produce a unique webinar for an individual water system or group of systems. The Division developed webinars specifically for new water system staff to introduce them to data lookup, compliance checks, flushing for lead reduction, and scheduling of samples. After a re-organization of the staff and changes in duties March of 2018, DDW produced a webinar for water systems that introduced them to the new organizational structure and duties of reassigned staff members. When a new operator was hired to run a water system with compliance issues, DDW held a one-on-one webinar to train the operator on the immediate needs of the system.
The benefits to DDW and the regulated community from webinar technology are vast. Water operators can receive CEUs from short quizzes after watching each webinar, the webinars can be viewed at any time, and the growing library of webinars is available to the public. DDW plans to continue to use this efficient, effective form of communication to train, teach, and provide technical assistance to water operators throughout the state.
“Your proactive approaches to engage water systems through your “free monthly water operator webinars” with CEUs serves as an excellent example out outreach.”
–EPA, July 2018, on the implementation of the monthly webinars