Continuous Improvement/SUCCESS Framework
2018 State of the Environment Report (WQ)

Standard Operating Procedures ensure monitoring staff gather high-quality data and collect samples consistently

Standard Operating Procedures ensure monitoring staff gather high-quality data and collect samples consistently

DWQ is committed to continuous improvement to increase performance and implement innovations that advance quality, efficiency, and effectiveness. The division has expanded the SUCCESS Framework process from the management to the staff level to generate more improvement ideas and opportunities.

Paperless MWPP surveys

The Municipal Wastewater Planning Program (MWPP) uses an annual survey to collect infrastructure, operational, and financial-needs information from 200 publically-owned utilities. The survey assesses the current condition of sewage collection and treatment infrastructure in the state as well as the engineering and financial planning activities underway for upkeep and expansion of this infrastructure. The survey is comprehensive and customized for five different types of utilities.

The MWPP survey provides important feedback to DWQ about the long-term capacity and monetary needs of the industry. The division uses this feedback to:

  • Inform management, community leaders, state leadership, and EPA on the long-term financial needs for protecting water quality.
  • Identify and prioritize community projects for State Revolving Fund (SRF) financial assistance.
  • Identify operator concerns and system-capacity limitations.
  • Streamline required reporting under the Utah Sewer Management Program.

In 2016, DWQ customized, printed, organized, and mailed about 2,000 survey pages to utilities. Approximately 50 percent of the surveys were returned to DWQ via mail or scanned and emailed. (Surveys are mandatory only for SRF loan recipients). In 2017, DWQ improved the survey questions, created an electronic version of the survey, and eliminated paper handling and mailings.

During 2018, DWQ took the next step to improve the MWPP survey by utilizing the Qualtrics platform. Benefits include:

  • A customer-friendly interface
  • Easier tracking of 2019 responses
  • A single database for aggregated data
  • Ability to identify, prioritize, rank, and report results

These changes will improve feedback to the utilities, provide a professional report in a PDF format that utilities can present to their governing council, help communities understand business operations better, and identify potential problem areas before they become serious and costly. The reporting will also provide DWQ with important information about industry capacity and needs.

A Guide to Low-Impact Development within Utah

Bioretention basin located near Frederick Albert Sutton building at the University of Utah.

Bioretention basin located near Frederick Albert Sutton building at the University of Utah.

DWQ has been working with Michael Baker International to develop “A Guide to Low Impact Development (LID) within Utah.” LID mimics natural processes to promote infiltration, evapotranspiration, and harvest/reuse stormwater close to its source. The guide is designed to not only assist permitted municipal separate storm sewer systems (MS4s) with meeting the new stormwater retention standards that go into effect September 2019, but to also be a resource for municipalities, planners, developers, and consultants. The manual provides information on:

  • Ordinances for municipalities
  • Various methods to retrofit existing sites with LID features
  • Alternative compliance or credit systems that can be used
  • Site considerations and design practices
  • Ninetieth (90th) percentile volume calculations
  • Examples of local success with LID
  • A description of the design, cost, maintenance, and concerns when implementing LID best management practices (BMPs).

By promoting the use of LID practices in Utah, DWQ’s ultimate goal is to reduce the amount of pollutants entering streams, lakes, and rivers from stormwater runoff from residential, commercial and industrial areas.

A draft of the guide was public noticed September 2018 to solicit comments from stakeholders. The guide is on track to be finalized and published in January 2019.

DWQ Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs)

Quality assurance (QA) plays a vital role in any monitoring program. QA ensures data can be used confidently to make informed and realistic decisions. The Monitoring Section relies on Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) and field manuals to collect the highest quality data possible given the resources available. SOPs ensure staff are gathering data and collecting samples consistently, guaranteeing data comparability, defensibility, accuracy, and reduced bias.

The Section coordinates a wide array of sampling programs to meet the data demands within DWQ. For field-collection procedures, one size does not fit all; a lot more goes into sampling than just dipping a bottle into the water. Regardless of the complexity of sampling, field monitors must collect and process data consistently. Sometimes, the methodology used is not necessarily “the best way” to collect samples, but it is critical that everyone follows the same procedures to generate reproducible data.

The Monitoring Section relies heavily on up-to-date SOPs/manuals to create consistency in sampling. About five years ago, the Section implemented a process that established, implemented, and tracked SOP development and maintenance. These efforts proved successful, but maintenance of the SOPs since completion has been minimal. Many procedures have changed since then but have not been documented appropriately.

Staff will update and revise multiple SOPs over the next several months. In some cases, entirely new SOPs will be developed for new projects. Ultimately, these documents will be used in the field by staff to ensure sampling procedures are consistent from one person to the next.

Monitors spend countless areas outside in the field under a variety of field conditions. DWQ wants to make effective use of precious staff time, and the use of inconsistent sampling procedures can lead to inconclusive or unreliable data. Monitors rely on SOPs as an important tool to ensure they follow proper guidelines and workflow processes while sampling. When SOPS are followed correctly, DWQ can have more confidence in the water-quality data that drives decisions to improve water quality throughout the state.

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