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Drinking Water Giant Ken Bousfield Leaves Big Shoes to Fill

By Christine Osborne

Photo Division of Drinking Water Director Ken Bousfield as a young engineer

Ken as a young civil engineer

Ken Bousfield is retiring at the end of this month after more than 40 years of service with the Utah Department of Environmental Quality’s Division of Drinking Water (DDW) and its predecessor agencies. His career and service to the state, including his 10-year tenure as the division director, epitomize DDW’s mission statement: “Cooperatively work with drinking water professionals and the public to ensure a safe and reliable supply of drinking water.” The collaborative partnerships he forged with the Rural Water Association of Utah, the Intermountain Section of the American Water Works Association, and local health departments, and the internal process improvements he initiated and developed, leave an enduring legacy that will safeguard Utah’s drinking water for many years to come.

Photo of Division of Drinking Water Director Ken Bousfield as a very young boy

A young Ken Bousfield

Ken grew up in Los Angeles, but his Utah roots reach back to the pioneer days. One of his ancestors, Charles Shumway, was part of the original company that arrived in the Salt Lake Valley on July 22, 1847. Shumway was part of the crew that diverted water from City Creek Canyon into Pioneer Park. So perhaps it comes as no surprise that one of Shumway’s descendants would choose to become a civil engineer. Ken began considering his career options while sitting in his high school chemistry class about a month before his sixteenth birthday. Since he was very good at math, he decided to become a civil engineer. He enrolled as a freshman at BYU, became a registered Professional Engineer, and joined the environmental bureau that would one day become the Division of Drinking Water at DEQ.

Over the last 40 years, Ken and his colleagues at DDW have implemented a number of process improvements to help meet Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) requirements effectively and efficiently. SDWQ requires states to adopt and enforce a corresponding state rule for every EPA regulation, often without a corresponding increase in funding. Under Ken’s leadership, the division has been able to implement cost- and time-saving ideas that ensure the safety of Utah’s drinking water and the efficient use of scarce resources. Ken conceived of and developed a number of process improvements, and the following three examples stand among his major contributions to drinking water safety and process efficiency.

Initial tracking system for routine water testing

Water utilities and technical assistance providers routinely test drinking water for 88 contaminants. Specific monitoring requirements for this testing are based on, among other things, the type of the water system, water sources, water treatment, past water quality tests results, and the potential sources of contamination. Ken developed the initial tracking system for these monitoring requirements and mailed the monitoring schedules to water utilities to ensure they tested their drinking water properly. These monitoring schedules are currently available online.

Drinking-water system report card

In addition to tracking water quality and monitoring, DDW reviews engineering construction plans to ensure the safety and reliability of the water supply, performs onsite inspections of current infrastructure to ensure that it isn’t vulnerable to contamination, trains and certifies water system operators, and encourages water systems to properly protect the watershed of sources used for drinking water. Ken developed “report card” tracking system that provided a numeric score for each potential violation. The specific score assigned for each violation was ranked based on its significance to public health. As a result, each public drinking water system has a numeric score associated with it. Water systems, like golfers, are encouraged to have a low score. This scoring system is called “The Improvement Priority System” or IPS, and its associated report is easy to access online. Most water systems take the report card seriously and work diligently to resolve any issues.

Hydraulic Modeling Rule

Ken conceived and implemented the Hydraulic Modeling Rule, which focuses on water system expansion to serve a growing population. When new water lines are added to distribution systems, the water flow through the network leads to one of two possible outcomes: the newly served homes and facilities will essentially rob water from existing customers, or the water use by existing customers will limit the amount of water available to new water users. Computer-based software has been developed that enables engineers to make accurate determinations of pressures and flow rates within very complex piping networks.

The Hydraulic Modeling Rule requires the design engineer to perform this analysis and certify that basic capacity and pressure requirements are met through the entire distribution system. Along with the certification, some basic information about the Hydraulic Modeling results are submitted to DDW for review. This approach is a cooperative effort between DDW and a segment of the state’s drinking water professionals to ensure that a reliable supply of water is available to all water users served by public water systems.

Maybe it was history, maybe it was serendipity that brought Ken Bousfield to Utah. In any event, the Utah Department of Environmental Quality and drinking water systems across the state are very fortunate that Ken decided to make Utah his home.

All of us at DEQ are going to miss Ken’s energy, intelligence, dedication, collaborative approach, and the funny stories he told us that kept us laughing through long meetings! Please join us in thanking Ken for his many years of service to the state to ensure clean, safe drinking water in Utah.

I am a content strategist/communication specialist at the Utah Department of Environmental Quality. I have a Masters in Strategic Communication (MSC) degree from Westminster College and earned my Accreditation in Public Relations (APR) from the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA). I currently teach Integrated Marketing Communication to graduate students in the MSC program at Westminster. In a previous life, I was a bassoonist with the Utah Symphony for 26 years. I love to hike, bike, camp, read, garden, geek out on all things science, and spend time with teenage sons. I volunteer with a number of local refugee organizations.

Photo of Division of Drinking wtaer Director Ken Bousfield, his wife, and four young children

Ken and his young family

Photo of Division of Drinking Water Director Ken Bousfield in elementary school in Los Angeles

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