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Water issues shouldn't only make the news when something terrible happens. This is a crash course in how to ensure that the public is well-informed about water and wastewater issues, with perspective and advice from a media veteran with more than 25 years of insider experience. Pitfalls to avoid, best practices to put to work, and ideas for putting an extraordinary light on your ordinary work.
How to ensure that your ratepayers and stakeholders know why you need resources to ensure their safe, reliable drinking water supplies remain abundant.
How to use outreach to schools through classroom visits and plant tours to ensure that the next generation of ratepayers and employees are well-educated about their utilities.
If your utility is going to use just one tool for online public outreach, Twitter is your best bet. (No, really: It's a better use of your time than Facebook.) Here's how to get started.
Ten hazards to water quality that can be fixed with the public's help.
George Carlin had his seven dirty words. Water and wastewater utilities have seven of their own -- and they all need to be censored. Or, at the very least, replaced in our conversations with the general public. In this presentation, you'll learn why the words "potable", "sludge", "sewer", "wastewater", "garbage disposal", "treatment plant", and "operator" have to go -- and why "purified", "nutrient concentrate", "conveyor/circulator", "unwell water", "drain blender", "rehabilitation facility", and "technician/specialist" need to take their respective places. We'll explain why these substitute words are better: Not because they hide things (which is what euphemisms do), but because they're more direct, more specific, and more precise about what is actually taking place.
What you need to know about Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, YouTube, and all of the other social media tools at your disposal...in one sitting.
How to prepare a messaging calendar so that you're getting the word out to the public about issues that matter to your water/wastewater utility. By the end of the presentation, you'll have a full-year messaging calendar ready to go with ideas to share with your customers, each appropriately tied into the season of the year.
How can your utility effectively communicate the need for water conservation with the public? In particular, how can you get customers to develop good habits in normal years so that it's easy to pivot to conservation practices when conditions demand it? It's much harder to ask people to take dramatic measures at the last minute than to build resilience into community habits. This presentation will help you answer the question: How can I teach the community so that they will be happy to save water rather than resentful of drought-mitigation orders?
Every time a customer goes down the right aisle at the store, they pass dozens of messages saying that wipes are flushable. The least public wastewater systems can do to fight back is to deliver the public one messaage a month about the consequences.
Based on first-hand interviews with city council members, this presentation offers a brief guide to better communications from a highly practical standpoint, along with a brief introduction to communications theory.
Communication is the most-needed and (often) most-overlooked skill for getting groups of people to work together effectively. These are the tips nobody bothered to teach you in school that make communicating much more effective.
How to put the lessons of Toyota, Honda, and "lean" manufacturing (including benchmarks, continuous improvement, and training) to work inside utilities so you can get more done with less. Tips and strategies for providing world-class service even as budgets are drawn tight and the workforce shrinks -- while simultaneously making the work more pleasant to do.
A number of free and low-cost products and services are available to help you run your water and wastewater systems with less effort and more reliability.
Disasters usually happen when they're unexpected. What should you anticipate and prepare for?
In the world of sports, a great rivalry pushes both teams to greater heights than if they were just competing against their own "personal best". It's just a fact that we, as people, compare ourselves to others. So how can small systems learn to benchmark their own performance against their peers and use those benchmarks to drive higher levels of performance? And how can civic leadership be brought on board?
Discusses the importance of knowing what's happening in the energy industry to professionals in the water industry.
The material they didn't teach you in English class, but should have.
Antivirus. Phishing. Spearphishing. Social media. Trojan horses. Payloads. DDOS attacks. HTTPS. There's a lot to know, and you probably didn't learn any of it in school. This presentation consists of a survey of the cyber threats to the water sector (utilities in particular) and a series of practical steps that responsible parties should implement to help ensure that they protect the public. Most of the practical steps are behavioral in nature and require no financial investment beyond learning and committing to the best practices presented.
A review of the cybersecurity maintenance every water utility should be performing at least once a quarter on every device, gadget, gizmo, drive, laptop, controller, monitor, and smartphone in your system.
A survey of the top cybersecurity threats to the water/wastewater sector in 2023 and the key responses to undertake.
A survey of the top cybersecurity threats to the water/wastewater sector in 2022 and the key responses to undertake.
How to ensure that a utility doesn't lose the accumulated wisdom of its employees when they retire or otherwise leave.
Some things you can't control at a public utility: License requirements and pay grades are usually fixed. But those aren't the only things that decide whether people take or keep their jobs. Quality of the working environment, social status, opportunities for personal growth, and other factors matter as well. These issues are worth careful consideration in light of the exodus of many skilled workers from the water industry and the shortage of qualified applicants for many positions.
When did it fall out of fashion to talk about protecting the lives and safety of water and wastewater workers, as if it were a top priority in the design and operation of public water systems? There was a time, at least, when the American public marveled at the advancements in water-related sanitation because they still remembered how awful things were beforehand. And even though much of the work related to that progress was far more dangerous than it is today, there was a sense that the people working in the sector were public heroes. But now that safe water supplies and reliable disposal are taken very much for granted, it is far more common for the primary concern not to be "How safe can we make this for operators?" but "How cheaply can we get this done while meeting only the minimum standards from OSHA?" Things would assuredly look different if we still saw water-sector operators as community heroes -- and treated them as well on the job as they treat their customers. How do we get to that state of mind?
Discusses the importance of wastewater treatment to public health, and why the public needs to understand the importance of wastewater treatment not as an environmental issue, but as one that directly affects their health and safety.
One of the biggest challenges to getting the right resources into the public-water sector is the conveyor-belt myth: The popular perception that water is a tool for conveying other things. Take, for example, the so-called "garbage disposal". Sure, it's a tool for effectively macerating food waste so it passes through pipes and on downstream. But what does it say that one of the words most closely associated with the kitchen sink is the word "garbage"? Or consider so-called "flushable wipes", which definitely belong in trash cans instead of toilets. Or the common television trope of "flushing the evidence". In each of these cases, water is treated like a conveyor belt -- good only as a means of taking bad things away. The problem is that this popular perception overtakes the rightful understanding of public water as an essential tool of public health that only coincidentally happens to have a useful role as a conveyance mechanism. No, water shouldn't be treated like a conveyor belt: We should instead promote the image of water as a thing equal in status to a blood donation. It's essential for life, it's a matter of public health, and above all, it's so important that we should take great measures to avoid contaminating it.
It is a virtual certainty that no drug is prescribed more often by doctors than good old dihydrogen monoxide. When you're sick? Get plenty of fluids. Hot in the summertime? Drink lots of water. Need to lose weight? Put water in your belly instead of snacks. There's no question that water is the most-prescribed drug by volume: Doctors want us to consume 2 to 4 liters of it every day. How would the public think differently about their water and wastewater supplies if they thought of potable water as the most important prescription in America? How often do we take for granted that safe disposal and treatment of used water prevents the kinds of outbreaks that are all too common after disasters (like the 2010 cholera outbreak in Haiti that infected 665,000 people and killed more than 8,000) and the sort of infections that remain devastatingly common worldwide (killing an estimated 1,200 children per day worldwide)? We in the water sector ought to be ashamed of ourselves if we fail to tell this story, every single day.
An overview of the funding environment for water and wastewater projects, how to find appropriate funding sources, and how to get key decision-makers on board with the right needs.
How to calculate net present value. A dollar today isn't the same as a dollar tomorrow, and knowing how to figure out how to calculate the difference helps lead to smarter buying decisions.
An introduction to techniques for making management decisions with dollars and cents in the real world. When does it make sense to look at the expected value of a project? The "maximax" scenario? The "minimax" scenario? (And what are those, anyway?) When does it make sense to look at the averages, and when is it time to make a run to Monte Carlo?
It can be hard to find places to reduce budgets and achieve higher operating efficiency within a wastewater system, but energy is almost always one of the highest ongoing expenses. An energy audit -- looking at everything from blower controls to valve efficiency -- can be a great tool for reducing one of the biggest costs in the budget. But how can you conduct an energy audit? What things should you be auditing? How can you pay for improvements?
VFDs can be an attractive way to control pumps, blowers, and other rotating equipment -- especially if the application calls for changes on-the-fly. But VFDs also add both complexity and cost to an installation, and there are applications where they're doomed from the very start. They're often seen as "green", but sometimes they're only going to make you see red. How can you tell when to add them, and when to look the other way?
Practical recommendations for maintenance as well as the framework for developing best practices of your own. (The full presentation is generally a 60-minute talk, but it is easily divisible into three parts, each of which can be delivered as its own stand-alone 20- to 30-minute talk. Those parts are  choosing the right maintenance strategy for the right equipment,  practical tips and tools for better maintenance, and  effectively communicating the need for maintenance.)
The fundamentals of pump maintenance can be broken down into five major categories: Clearances, Lubrication, Alignment, Wear, and Solids -- or CLAWS, for short. This practical survey of those five areas offers beginning and experienced pump operators convenient ways to think through the process of keeping a pump operating in top condition in order to maximize life-cycle efficiency and performance.
A basic introduction to what needs to be maintained inside a pump, how to do it, and how to stay safe in the process.
Jay-Z had 99 problems, but a broken impeller wasn't one. We've found about 50 problems that operators are likely to encounter with their pumps and have observations about identifying and addressing them.
A lot of attention is paid to "efficiency", but are we always looking at it from the right angles? Is a VFD always the best way to make a pump efficient? Is a pump's wire-to-water efficiency all that matters? When does making a system more efficient also make a job harder to do?
A review of some of the major hazards in wastewater plants and how to improve worker safety.
A brief introduction to everything you need to know about self-priming pumps but were afraid (or reluctant) to ask.
Learn the differences between priming, self-priming, automatic repriming, priming assistance, and other methods of getting a pump to, well, pump. Why would one method of priming make sense on a construction site and make a lot less when it's located on a remote lift station? When does it make sense to use priming assistance equipment like compressors or Venturis? When do foot valves help and when do they hurt? What are the limitations on priming -- and what happens when there isn't enough atmospheric pressure available to do the trick? When things don't work like they should, how can resistance be lowered so that NPSH stops meaning "Not Pumping So Hot"? And what, after all, is the relationship between priming capacity and operator health and safety?
NPSH is one of the most important factors in determining pump performance, but few people know how to calculate it correctly. This presentation gives an overview along with practical tips for identifying the types of problems you'll see when NPSH is amiss.
Learn what causes cavitation, how it affects pump performance, and how to troubleshoot cavitation problems.
Sizing a pump is a little bit of art and a little bit of science. This presentation gives a helpful introduction (or a handy refresher!) on how to look at pump curves and their performance envelopes within the constraints of system head curves, NPSH available, and other important considerations like priming lift and minimum required submergence.
Pumping 101: Static and friction heads, what affects pump performance in the real world, parallel operation, series operation, cavitation, and pump selection.
Using a glass-faced centrifugal pump, we can demonstrate the effects of problems like air entrainment and cavitation, the value of gauge readings, and oft-overlooked pumping gremlins like vortexing, minimum submergence, NPSH breaks, and more. A true hands-on "Pumps 101" class.
Pump application is a subject that gets a lot of coverage in theory, but what about in real practice? An overview of the factors that matter to a successful selection and application, including some that rarely make the textbooks.
An overview of the important factors involved in selecting and applying vertical-turbine pumps and submersible-turbine pumps in a well application.
Pumps and flow-control tools like gates and valves use a wide range of metals and non-metallic materials, including cast iron, ductile iron, stainless steel (of all grades), carbon steel, aluminum, bronze, high-chrome iron, ceramics, UHMW-PE, PTFE, neoprene rubber, and many more. When is it appropriate to use one rather than another? What matters in the selection process? And how much is it worth paying to get a "premium" material?
It may not be as exciting as an episode of "House" or any other medical drama, but using gauges can help you diagnose exactly what's wrong with your pumps faster than any stethoscope. Through a series of case studies, participants will learn how suction gauges and discharge gauges can be used together to diagnose problems like broken discharge mains, clogged pump inlets, pump wear, and air entrainment.
A primer on how to select and apply suction-lift pumps to a variety of applications. Explains the different types of priming (self-priming, externally assisted priming, repriming, and automatic unattended repriming), the limiting factors involved (including NPSH and reprime capacity), and how to account for system factors that affect a pump's long-term performance.
Mechanical seals versus packing; the different materials used in seals; characteristics of mechanical seals; lubrication; seal-failure warning signs.
It's an unavoidable fact that pushing against higher discharge heads requires higher horsepowers. You can't fight the affinity laws. How can systems be designed to make the fluids go with the least amount of energy going to waste? Force main diameters, in-line boosting (including for sewage), and valve configurations all make a difference. And when does series pumping beat higher speeds?
What goes into that mysterious "C" of the Hazen-Williams equation? What makes it change, and how does that affect pumping?
Some lift stations are better than others, but all of them can benefit from thoughtful design features that help ensure their reliable performance for the long term.
A walk through the seven major decisions that create every lift station. Sometimes you end up with a wet-pit submersible station with a valve vault and a gen set, sometimes you need a self-priming station with a walk-in enclosure and an engine backup, and in other circumstances you need a recessed station with a parallel fixed backup. One size definitely does not fit all, and if you make the right decisions in the early steps, you'll end up with a better installation for the next 25 years.
When to use generators (fixed or portable), engine backups, PTOs, backup power grids, and portable pumps. Explores advantages and disadvantages of each option, and offers a framework for thinking about which one may make the most sense for a given situation. Gives engineers and operators alike a rationale for considering the optimal choice for a given installation -- which may vary from station to station within the very same community.
A survey of more than two dozen of the most common errors found in lift station design -- and, of course, how to avoid those mistakes. From safety issues (like omitting gas detection) to engineering mistakes (putting VFDs where they don't belong), and from thinking too small (about critical support accessories like backup power options) to emerging issues (like handling flushable wipes). If successful engineering is about the study and avoidance of failure, this survey offers a checklist of critical mistakes for which every conscientious designer and owner ought to be on the lookout every time a station goes under design.
A review of the advantages and disadvantages to various level control types (air bubblers, float switches, submersible transducers, and ultrasonic measurement) and the starter systems that respond to them (across-the-line starters, soft starters, and VFDs).
Collection system operators face a set of very serious dangers when they go below ground -- especially falls and deadly gases, but also including animal hazards, heightened electrocution risks, and assorted other injuries. Those risks can be minimized or even eliminated with creative approaches to lift station design. In this presentation, we cover 18 hazards of going below ground and 7 innovative ways to minimize or eliminate them.
How to get your wetwell to work harder, so that the investment you make today will continue to pay off for decades to come.
What factors should you consider when it's time to replace an old control panel?
Most people are aware that suction-lift pumps are generally limited to 25' of distance from the pump to the water level. That doesn't mean, though, that the benefits of suction-lift pumping have to be thrown out just because you're dealing with a wetwell that happens to be 30' below-grade. There are a wide array of benefits to be gained from locating pumps just a little bit below-ground in recessed applications -- including (but not limited to) operator safety, ease of maintenance and repair, flood protection, and backup power options. In this presentation, we analyze how to use a recessed station to strike the perfect balance for pump station safety and effectiveness within the limits set by Mother Nature (which include friction losses, available atmospheric pressure, and NPSH).
An introduction to parallel, series, and parallel-series pumping arrangements, using system head curves. Examines the limitations imposed by factors like pipe friction and the maximum working pressure of pump casings, pipes, and valve bodies. Involves an examination of pump curves matched to system head curves, and how changing conditions (like roughness within the pipe) can move performance from its original design. Plus, how to get more flow by closing a discharge valve.
Pumping wastewater requires that you move plenty of solids along with your fluids. When does it make sense to grind or shred those solids, and when does it make sense to pass them instead? Should solids be managed by the pump, or should you bring in other equipment like grinders or screens? And what about the "new sewage" everyone keeps talking about -- especially wipes? Are there really technological solutions to these problems, or do old rules still apply?
You wouldn't drive a moped to get lumber at the hardware store, so why would you tolerate misapplication of pumps for the wrong purpose? Here's how to make sure you're getting pumps (and pumping systems) purpose-built for your applications. Specific applications to be discussed: Sludge, septage/hauled waste, grit, headworks, main lift, brine, and nitrate waste.
The easiest mistake to make when selecting a grit pump is to zero in on the hardness of the materials inside the pump. Hardness matters -- but it's not the whole story. In fact, it's not even the half of it. Learn how strength goes much farther than hardness alone, and how operability issues matter just as much as what goes into the wetted parts.
How a self-priming pump came to the rescue for a river town that lost its wells to the Missouri River flood of 2011.
Portable pumps come in all kinds of configurations (self-priming, priming-assisted, and submersible), power supplies (electrical, diesel, gasoline, and hydraulic), levels of portability (hand-carried, skid-mounted, and trailer-mounted), and controllability (hand-operated, semi-automatic, and fully automated). Which type suits your needs best?
Special considerations when pumping sludge: How to do it right.
Butterfly valves, check valves, plug valves, AWWA-style ball valves, and many others are all in the mix when it comes to throttling applications. Each has its own profile for efficiency, size, cost, and ease of use.
Sometimes metal seats make sense; sometimes resilient seats are required. In certain applications, wedging action is necessary; in others, a loose fit is good enough. And then there are centric, single-offset, and double-offset seats. Learn how to decide which one makes the most sense for your application.
In any pumping system, surges are the inevitable byproduct of valve openings and closures and pump startups and shutdowns. The energy has to go somewhere when circumstances change. This is an overview of what's actually taking place inside the pipes, how much energy is involved, and how it can be controlled through surge-control devices like anticipator valves. Air-release valves and vacuum-breaker valves are also covered.
A head-to-head comparison among plug valves, gate valves, conventional knife-gate valves, two-piece knife-gate valves, and pinch valves for isolating and throttling applications. Explores the comparative performance characteristics, friction losses (Cv), throttling capacity, operational requirements, maintenance demands, and installation characteristics (weight, lay length, pipe stress, etc.).
How a proven technology from industrial processes that remains mostly new to the municipal water/wastewater sector revolutionizes the performance of knife-gate valves by eliminating leaks and makes them an economical, high-performance alternative to plug valves. Illustrates advantages in terms of energy efficiency, pipe strain, resistance to clogging, and maintenance simplification.
Slide, sluice, and weir gates need sealing mechanisms in order to isolate water effectively. What do terms like "self-adjusting seal" mean, and how is the boundary between a metal gate face and its guiding channel created? Is self-adjustment desirable? Are other methods of adjustment useful? How do the different sealing strategies stack up against one another? And how do the non-metallic materials used in these sealing configurations perform under challenging pressure, media, and weather conditions?
How to choose the right gate material (aluminum, stainless steel, cast iron, or FRP), and the right mounting type (wall-mounted, embedded, or in-channel).
An overview of the selection, application, and installation of liners and baffles in wastewater lagoons.
When a lagoon isn't enough to meet increasingly stringent treatment standards, it may not be necessary to start from scratch and renovate the entire lagoon. With the help of a compact treatment unit -- just the size of a standard shipping container -- a sidestream treatment process can be introduced to remove ammonia using a membrane-aerated biofilm reactor, or MABR. This very low-energy approach consumes only about 10% of the electricity of a regular aeration system, making it suitable for installations where the power supply may be limited. The same MABR technology can be expanded in modular fashion to scale up additional treatment, and with the right arrangements and accessory equipment can be arranged to remove ammonia, achieve nitrification and denitrification, treat phosphorous, or perform end-to-end package treatment.
Treating wastewater at a small scale
Explains how lagoons at cattle operations, hog lots, and even municipal plants can be covered and why covers may be beneficial. Discusses the benefits, including odor reduction, greenhouse-gas reduction, and energy recapture.
A history of aeration for wastewater treatment, from coarse-bubble diffusion, trickling filters, and RBCs to ceramic discs and into the present era of advanced materials. Also with discussion of mechanical alternatives and Venturi systems.
Aeration needs change over the course of a year for most wastewater applications. Air temperatures and water conditions alike can vary, creating the need for variable air supplies. Many plants approach this problem with a simple throttling valve on the inlet to their blowers -- often with just two settings: "Summer" and "Winter". Sometimes, that's enough. But in other cases, VFDs can make a huge difference to operational performance and cost savings. And was the blower sized for throttling in the first place? When is the right time to throttle? Where is the crossover between the cost of additional sensors and controls and the payoff in energy savings from smarter aeration?
Aeration is a big consumer of energy inside many wastewater treatment plants. Which steps -- small and large -- can you take to boost your blower efficiency and improve performance?
Air temperatures and water temperatures alike have a big impact on aeration outcomes. What are the basics you should know, and how should it affect your choices for mixing, blower sizing, diffuser or mechanical aerator selection, dissolved oxygen monitoring, and system controls?
One of the main challenges for small and medium-sized wastewater plants is to provide adequate biological treatment within the confines of available space and workforce capability. Diffused aerators require cleaning, maintenance, and replacement, and both fine-bubble and coarse-bubble systems are subject to problems with clogging (especially due to the reduced buoyancy of aerated water, which can cause solids to deposit around the diffusers themselves). Moreover, any system that places moving equipment or parts subject to wear inside a tank or lagoon also requires manpower from multiple operators for safe operation. However, a technological innovation now available permits systems to be both aerated and mixed by the use of a simple self-priming pump equipped with a Venturi aerator. This approach removes all moving and wearing parts from the water, while providing both highly effective aeration and mixing using just one piece of equipment located safely on dry land. With the use of low-cost baffle systems and simple timing procedures, virtually any system can be designed for either batch or extended aeration, either designed from the ground up or retrofitted into existing facilities. The resulting system can provide highly effective, cost-efficient treatment that can be run safely and dependably even by a lone operator.
Whether you believe in anthropogenic climate change (man-made global warming) or not, we face a lot of weather and climate extremes that require preparedness and planning. Which scenarios should you consider? What do worst-case scenarios look like? What tools are available for forecasting the possibilities? Can you confidently say you have a plan for the next big surprise, whether it's a prolonged drought or another "bomb" cyclone?
The shock of the Covid-19 pandemic has made it clear that resilience needs to play a larger role in our planning for the future. Maybe a miracle cure is coming, maybe not. Maybe a vaccine will protect us all, or maybe it won't. One thing is certain: This won't be the last pandemic. Maybe the next one is 100 years off, or maybe it will happen before we've overcome this one. We won't know all the right answers for some time to come, but we can start by asking the right questions. Here are twelve such questions that need to find their way to the front of our minds as we evaluate products and solutions to the challenges involved in treating water for the protection of public health. Some of the questions are simple: Is this equipment compatible with social distancing? Can it be maintained by a single person, working alone? Some are more complicated: Can we handle a 25% negative surprise shock without catastrophe? For example: What if incoming solids loads rise by 25% because panicky residents are suddenly flushing an abnormal volume of Clorox wipes? And others ask how we fit into a broader public-interest picture: Can we use, adapt, or upgrade the equipment to detect something that gives us useful surveillance about dangers or about the well-being of the community? The twelve questions addressed in this presentation (the "Dirty Dozen") offer a context for featuring preparedness as an integral part of the planning process.