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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 20 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. 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 utilities have seven of their own -- and they all need to be censored.
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.
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 huge number of free and low-cost products and services are available to help you run your system with less effort and more reliability.
Antivirus. Phishing. Spearphishing. Social media. Trojan horses. Payloads. DOS attacks. HTTPS. There's a lot to know, and you probably didn't learn any of it in school.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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, engine backups, and portable pumps.
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), from thinking too small (about backup power options, for instance) to emerging issues (like handling flushable wipes).
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.
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?
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.
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?
An overview of the selection, application, and installation of liners and baffles in wastewater lagoons.
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.
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?
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?
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.