Small Systems, Big Resource

A website specifically for small water systems helps operators quickly find resources on a full range of important topics

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Small water systems are not without support resources. Organizations like state Rural Water Associations and the AWWA (especially its state sections) are there with all sorts of technical assistance.

But what about shopping for information? Hundreds of agencies and organizations publish information of value to operators in small communities, and much of it comes free over the Internet. But how do you find exactly what you need without hunting and pecking online for hours?

Now there’s a website that helps visitors find the most relevant information for whatever they may need at a given time. SmallWaterSupply.org is designed specifically for small-community water professionals. It’s housed at the Illinois State Water Survey (ISWS) at the University of Illinois and receives funding through the U.S. EPA Office of Groundwater and Drinking Water.

 

Abundant sources

The site provides an extensive database of resources that includes more than 11,000 items in 28 categories: videos, CDs, manuals, fact sheets, and much more. The information is easy to find by topic, by type, by state, or by sponsoring organization. The site simply lists descriptions of the items with links to the organizations that created them.

The resources come from some 750 organizations, including the AWWA and its state sections, every state Rural Water Association, the state regulatory agencies, EPA and other federal agencies, Water Environment Federation and its Member Associations, and the Rural Community Assistance Partnership (RCAP).

The site is designed for easy searching. Suppose you’re a water system operator interested in developing an emergency response plan. If you select the search category of “water security and emergency response,” you’ll find some 700 documents. If you add the keyword “emergency response plan,” that narrows it down to about 70.

Then you can search by document type for “forms and templates,” and you’ve sorted down to a couple dozen items, all with “emergency response plan” in the title or summary. Now you can easily find documents that will walk you through how to set up your emergency response plan.

 

Multiple features

Each document listed on the site includes a summary that tells how many pages it contains and who the host is. That means operators can look through the list of results and evaluate items without having to download each one and review it. Other features of this website include:

Business blog. The site’s staff posts an item every Monday on how to run a water system like a business. Entries cover topics like finances, asset management, emergency response plans, and other topics that lead to a better-managed system. A Friday post called “Stuff We Love” describes websites, documents or other items that staff members believe are especially useful for operators.

E-newsletter. This weekly publication presents feature stories on timely topics, a “Weekly Reading” section of links to articles of special interest, and other material. The newsletter began in 2011 with about 90 subscribers and had more than 500 by year’s end.

Careers. The staff is compiling a complete list of operator schools around the country with one-year or one-semester certificate programs that prepare people to become operators. People with these credentials can be excellent candidates to work in small systems that are unlikely to hire entry-level people from four-year or full-blown associate degree programs.

Calendar. Since its inception, the site has listed more than 24,000 training events. The events are presented in an easily searchable format.

Forums. Interactive forums allow visitors to share information on current issues and discuss solutions to problems with treatment and other aspects of operations.

Public reporting. Users can find Quick Reference Guides and other information on meeting customer right-to-know requirements, preparing Customer Confidence Reports, issuing public notifications, and sharing other information with customers.

The site is worth a visit — it can save small-system operators valuable time in locating information and resources that help improve performance and efficiency.



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