Here's a Test: Citizens in a Texas Community Face a Watery Challenge

A contest to identify water at different stages of treatment challenged visitors to an educational event in Round Rock, Texas.

Here's a Test: Citizens in a Texas Community Face a Watery Challenge

A water plant team member explains how an in-line chlorine analyzer works and how it helps make sure the water is safe to drink. 

Suppose you were shown four jars of water representing stages of water and wastewater treatment. Could you identify them?

Perhaps as a water professional you could, but it wasn’t so easy for attendees at the Water You Drinking? festival held in Round Rock, Texas, on May 8-9 to celebrate the American Water Works Association’s 2019 Drinking Water Week. The contest was part of the two-day event, which included exhibits, contests, giveaways such as rain gauges, and a tour of the Round Rock Water Treatment Plant.

The event, in its sixth year, was held at the water plant, which provides 93% of the drinking water for the city’s 114,000 residents. About 30 people attended each day, including a mix of adults and their home-schooled children.

“The idea of the event is to educate people on how their water gets to them and how their wastewater flows out, and to get them involved in the water and wastewater world and what they can do to help us,” says Brandon Pritchett, water operations superintendent for the city.  

Exhibits and displays

The event ran from 3 to 5 p.m. both days. In the first hour, the attendees visited booths from various functions like inflow and infiltration, stormwater, water conservation, the water and wastewater environmental labs, recycling and others.  

The I&I group displayed a camera truck that showed what happens when there’s a break in a sewer line. The equipment included a tractor camera that took video inside a pipe for visitors to observe on a screen. The stormwater group had a diorama display to which team members added water to show how runoff carries contaminants with it.

The water conservation group passed out literature and talked about conservation rebates and how to find, identify and address water leaks in homes. The laboratory booth had an interactive beanbag toss game that taught attendees about testing for coliform bacteria. The recycle center staff told about what items to recycle and not recycle and the importance of keeping recyclables out of landfills.

Besides the camera truck, utility equipment on display included a vacuum truck for clearing wastewater lines and a trailer carrying items used to repair fire hydrants.

Hard CoRR competition

After the first hour, the parents and children watched a Hydrant Hysteria competition in which two waterline maintenance team members took apart and reassembled a fire hydrant in just under 90 seconds. The team has won the Texas Section AWWA championship in that event in the past two years.

The Hard CoRR team (CoRR stands for City of Round Rock) took fifth place at the 2018 national AWWA conference competition and competed again in the 2019 nationals.

During the water plant tour, attendees observed the coagulation-flocculation, sedimentation, filtration and disinfection steps. They took a guided tour around the treatment structure and learned about the computer system that controls plant functions.

Water You Drinking? Contest

A popular contest at the event included four jars containing samples of water: raw lake water, potable water, Type 1 reuse water and treated wastewater. Attendees were asked to identify which was which. After two days and about 60 people, only one person, a grade school girl, identified all four. She received a collapsible water bottle and earned bragging rights.

It was the first time this contest was included, and it was well received. “It will definitely be used in future Water You Drinking? events,” Pritchett says. “Through this contest, attendees were able to see the different stages of the water.”



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