6 Key Responsibilities of Operating a Public Water System

You’re responsible for operating and managing a public water system (PWS). Now what?

If you own or operate a PWS, it is your responsibility to comply with all state and federal requirements—whether you occupy your facility or rent it to someone else. And getting and staying in compliance can be quite complicated, involving extensive regulations, testing, and reporting. In this month’s Secondwind Water Systems blog, we review six key responsibilities of operating a public water system.

What is a PWS?

A public water system serves at least 25 people, 60 or more days per year. Examples of a PWS include municipal water systems, daycare centers, schools, mobile home parks, strip malls, campgrounds, or manufacturing facilities. You may own a public water system and not even know it.

“Unlike other aspects of running a business, no one makes a decision to buy a public water system. Many businesses don’t even realize they own a public water system and are unaware of the many complex state and federal regulations and compliance issues associated with it,”  says Steve Guercia, public water systems manager at Secondwind Water Systems.

operating a public water system

Public Water System Responsibilities

1. Hire a NH-certified PWS Operator.

All community and non-transient public water systems are required to have a NH-certified water system operator oversee its operation and maintenance. To meet this requirement, the PWS owner must either hire a NH-certified PWS operator, or get the person responsible for the water system certified.  

2. Monitor the Quality of Your Water Supply.

If you own or manage a PWS, your principal responsibility is to regularly monitor the quality of your water to ensure your system is supplying safe water to consumers. This requires routine water sampling, testing, and reporting in compliance with state and federal standards.

Major monitoring areas include:

  • Bacteria;
  • Chemicals;
  • Disinfection Byproducts;
  • Groundwater Contamination;
  • Lead and Copper;
  • Radiologicals.

3. Establish and Maintain an Administrative Record Keeping System.

Per state and federal requirements, PWS owners must establish and maintain a formal administrative record keeping system that includes:

  • Sampling sites and schedules;
  • Laboratory reports;
  • Compliance information;
  • Improvements and expansions;
  • Changes affecting the water system.

4. Develop an Emergency Plan.

If you own a PWS, you must develop an emergency plan that should be annually reviewed and updated.

5. Complete an Annual Consumer Confidence Report (CCR).

If you are responsible for a community PWS, you must complete an annual Consumer Confidence Report. The CCR informs water customers about specific quality parameters of their drinking water, the source of their water, and the status of source water protection for the area impacting their water system. For this reason, it is important to maintain all laboratory water quality reports pertaining to your PWS.

6. Create a PWS Budget.

Owning and operating a public water system is like running a business. You should create a budget that accurately reflects your public water system’s expenses, including anticipated capital expenditures. Remember, equipment like pumps and tanks do not last forever, so you need to plan for the future. The system must also have a rate structure that covers these expenses. Your budget and rate plan should be reviewed annually.

The Cost of Owning a Public Water System

Without proper record-keeping and compliance, and ongoing analysis and oversight of your public water system, you could end up spending thousands of dollars in fines, maintenance, redesign, and repair. For this reason, many PWS owners hire a NH-certified water system operator. But keep in mind that not all water system operators are created equal.

“Because owning a public water system costs businesses money, many owners tend to hire the least expensive–and typically, least knowledgeable and experienced–PWS water operator service they can find,” Guercia explains. “But this can become a liability to the business in terms of the safety and efficiency of the system’s operation and its compliance with complex state and federal regulations,” he adds.

NH-Certified Public Water System Operator Service

When Secondwind Water Systems operates and manages your public water system, we create a personalized program that can range from a simple, safe operations plan to a comprehensive 24/7 facilities management plan. Contact us today for a FREE initial site evaluation.