If you own or manage a public water system (PWS), you have a responsibility to maintain the quality and safety of the drinking water it provides. This isn’t as easy as it seems. In addition to complying with complex federal and state regulations and reporting requirements, you must properly maintain your public water system to protect your equipment and ensure its continued sustainability. And what works with one PWS doesn’t necessarily work with another. In this month’s blog article, we explore the variations among public water systems and what it takes to safely and successfully manage one.
What is a Public Water System?
A public water system is any water supply that serves 25 or more people a day for 60 or more days per year. All public water systems are regulated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in accordance with the Safe Drinking Water Act of 1974.
Variations Among Public Water Systems
There are over 2,500 public water systems in New Hampshire and there’s a lot of variation among them, including:
While a municipal PWS supplies water to thousands of people, there are smaller systems that, when on a well, might serve:
- a local coffee shop
- a home-based daycare
- multiple tenants in a strip mall
- a public school
A PWS can range from simple—having a well, one pump, and a small storage (bladder) tank, to complex—including several wells, pumps, tens of thousands of gallons of storage, and complicated controls and alarms.
While some public water systems are privately owned by an individual, others owned by a municipality, or a condo or homeowners association.
There’s a lot of variation among New Hampshire’s water landscape and the needs of the individuals, businesses, and organizations each PWS serves. Thus, there’s is a lot of variation in the levels of treatment required for optimal water quality and safety—from none, to a very complex water treatment solution.
Do You Need a Public Water System Operator?
All community (residential systems) and non-transient (e.g., schools, day care centers, and workplaces) 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, become certified, or ensure the person responsible for the water system is certified.
Not all Public Water System Operators are Created Equal
While all operators must meet the same state requirements for certification, they don’t all have the same skills and experience. “For this reason, it’s critical to choose a PWS operator with the skills and background required for your particular system,” explains Steve Guercia, Manager of Commercial & Public Water Supply at Secondwind Water Systems.
Guercia explains that many PWS operators manage their systems with an It ain’t broke, don’t fix it approach. “This might cost less in the short run, but it can have disastrous financial consequences in the long run—especially if your system requires emergency service or repairs” he points out.
A“Predictive Maintenance” Approach
At Secondwind, we understand that operating a public water system involves more than simply taking water samples. Our PWS operators follow what we call a “predictive maintenance” approach—incorporating asset management and ensuring the reliable and consistent operation of all system components. This approach includes:
- conducting annual system equipment checks (pumps, controls, tanks, etc.)
- providing system cleanings and preventive maintenance
- estimating projected equipment lifespan and estimated replacement costs
- developing a formal budget to ensure the continuous operation of the system
NH-Certified Public Water System Operators
Do you own or manage a public water system? Secondwind Water Systems can help you ensure the long-term safety and successful operation of your system. We create personalized programs ranging from from a simple, safe operations plan, to a comprehensive 24/7 facilities management plan. Contact us today for a FREE initial site evaluation.