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Guides

Using Better Data to Tackle the Industrial Pretreatment Challenge

8
min read
Guides

In June of 2023, 3M agreed to a historic $10.3 billion settlement concerning PFAS, a class of harmful “forever chemicals” used in everything from nonstick frying pans to takeout containers to firefighting foam.

3M will pay out the settlement to any city and county water system in the US that finds PFAS in its waters–and to many utilities, that funding will provide desperately-needed capital to update infrastructure and equipment. 

But there’s a catch: much of the funding comes with strict data and reporting requirements. You have to prove there’s PFAS in your system first, and that’s easier said than done, especially if your industrial user sampling and monitoring programs aren’t organized or up to date. 

Whether you’re using Klir, other software, or even spreadsheets to manage your pretreatment programs, we believe these developments underline the importance of sound data management.

Bringing together crucial sampling information is important in more than just the typical enforcement action scenario, where a regulator steps in to fine a polluter. It can also mean the difference between benefitting from a historic settlement and missing out on millions in funding. 

Not sure your pretreatment program has all the tools it needs? Here’s a step by step guide detailing all of the data it needs to capture and track to be successful.

Defining the Data Management Challenge

Industrial pretreatment programs can vary a lot depending on any particular industrial user’s situation, their NPDES permit, and the pretreatment permit issued by that user’s utility.

While Federal and State EPA are responsible for enforcement, much of the work involved in administering a pretreatment program ultimately falls on the shoulders of utilities, who must:

  1. Maintain an inventory of industrial users, permits and surcharges
  2. Prepare monitoring programs and track progress of compliance monitoring
  3. Generate and submit reports to regulators
  4. Manage violations and issue notifications to customers

This means that while pretreatment is ultimately an engineering challenge, there’s an equally important administrative and project management challenge utility managers have to tackle.

For larger utilities, this might involve many moving parts, including: site visits and inspections, customer information, sampling data, industrial user-provided records and data, etc all of which have to be stored and tracked.

It’s also a tricky balancing act: utilities must maintain good relationships with industrial customers while ensuring they stay on top of their obligations, and also pay attention to important changes in discharges, which can be difficult to do when all you have to look at are spreadsheets–or worse, physical log sheets.

When it comes time to enforce rules or get industrial users to comply with new regulations—as is the case with 3M and PFAS—utilities also need meticulous and complete records that regulators can rely on during an enforcement action.

From our perspective, the best way to achieve all of this is by building an airtight data management process that gives customers, utility workers and regulators access to reliable information quickly.

Step 1: Build a Digital Industrial User Inventory

The first step to building a successful pretreatment monitoring system is to build a master list or ‘inventory’ of industrial users. 

Whether you’re building an inventory from scratch or just making sure your existing one is accurate, it’s important to keep it updated by regularly surveying documents like:

  • Water billing records
  • Business licenses
  • Building permits
  • Sewer connection permits
  • Commercial directories
  • Property tax records
  • Fire Department emergency management plans and records
  • ​​Applications for water or wastewater service

Other sources that might be useful for updating and keeping industrial user inventories current include:

If you just recently added a new user to the list, you might also want to send them a survey to gather more information, or schedule an in-person visit. 

What Should My User Inventory Include?

In addition to basic information–ie: the company name, address of facility, name of a primary contact person, and the type of business or manufacturing process the company engages in–you’ll have to include important information about how each user connects to the water system and what they typically discharge, including:

  • Estimates of water usage and process water discharged
  • Types of hazardous wastes generated and how they’re disposed of
  • NAICS codes,SIC codes and CFR 40 codes if required
  • Process wastewater flow

You’ll also need to document the steps and procedures each user takes to fulfill their pretreatment obligations, including a description of existing on-site pretreatment facilities, a list of all environmental permits held by the discharger, and which pretreatment standards the user is subject to.

To save time, many utilities will update this information by completing regular surveys of all industrial users in their system. The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality has some helpful guidance for utilities looking to increase response rates to Industrial User Surveys, including:

  1. Develop an outreach strategy, and contact each facility before sending the survey form if you can, so they know it’s a legitimate and important request.
  2. Include a stamped, pre-addressed envelope for returning the completed survey, or label them such that when they’re folded they’re ready to send back through the mail.
  3. Make sure to request any address changes, in case any facility has moved.

Further Reading: Industrial User Survey Guidance - State of Oregon Department of Environmental Quality

Step 2: Build or Onboard a Streamlined Pretreatment Program Management System

Building a comprehensive list of users is important, but it’s just the first step in tackling the industrial pretreatment data management challenge. 

According to the EPA, utilities also need to maintain robust procedures for tracking industrial user problems, and the best way to do that is by making sure all files and records are available and up to date in an internal information management system like Klir.

Building a Data Management System: a Checklist

At minimum, the system you use to manage these processes should be able to capture the following:

  • Basic user contact information and all previous correspondence 
  • Permits and permit applications
  • Any previously completed industrial waste questionnaires
  • Monitoring data and inspection reports 
  • Records of pending and previous surcharges 
  • Engagement from IUs via a CROMERR-ready self-serve portal

These procedures should help you quickly identify areas that may require follow up activity, and provide background information on the facility that can be reviewed prior to conducting inspections at the facility.

If an inspector takes effluent samples as part of a site visit, for example, there should also be an easy way for them to upload them into the utility’s compliance tracking system and quickly determine whether there’s been a violation.

In addition to simply capturing and storing certain types of information, your system also needs to actively track and manage certain key variables and dates, including:

  • Due dates for compliance submittals
  • Compliance violations and enforcement activities
  • User compliance history
  • Calculations for local limits and user limits for compliance

Remember that field notes, checklists, records of inspections, investigations, samples collected, and related inspection information can each also become an important part of the evidence package used by the utility in an enforcement action, and can even be entered in court as evidence if properly maintained.

In addition to records for industrial users, your IPP management system should also keep records pertinent to the administration of the utility’s pretreatment program itself, including: 

  • Documents establishing legal authority 
  • Pretreatment program approval and modifications.
  • Copy of the POTWs own NPDES permit
  • Applicable federal and state regulations
  • Local Limits development documentation
  • Enforcement response plans
  • Correspondence between POTW and the Approval Authority and EPA
  • Public notices

While utilities have typically handled all of this information using spreadsheets, Klir manages all of this data for you in a centralized system that pings you if something goes wrong, removing a huge layer of stress and work from the process of managing your industrial users.

Step 3: Generate and Submit Reports to Regulators

Probably the biggest help a system like Klir can provide when it comes to managing industrial pretreatment programs is the ability to quickly synthesize data and generate reports.

Under NPDES, POTWs are responsible for submitting an annual pretreatment program report, which should include basic information like: 

  • An updated list or inventory of Industrial Users
  • Which pretreatment standards the user is subject to
  • A summary of the status of user compliance over the reporting period

These reports should also provide an up to date and accurate record of any regulatory actions the utility took over the last year, including:

  • A summary of compliance and enforcement activities (including inspections)
  • A summary of changes to the utility’s pretreatment program that have not been previously reported
  • Any other relevant information requested by the approval authority

Compiling and submitting these reports can be a time-consuming process, and within a few years most utilities will be required to submit them digitally through the EPAs eReporting rule. Depending on your state, it may be through the same portal you submit your NetDMR through, the Central Data Exchange, or some other online portal.

How Klir Can Help

Klir Comply gives water utilities a single source of truth to centralize, streamline and automate their compliance program so they can reduce the risk of missing something important and drive operational efficiency. Industrial pretreatment is only the beginning of Klir Comply for Community. We innovate based on customer and market input. Join us in shaping the future of sustainability and fulfilling the vision of having an all-in-one operating platform for water management. Our Customer Success team is on standby to partner in your digital transformation journey.

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Blog

Fresh Ideas, Frank Conversation and New Water Tech Sizzle at Klir’s Boiling Point Summit

4
min read
Blog

“I’ve spent my entire career building technology in water: in many ways it has all led to today.”

That’s how Klir CEO David Lynch summed up Monday’s Boiling Point summit, which brought luminaries from the world of water to Toronto for an evening of eye-opening conversations, crucial network-building, and a glimpse into the future of effective water management 

Held alongside the world’s premier water conference, ACE23, the event began with an introduction from the EPA’s longest-serving administrator Carol Browner, who moderated a provocative panel discussion on technology and the challenges of 21st century water stewardship.

“Based on my experience, change and disruption are important, but they’re not the same thing. Water is a highly complex system, so we have to think very carefully about change,” Browner told attendees, encouraging them to think about the many ways technology and responsible water management intersect.

Joining Browner and Lynch on stage were Joone Kim-Lopez, GeneralManager and CEO of the Moulton Niguel Water District, Erica Gies, an award-winning journalist who covers the water system, and Klir’s own Tom Stafford, who took to the stage to announce a slew of updates to the Klir platform.

Reconnecting Customers With Water and Returning to ‘Science-Based’ Policy is a Must Says Longest-Serving EPA Head

Browner, who successfully led the world’s most powerful environmental regulator through one of its most challenging periods between 1993 and 2001, spoke candidly about what she thought were the biggest opportunities facing water policymakers today. 

“I think it is probably fair to say they are not fact-based or science-based, and my hope is that the states will rise up and adopt their own protection regimes,” said Browner, alluding to the US Supreme Court’s highly-controversial decision to slash decades-old federal protections for wetlands.

Browner said protections for wetlands are crucial not just from a hydrological standpoint, but also because they can help build stronger connections between people, the environment, and the water they consume: a crucial step towards solving the water crisis.

“The more we can reconnect people to waterways, the more we can make them understand: where does that water you drink come from? Where’s it going? The better, I think.”

Pictured from left to right are Joone Kim-Lopez, Erica Gies, and David Lynch.

Journalist Erica Gies, author of the groundbreaking survey of nature-based water interventions Water Always Wins, echoed that sentiment and emphasized the need for a cultural reset around our relationship with water.

“We tend to think of water as either a commodity or a threat. But not everybody in the world thinks about it that way. Some people think about it as a friend or relative, which can sound a little strange.”

Innovation is ‘Critical’ to Attracting Next Generation of Water Experts Says Head of Moulton Niguel Water District

“I just want to realistically set this conversation. You’ve got visionaries; you’ve got people with amazing experience. But from a practitioner level at the utility, the world is very different.” 

That’s how Joone Kim-Lopez, who serves more than 170,000 customers at California’s Moulton Niguel Water District, framed the water challenge from the perspective of large US water systems, which continue to struggle with outdated infrastructure, an aging workforce, and a rapidly-changing climate.

Lopez also leads the California Data Collective, a nonprofit representing 21 million Californians focused on leveraging technology to bring much-needed modernization to the state’s water system.

“We have over 7,000 water providers in California. Most of them actually don’t even have SCADA. 600 systems are on the brink of failure or move in and out of failing. Nearly 1 million Californians do not have access to safe drinking water.”

While those are sobering numbers, Lopez said that sophisticated technological interventions like AI could be a game-changer not just from an engineering standpoint but also by helping attract the next generation of talent to the water sector.

“If we don’t modernize, we’re not going to get the best people,” said Lopez. “I wish I could pay my people what some of these other private companies are paying; I wish I could compete with that market.”

Klir Debuts Groundbreaking New Compliance Tools and AI-Driven Assistant

Tom Stafford, Chief Product Officer of Klir and former senior manager at the EPA in Ireland, drove home the importance of empowering workers and drawing on the experience of utility operators with a presentation on how water-related media fiascos in Ireland and the UK regularly push systems into reactive modes of thinking.

“It’s probably twice as expensive to be reactive as it is to be proactive,” said Stafford, referencing the consultants utilities were forced to hire after protests in Ireland against combined storm overflows and water rate changes—some of the largest in the country’s history.

Stafford took the stage to announce Klir Comply, a groundbreaking new platform from Klir that will help water workers at all levels of the utility access the compliance information they need, tackle challenges more proactively, and avoid expensive consultant fees.

“Whether you’re a CEO or a plant operator, Klir Comply is all about managing your data, putting it together and easily generating the information you need.”

Klir CEO David Lynch echoed the need for crystal-clear compliance management while announcing another exciting new feature: an AI-driven assistant named ‘Boots’ that will help Klir users search for data quickly, draft emails, generate reports, and save hours on administrative busy work.

Klir's CEO David Lynch showcases Klir's new AI-driven assistant named Boots.

“I’m excited to finally share the biggest enhancement to Klir to date. This new generative AI tool, which uses the power of ChatGPT, our own proprietary LLMs, as well as the Microsoft AI stack, to help humans to do what they do best: exercising their best judgment.”

Lynch emphasized the need to create a ‘safe space’ for innovation and said Klir’s new tools delivered just that. World-class cybersecurity combined with powerful new integrations with the Microsoft product stack would ensure that Klir users would see continuing and compounding improvements in the months ahead.

“Without our passionate customers, those users, advocates and even those detractors, we wouldn’t have the opportunity to be better every single day.”

Should it be "I just want to sort of realistically set this conversation" or "I want to realistically set this conversation."

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Blog

Better, Faster, Safer: How New AI Tools Could Transform Water Management for the Better

5
min read
Blog

If you follow the technology industry today, you’ve almost certainly heard about how artificial intelligence (AI) is transforming everything from hardware and engineering, to data science and analytics, to everyday tools like search engines and apps.

The water industry has been no exception. Water utilities already use machine learning and other similarly sophisticated data analysis technologies to help with pipe maintenance and leak detection, LSL replacement, contaminant identification and more.

But the latest wave of AI innovation, particularly large language model tools like ChatGPT, promise to bring the fruits of AI out of the laboratory and machine shop into the rest of the utility to help tackle some of the biggest management challenges of the 21st century. 

Here we’ll take a look at how water utility managers and administrators could very quickly start using tools like Klir’s ChatGPT integration to streamline and save time on management-related tasks like permitting and compliance, project management, emergency response, planning and more. 

In particular, we’ll look at how these tools could be leveraged to remove a lot of the friction surrounding water quality program management, a process that involves gathering and ingesting large amounts of data: an ideal candidate for automation and AI.

The ChatGPT-Driven AI ‘Renaissance’

If you’ve ever performed a Google search or asked Spotify for a music recommendation, you’ve already used algorithms or machine learning, the building blocks of AI, to help you get what you need.  

Large language models like ChatGPT, however, are a recent breakthrough that could make those tools easier for non-technology specialists to use and apply to their work. 

Unlike nascent AI systems that relied on specific programmed rules, large language models like ChatGPT learn from patterns in data, enabling them to provide more nuanced and contextually relevant information.

ChatGPT, in particular, is designed to generate human-like text responses and engage in interactive conversations, making it an ideal tool for managers, administrators and other workers at the utility with non-technical backgrounds who need quick and accurate answers to management-related queries.

“It finds the most relevant pieces of information, even if it’s millions of documents or data points, and presents the top ranked results to the language model, [which] lets you have detailed, informed interactions with your data,” Microsoft’s head of Azure Cognitive Search Pablo Castro explained during a recent presentation on ChatGPT applications.

Secured with enterprise-grade security in Microsoft Azure, Klir’s own Chat GPT integration gives users the ability to query millions of data points within the utility’s private internal data, all while respecting the information protection controls put in place.

“Because the knowledge lives outside of the ChatGPT model, you’re in control of it, and it’s not used to train the model,” says Castro. “And equally important from an enterprise perspective: any chat session state lives entirely within your application. Whether you keep it or not, and where, is fully up to you.”

How AI Can Help Tackle the Problem of 21st-Century Water Management

The management of water resources in the 21st century presents a dizzying number of challenges, with factors like increasing demand, ageing infrastructure, climate change, and stricter regulations all placing additional pressure on our water systems.

AI can play a crucial role in addressing each of these challenges by automating away some of the most arduous administrative tasks that managers must deal with on a day-to-day basis. Some key areas where AI can make a significant impact include:

Project Management

Whether it’s implementing infrastructure projects like pipeline replacements or capital upgrades, navigating amalgamation and other governance changes, or simply navigating the endless to-do list involved in running a large urban utility, most of the tasks involved in 21st century water utility management requires careful planning and coordination. 

A quick, intuitive-to-use AI assistant can help with almost every aspect of project management, whether it be by analyzing historical data, predicting potential bottlenecks, optimizing resource allocation, or providing real-time monitoring and reporting. 

A recent study from MIT confirmed that ChatGPT can raise an organization’s average productivity, team morale and collaboration while increasing “job satisfaction and self-efficacy.”

As workers become more comfortable with AI tools, their ability to help streamline projects and deliver them more efficiently will only increase. 

Emergency Response and Planning

When natural disasters or water contamination incidents occur, quick and informed decision-making is crucial. AI-powered tools can process real-time data from sensor networks, work order management software, and even social media to provide early warnings, assess risks, and support decision-making during emergency situations. 

One large utility in the UK already uses AI tools to process data from over 7,000 pressure and flow sensors every 15 minutes, enabling operators to reliably detect pipe bursts and leaks within minutes of them occurring. 

With intuitive tools like ChatGPT, those insights could be made available to water professionals at the utility, enhancing situational awareness and helping utilities to respond effectively to minimize the impact on water supplies and public health.

Permitting and Compliance

Water utility managers are often burdened with complex regulatory requirements and lengthy permitting processes involving countless pages of forms, applications, regulations and reporting deadlines. It isn’t unusual for large urban utilities to manage thousands of individual regulation schedules and permits at a single time, and all too often the burden of managing all of that paperwork can end up falling on the shoulders of a single employee.

With Klir’s ChatGPT integration, a utility worker can alleviate some of that burden by asking the platform to retrieve important data, summarize important deadlines, or even draft an email to a superior explaining why they’re confident they’re in compliance.

The sheer volume of data and paperwork involved in compliance makes it a perfect candidate for automation with AI, which can streamline these tasks by automating document review, analyzing compliance data, and identifying potential issues or discrepancies, saving time, reducing human error, and ensuring adherence to regulatory standards.

Why AI Tools Are a Particularly Good Fit for Water Quality Programs

Monitoring and maintaining water quality involves numerous complex data-intensive processes, requiring continuous monitoring of various parameters such as pH, turbidity, metals, bacteria and more.

Traditionally these monitoring processes involve manual sampling, laboratory testing, and data analysis, all of which are time-consuming and resource-intensive. Moreover, the vast amount of data generated from monitoring activities makes it challenging to extract actionable insights in a timely manner.

Tools like Klir’s ChatGPT integration can help water quality professionals get to the data they need more quickly, generate quantitative insights into sampling results, identify areas of non-compliance, and save time by simplifying or completely automating away administrative tasks.

Predictive Analysis of Water Quality

AI-powered sensors and IoT (Internet of Things) devices can collect real-time data on water quality parameters, providing a continuous stream of information. This data can be analyzed by AI algorithms to identify trends, predict changes, and detect potential contaminants or hazards. This proactive approach allows utilities to take preventive measures before water quality problems escalate, thus safeguarding public health.

With conversational AI tools, querying that information becomes easier than ever before. Instead of sifting through numerous dashboards, getting the information you need can be as simple as asking ChatGPT for it in the form of a question, e.g.: “hey Klir, where are we likely to get limit exceedances in the next 90 days?” 

Integrating Administrative Tasks with Sampling Results Data

When it comes time to act on important data, AI assistants can help automate the administrative side of water quality management as well. 

Instead of sifting through numerous spreadsheets or charts, you might simply ask your AI assistant to “write a formal email response to my manager outlining results of Well 57.” 

You might also ask the assistant to let your manager know that your position on those results is that the utility is compliant, or that the results indicate the need to take action. With tools like ChatGPT, you can spend less time digging for data and drafting emails, and more time looking ahead and making sure your department is ready to take on future challenges proactively.

Fast Quantitative Insights and Reporting of Non-Compliance

Quick: what percentage of lead tests at site #42 have been non-compliant so far this year? With an AI assistant, generating quantitative insights from sampling data and flagging potential non-compliance transforms from a time-consuming, potentially error-prone process into a quick and painless case of asking the system a question.

Respecting Internal Information Controls

When ChatGPT is deployed on an organization’s internal servers, the AI model can learn from your data without the need to ever share it externally, making it easy to respect the utility’s information protection controls and keeping sensitive customer data, infrastructure details, and compliance records safe.

Why AI Could Represent the Next Big Leap Forward in 21st Century Water Utility Management 

Recent advances in AI technology like ChatGPT holds immense potential for transforming water utility management. By leveraging AI tools, utility managers and administrators can streamline and save time on management-related tasks such as permitting and compliance, project management, emergency response and planning, and specifically supporting water quality programs. 

"Our dream is that Klir becomes a member of your team,” says Klir CEO David Lynch. “With help from Klir’s ChatGPT integration, workers at every level of the utility will be able to spend less time dealing with repetitive tasks and more time learning from their peers and tackling the monumental challenges of 21st century water management.”

With the ability to process and analyze vast amounts of data, AI will empower utilities to make more informed decisions, improve operational efficiency, and ultimately ensure the provision of high-quality water services to communities. And as AI continues to advance, the future of water management looks promising, with increased sustainability, resilience, and responsiveness to the challenges of the 21st century.

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What’s a Rich Text element?

The rich text element allows you to create and format headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, images, and video all in one place instead of having to add and format them individually. Just double-click and easily create content.

Static and dynamic content editing

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How to customize formatting for each rich text

Headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, figures, images, and figure captions can all be styled after a class is added to the rich text element using the "When inside of" nested selector system.

What’s a Rich Text element?

The rich text element allows you to create and format headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, images, and video all in one place instead of having to add and format them individually. Just double-click and easily create content.

Static and dynamic content editing

A rich text element can be used with static or dynamic content. For static content, just drop it into any page and begin editing. For dynamic content, add a rich text field to any collection and then connect a rich text element to that field in the settings panel. Voila!

How to customize formatting for each rich text

Headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, figures, images, and figure captions can all be styled after a class is added to the rich text element using the "When inside of" nested selector system.

What’s a Rich Text element?

The rich text element allows you to create and format headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, images, and video all in one place instead of having to add and format them individually. Just double-click and easily create content.

Static and dynamic content editing

A rich text element can be used with static or dynamic content. For static content, just drop it into any page and begin editing. For dynamic content, add a rich text field to any collection and then connect a rich text element to that field in the settings panel. Voila!

How to customize formatting for each rich text

Headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, figures, images, and figure captions can all be styled after a class is added to the rich text element using the "When inside of" nested selector system.

What’s a Rich Text element?

The rich text element allows you to create and format headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, images, and video all in one place instead of having to add and format them individually. Just double-click and easily create content.

Static and dynamic content editing

A rich text element can be used with static or dynamic content. For static content, just drop it into any page and begin editing. For dynamic content, add a rich text field to any collection and then connect a rich text element to that field in the settings panel. Voila!

How to customize formatting for each rich text

Headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, figures, images, and figure captions can all be styled after a class is added to the rich text element using the "When inside of" nested selector system.

What’s a Rich Text element?

The rich text element allows you to create and format headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, images, and video all in one place instead of having to add and format them individually. Just double-click and easily create content.

Static and dynamic content editing

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How to customize formatting for each rich text

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What’s a Rich Text element?

The rich text element allows you to create and format headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, images, and video all in one place instead of having to add and format them individually. Just double-click and easily create content.

Static and dynamic content editing

A rich text element can be used with static or dynamic content. For static content, just drop it into any page and begin editing. For dynamic content, add a rich text field to any collection and then connect a rich text element to that field in the settings panel. Voila!

How to customize formatting for each rich text

Headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, figures, images, and figure captions can all be styled after a class is added to the rich text element using the "When inside of" nested selector system.

What’s a Rich Text element?

The rich text element allows you to create and format headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, images, and video all in one place instead of having to add and format them individually. Just double-click and easily create content.

Static and dynamic content editing

A rich text element can be used with static or dynamic content. For static content, just drop it into any page and begin editing. For dynamic content, add a rich text field to any collection and then connect a rich text element to that field in the settings panel. Voila!

How to customize formatting for each rich text

Headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, figures, images, and figure captions can all be styled after a class is added to the rich text element using the "When inside of" nested selector system.

What’s a Rich Text element?

The rich text element allows you to create and format headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, images, and video all in one place instead of having to add and format them individually. Just double-click and easily create content.

Static and dynamic content editing

A rich text element can be used with static or dynamic content. For static content, just drop it into any page and begin editing. For dynamic content, add a rich text field to any collection and then connect a rich text element to that field in the settings panel. Voila!

How to customize formatting for each rich text

Headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, figures, images, and figure captions can all be styled after a class is added to the rich text element using the "When inside of" nested selector system.

Blog

Introducing Klir Comply with ChatGPT Integration on Microsoft Azure

8
min read
Blog

Today we’re excited to make our biggest product announcement to date! 

Klir Comply is a new integrated platform that builds upon what is already the most comprehensive software for water quality and compliance management on the market today.

This product release boldly moves the needle forward on compliance digitization for water utilities.

Meet Klir Comply

Today we’re launching Klir Comply, the foundation of our product, and the base framework we’ll be using to support water and wastewater utilities in their journey towards resilience and sustainability moving forward.

Its key purpose is to give you clear and accurate information on your compliance status and answer that simple but potentially costly question: 

“Is my water safe and compliant?”

From compliance to water quality and asset management data, it fills an industry gap and solves the growing problem of data quality and integrity, making it easier than ever before for water professionals to access impactful performance insights and make water better.

1. Supercharged Compliance Monitoring and Reporting

Klir Comply’s Drinking Water, Wastewater and Environmental tools make it easier than ever to develop, manage and track large and complex monitoring programs.

Built-in features like Safe Drinking Water Act limits and rules eliminate the need to calculate and monitor a wide range of parameters, regulatory requirements, limit sets, infrastructures, locations, and more, saving users hours every week in administrative busywork.

Klir Comply’s powerful new DMR tools in particular greatly simplify the wastewater compliance process, saving users hours of work every month while:

✅ Ensuring perfect alignment with NPDES and NetDMR requirements

✅ Minimizing common errors, duplications and discrepancies

✅ Reducing the risk of non-compliance and penalties

With Klir Comply, you have a new level of confidence in the accuracy and timeliness of your compliance reports, saving you resources, time and stress.

2. A New and Improved Mobile App for Sampling

Data entry in the field can be a slow, tricky and potentially error-prone process. But not with our new mobile app.

With Klir’s mobile features, recording data in the field is simple and secure. Its fieldwork-optimized interface runs smoothly on mobile devices, and Klir’s offline synching functionality makes field sampling possible even in remote areas with no internet connection.

3. Analytics and PowerBI Integration

As the operating system for water, Klir Comply provides a set of comprehensive and intelligible dashboards that give employees the information they need for their own specific needs—from the CEO to the treatment plant operator.

We’re happy to announce today that Klir Comply will seamlessly integrate with Power BI, unlocking the power of your wastewater data with powerful analytics. 

Real-time insights into plant operations and water quality trends made possible through this integration will help operators optimize plant performance while staying one step ahead of potential issues.

Insights Powered by ChatGPT

Today we’re also happy to announce that Klir will become the first water utility software to integrate with ChatGPT-4 through Microsoft Azure.


Combining the conversational benefits of ChatGPT with each utility’s water quality management and compliance data will greatly simplify tedious but critical tasks, all while ensuring internal data stays secure and private at all times.

“To be able to ask complex compliance water management questions and immediately receive accurate answers is seismic. We think it will help organizations around the world to slow the global water crisis,” said David Lynch, CEO of Klir.

Users will now be able to simply query “Boots,” Klir’s AI-powered assistant, in the form of a question, allowing them to:

  • Integrate administrative tasks with sampling results data
    “Boots, write a formal email response to my manager outlining results of Well 57 and let him know that my position on it is that we are compliant.”
  • Easily generate quantitative insights into sampling results
    “Boots, what percentage of Lead results have been non-compliant so far this year?”
  • Perform predictive analysis of water quality
    “Boots, where are we likely to get limit exceedances in the next 90 days?”

The tool is now available in Beta to select Klir users. This feature is available on an ‘opt-in’ basis, so the utility’s software administrator can control whether it gets used.

That means, when using Klir’s ChatGPT integration, you can trust that your data is secure, all while working with a partner dedicated to refining and improving the delivery of AI-powered insights in the water sector.

Now Available on Microsoft Azure Marketplace

We’re also excited to announce that starting today, Klir is partnering with Microsoft and making its software available for purchase and download through the Azure app store.

This new partnership promises to supercharge and bring a new level of functionality to Klir, making it easier than ever before to bring all of your work under one umbrella.

🔒 With Azure Marketplace, your IT department can have Klir up and running within your ecosystem in a matter of days with the confidence that your data is secure and protected by some of the world’s most thorough cybersecurity protocols.

💸 You can also reduce IT costs by eliminating multiple legacy point solutions, getting more out of your Microsoft investment, and even reducing time spent on support tickets.

🧭 The days of having incoherent data dotted around your organization are coming to an end. Building on tools like GPT, Azure, Power BI and Sharepoint, in the near future you’ll see Klir even further integrated into the Microsoft stack, from Teams, to Powerpoint, Outlook and Word, to name just a few.

Welcome to the Future of Water

We’re so excited to get these tools into the hands of our users and to see how utilities will use Klir Comply to streamline and improve their work.

We’re confident that this new suite of features presents one of the most exciting advancements in water utility software to date, and we can’t wait to see how experts working on the front lines of our industry will use them to make water better.

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How to customize formatting for each rich text

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What’s a Rich Text element?

The rich text element allows you to create and format headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, images, and video all in one place instead of having to add and format them individually. Just double-click and easily create content.

Static and dynamic content editing

A rich text element can be used with static or dynamic content. For static content, just drop it into any page and begin editing. For dynamic content, add a rich text field to any collection and then connect a rich text element to that field in the settings panel. Voila!

How to customize formatting for each rich text

Headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, figures, images, and figure captions can all be styled after a class is added to the rich text element using the "When inside of" nested selector system.

What’s a Rich Text element?

The rich text element allows you to create and format headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, images, and video all in one place instead of having to add and format them individually. Just double-click and easily create content.

Static and dynamic content editing

A rich text element can be used with static or dynamic content. For static content, just drop it into any page and begin editing. For dynamic content, add a rich text field to any collection and then connect a rich text element to that field in the settings panel. Voila!

How to customize formatting for each rich text

Headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, figures, images, and figure captions can all be styled after a class is added to the rich text element using the "When inside of" nested selector system.

What’s a Rich Text element?

The rich text element allows you to create and format headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, images, and video all in one place instead of having to add and format them individually. Just double-click and easily create content.

Static and dynamic content editing

A rich text element can be used with static or dynamic content. For static content, just drop it into any page and begin editing. For dynamic content, add a rich text field to any collection and then connect a rich text element to that field in the settings panel. Voila!

How to customize formatting for each rich text

Headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, figures, images, and figure captions can all be styled after a class is added to the rich text element using the "When inside of" nested selector system.

What’s a Rich Text element?

The rich text element allows you to create and format headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, images, and video all in one place instead of having to add and format them individually. Just double-click and easily create content.

Static and dynamic content editing

A rich text element can be used with static or dynamic content. For static content, just drop it into any page and begin editing. For dynamic content, add a rich text field to any collection and then connect a rich text element to that field in the settings panel. Voila!

How to customize formatting for each rich text

Headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, figures, images, and figure captions can all be styled after a class is added to the rich text element using the "When inside of" nested selector system.

What’s a Rich Text element?

The rich text element allows you to create and format headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, images, and video all in one place instead of having to add and format them individually. Just double-click and easily create content.

Static and dynamic content editing

A rich text element can be used with static or dynamic content. For static content, just drop it into any page and begin editing. For dynamic content, add a rich text field to any collection and then connect a rich text element to that field in the settings panel. Voila!

How to customize formatting for each rich text

Headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, figures, images, and figure captions can all be styled after a class is added to the rich text element using the "When inside of" nested selector system.

What’s a Rich Text element?

The rich text element allows you to create and format headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, images, and video all in one place instead of having to add and format them individually. Just double-click and easily create content.

Static and dynamic content editing

A rich text element can be used with static or dynamic content. For static content, just drop it into any page and begin editing. For dynamic content, add a rich text field to any collection and then connect a rich text element to that field in the settings panel. Voila!

How to customize formatting for each rich text

Headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, figures, images, and figure captions can all be styled after a class is added to the rich text element using the "When inside of" nested selector system.

What’s a Rich Text element?

The rich text element allows you to create and format headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, images, and video all in one place instead of having to add and format them individually. Just double-click and easily create content.

Static and dynamic content editing

A rich text element can be used with static or dynamic content. For static content, just drop it into any page and begin editing. For dynamic content, add a rich text field to any collection and then connect a rich text element to that field in the settings panel. Voila!

How to customize formatting for each rich text

Headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, figures, images, and figure captions can all be styled after a class is added to the rich text element using the "When inside of" nested selector system.

What’s a Rich Text element?

The rich text element allows you to create and format headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, images, and video all in one place instead of having to add and format them individually. Just double-click and easily create content.

Static and dynamic content editing

A rich text element can be used with static or dynamic content. For static content, just drop it into any page and begin editing. For dynamic content, add a rich text field to any collection and then connect a rich text element to that field in the settings panel. Voila!

How to customize formatting for each rich text

Headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, figures, images, and figure captions can all be styled after a class is added to the rich text element using the "When inside of" nested selector system.

Blog

Boiling Point: Where AI & the Future of Water Management Software Meet

3
min read
Blog

Register Now

Featured Panelists

Carol Browner

Director, White House Office of Energy and Climate Change Policy (2009-2011)
Administrator, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (1993-2001)
Member of President Biden’s Campaign Climate Engagement Advisory Council

For over a quarter of a century, Carol Browner has been at the forefront of the United States’ environmental and energy polices. As President Clinton’s EPA Administrator, President Obama’s “Energy Czar,” and one of six members of President Biden’s Climate Engagement Advisory Council during his campaign, Browner has negotiated, developed, proposed and implemented U.S. policy affecting global energy, environment, public health, and business matters.

Today, Browner provides her expertise through dual roles in the business and policymaking arenas and serves as a Senior of Counsel at Covington & Burling, as well as board chair of the League of Conservation Voters.

Joone Lopez

General Manager, Moulton Niguel Water District
Founder of the California Data Collaborative

Joone Lopez is the General Manager of the Moulton Niguel Water District, which provides water, wastewater and recycled water services to six cities in South Orange County.

Joone is a Board Member for California WateReuse Association, California Water Data Consortium, Southern California Water Coalition, South Orange County Wastewater Authority, WaterNow Alliance, and Association of California Water Agencies.

Additionally, she serves on The Alfred E. Alquist Seismic Safety Commission, The Water Environment Federation’s Diversity and Inclusion Task Force, UC Irvine Water Leadership Board, Water Education for Latino Leaders (WELL) Board, BAYWORK Advisory Committee for its Digital Worker Initiative, The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People California/Hawaii Executive Committee, The California State University, Fullerton Center for Real Estate Advisory Board, and The Korean American Coalition Board of Directors. She’s also a founding member of The California Data Collaborative, a non-profit representing 21 million Californians, focused on leveraging data and technology to enhance statewide water management policies.

Erica Gies

Journalist & Author

Erica Gies is an award-winning independent journalist and National Geographic Explorer specializing in science and environmental coverage.

Her book Water Always Wins: Thriving in an age of drought and deluge highlights “Slow Water” innovations worldwide that help communities adapt to floods and droughts caused by climate change and human interference.

Erica has appeared as a guest on PBS, Fox News, NPR, and international radio programs, and has spoken at prestigious events including the United Nations Water Conference and the American Geophysical Union’s Frontiers in Hydrology.

Exclusive Presentations By

David Lynch, CEO & Co-Founder of Klir
Dr. Tom Stafford, Chief Product Officer, Klir

Witness the Future of AI & Water Technology

This exclusive event brings together a unique panel featuring some of the most influential names in water and technology to discuss recent AI breakthroughs and what this boiling point moment means for the water industry.

Join us as we unveil the next wave of water management technology through an exclusive look at Klir’s latest AI innovation and product release, an industry first.

Why Attend?

Recent advancements in AI are set to revolutionize the way utilities and organizations manage water all over the world. This event will position you to be ahead of the curve in your water authority, with an exclusive first-look at how this transformative technology will shape the water industry.

You’ll hear from the foremost experts in a spirited discussion on the type of innovation required in water to face the increasing tide of threats. David Lynch, CEO & Co-Founder as well as Dr. Tom Stafford, Chief Product Officer will preview the hotly awaited release of the next major iteration of Klir. Get an exclusive first preview of one of the most advanced software product releases ever seen in water. Water managers, experts, and visionaries will be guided through a first-of-its-kind software that will transform the landscape of water management technology for decades to come.

Register Now

What’s a Rich Text element?

The rich text element allows you to create and format headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, images, and video all in one place instead of having to add and format them individually. Just double-click and easily create content.

Static and dynamic content editing

A rich text element can be used with static or dynamic content. For static content, just drop it into any page and begin editing. For dynamic content, add a rich text field to any collection and then connect a rich text element to that field in the settings panel. Voila!

How to customize formatting for each rich text

Headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, figures, images, and figure captions can all be styled after a class is added to the rich text element using the "When inside of" nested selector system.

What’s a Rich Text element?

The rich text element allows you to create and format headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, images, and video all in one place instead of having to add and format them individually. Just double-click and easily create content.

Static and dynamic content editing

A rich text element can be used with static or dynamic content. For static content, just drop it into any page and begin editing. For dynamic content, add a rich text field to any collection and then connect a rich text element to that field in the settings panel. Voila!

How to customize formatting for each rich text

Headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, figures, images, and figure captions can all be styled after a class is added to the rich text element using the "When inside of" nested selector system.

What’s a Rich Text element?

The rich text element allows you to create and format headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, images, and video all in one place instead of having to add and format them individually. Just double-click and easily create content.

Static and dynamic content editing

A rich text element can be used with static or dynamic content. For static content, just drop it into any page and begin editing. For dynamic content, add a rich text field to any collection and then connect a rich text element to that field in the settings panel. Voila!

How to customize formatting for each rich text

Headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, figures, images, and figure captions can all be styled after a class is added to the rich text element using the "When inside of" nested selector system.

What’s a Rich Text element?

The rich text element allows you to create and format headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, images, and video all in one place instead of having to add and format them individually. Just double-click and easily create content.

Static and dynamic content editing

A rich text element can be used with static or dynamic content. For static content, just drop it into any page and begin editing. For dynamic content, add a rich text field to any collection and then connect a rich text element to that field in the settings panel. Voila!

How to customize formatting for each rich text

Headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, figures, images, and figure captions can all be styled after a class is added to the rich text element using the "When inside of" nested selector system.

What’s a Rich Text element?

The rich text element allows you to create and format headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, images, and video all in one place instead of having to add and format them individually. Just double-click and easily create content.

Static and dynamic content editing

A rich text element can be used with static or dynamic content. For static content, just drop it into any page and begin editing. For dynamic content, add a rich text field to any collection and then connect a rich text element to that field in the settings panel. Voila!

How to customize formatting for each rich text

Headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, figures, images, and figure captions can all be styled after a class is added to the rich text element using the "When inside of" nested selector system.

What’s a Rich Text element?

The rich text element allows you to create and format headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, images, and video all in one place instead of having to add and format them individually. Just double-click and easily create content.

Static and dynamic content editing

A rich text element can be used with static or dynamic content. For static content, just drop it into any page and begin editing. For dynamic content, add a rich text field to any collection and then connect a rich text element to that field in the settings panel. Voila!

How to customize formatting for each rich text

Headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, figures, images, and figure captions can all be styled after a class is added to the rich text element using the "When inside of" nested selector system.

What’s a Rich Text element?

The rich text element allows you to create and format headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, images, and video all in one place instead of having to add and format them individually. Just double-click and easily create content.

Static and dynamic content editing

A rich text element can be used with static or dynamic content. For static content, just drop it into any page and begin editing. For dynamic content, add a rich text field to any collection and then connect a rich text element to that field in the settings panel. Voila!

How to customize formatting for each rich text

Headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, figures, images, and figure captions can all be styled after a class is added to the rich text element using the "When inside of" nested selector system.

What’s a Rich Text element?

The rich text element allows you to create and format headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, images, and video all in one place instead of having to add and format them individually. Just double-click and easily create content.

Static and dynamic content editing

A rich text element can be used with static or dynamic content. For static content, just drop it into any page and begin editing. For dynamic content, add a rich text field to any collection and then connect a rich text element to that field in the settings panel. Voila!

How to customize formatting for each rich text

Headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, figures, images, and figure captions can all be styled after a class is added to the rich text element using the "When inside of" nested selector system.

What’s a Rich Text element?

The rich text element allows you to create and format headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, images, and video all in one place instead of having to add and format them individually. Just double-click and easily create content.

Static and dynamic content editing

A rich text element can be used with static or dynamic content. For static content, just drop it into any page and begin editing. For dynamic content, add a rich text field to any collection and then connect a rich text element to that field in the settings panel. Voila!

How to customize formatting for each rich text

Headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, figures, images, and figure captions can all be styled after a class is added to the rich text element using the "When inside of" nested selector system.

Guides

Building the Utility of the Future

10
min read
Guides

Executive Summary

Digitization holds a lot of promise for the future of water, but it also poses a challenge for administrators managing the flood of data coming out of our drinking and wastewater systems.

Spreadsheet overload, ‘too many apps’ and uneven digitization are a big problem, particularly for compliance managers tracking increasingly complicated regulations. Wrangling that data into a workable system is the most important step utilities can take to realize their 20-year digital strategies.

This report builds on interviews with dozens of employees at ten water utilities in the United States, Canada and Australia ranging in size from 20 to 1,000 employees. The utilities did not sponsor the report or pay for inclusion—they were selected because they represent compelling case studies for how software can drive utility management forward.

Showing how getting the ‘basics’ of data management right can unlock previously unrealized operational powers, we look at how organizations like DC Water are leveraging sound data practices to overcome administrative paralysis and build the utility of the future.

Finally, we survey the next 20 years of water utility management, which promises to be shaped by everything from wastewater surveillance, to PFAS, to biosolids, to direct potable reuse (DPR)—each of which will only make getting compliance data under control more important to securing the future of water.

Foreword

As someone at the forefront of moving the needle on the future of water, I’m so excited and encouraged by the perspective and findings surfaced in ‘Building the Utility of the Future.’

There’s an enormous opportunity in our industry for community building and developing a shared understanding of the challenges our sector will face over the next 20 years. I call it an ‘opportunity’ because communicating our goals to groups outside of the water industry—particularly the legislators responsible for funding and signing the future of water into law—is a missing link that is the critical catalyst for change.

We can talk about green infrastructure, business development, and public private partnerships, and bathe ourselves in greenwashing. But until we find ways to communicate our challenges and criteria for success in a way that’s compelling and easy for policymakers to understand, that momentum is not going to happen. Until we clearly articulate the insights powered by integrated data, our sector simply won’t be able to secure the funding and goodwill needed to deploy these technologies on a large scale.

Service providers like Klir are the lynchpin of the solution here, because technology is only one leg of the stool—managing the change of people & process in this new way of working is the prerequisite for success.

It’s not that we are short on data as an industry, rather short of the right access to the right data at the right time with the right volume and quality. Only then can we turn up the heat to articulately demand what is needed to fix the wicked challenges facing water and run a successful utility over the next 20 years.

As it stands now, our industry is fragmented, few of us have a clear and compelling vision for modernization beyond engineering schematics, and most leaders are focused on technical challenges with little appetite for salesmanship or storytelling. We need to be able to connect the dots, legislate certain outcomes, and commit to making decisions about our capital infrastructure for the fiscal year based on sound data.

Cementing these standards will be impossible without a shared understanding of what our utilities must look like in the future. ‘Building the Utility of the Future’ is a crucial step towards that goal, shedding light on the various data management tools and strategies that the world’s largest utilities are using to bring water into the 21st century.

Section 1: Why Compliance Is the Ideal Starting Point for Digital Transformation

Software and the internet have transformed the way we work. Even smaller rural water utilities that lack sophisticated IT systems now use digital tools to communicate, manage tasks and report sampling results to regulators.

There’s just one problem: while other sectors have forged ahead and embraced purpose-built solutions, water utilities have been slow to adopt. It can take decades before a proven technology is considered “mainstream” enough, forcing staff to come up with their own solutions and leading to uneven digitization.

Before Denver Water underwent an IT audit and consolidation six years ago, Chief Operations and Maintenance Officer Tom Roode says the utility had struggled with “too many” point software solutions popping up across the organization for decades.

“For example, Maximo: it got started in one area, say our trades shop, or one treatment plant. And then over a 20 year period people would adopt it at a different treatment plant, or in the pump stations, and it kind of organically grew.”

This “organic” approach to choosing work or asset management software can create problems, especially when the solution your trades shop picks (Maximo) is different from the one your IT department and fleet staff pick (Workfront).

For Compliance Managers who rely on data from virtually every other department to do their jobs, the resulting patchwork of tools is particularly frustrating to work with—worse, even, than the piles of paper that used to clutter their desks.

But there’s a silver lining to the fact that so much data is piling up in our compliance departments: it also makes them the perfect entry point for real, strategic digital transformation initiatives.

Fighting Administrative Paralysis

As new criteria and guidance are constantly revised around issues like PFAS and LSLs, compliance managers find themselves sifting through more data than ever before.

Lacking a dedicated system to manage all of the deadlines, tasks and data her staff were responsible for, one Compliance Manager we spoke with at a mid-sized California utility took matters into her own hands and built an elaborate Excel “cheat sheet”—a monumental task at an organization that had more than 300 construction projects on the go at the time.

Cheat sheets are a popular stopgap at water utilities today, but using a spreadsheet as a database is time consuming, creates a silo around the individual responsible for it, and can be outright dangerous if anything ever slips through the cracks.

“It’s so hard being just one person with all the knowledge,” the Compliance Manager said. “Every project is different because they have different needs. Each project was trying to do it on their own, [but] they didn’t know regulatory compliance. There were knowledge-sharing gaps between departments.”

Data Icebergs

While it’s popular to blame silos, the iceberg might offer an even better analogy for what’s going on at utilities today.

Some crucial data might be visible at the surface, but a vast majority of the most valuable information is below the water line, hidden from view and ready to cause problems.

Icebergs aren’t limited to large organizations either. General Manager Piret Harmon, who manages a team of about 20 people at the Scotts Valley Water District (SVWD), which serves 10,700 customers across 4,200 service connections, routinely finds herself frustrated by data icebergs.

“The water consumption data is here, the water billing data is here, the production data is here, and water quality data is here. And every week there’s another report due, and it’s up to me or another person to sit down again and sort through it all. It’s a very manual process.”

At a large utility responsible for thousands of different permits, that can leave Compliance Managers overloaded by paperwork and constantly firefighting. Any single data point might be buried in:

  • Spreadsheets, created by individual personnel and saved locally on their computers
  • Outdated printouts kept on file
  • Emails saved in an individual’s inbox
  • Handwritten log sheets kept onsite
  • Customer information systems

“I just couldn’t put my arms all around it, especially at the beginning of the year when it gets busy with permit renewals,” said another Compliance Manager we spoke to.

“I’d have to let our lab managers know, ‘Hey, sorry, my bad. I usually give you two weeks’ notice that I need this data, but I need it tomorrow.’”

#1 Moving Towards Self-Service

Utility customers and workers alike already live in a world filled with internet-enabled self-serve platforms—to consume their media, communicate with colleagues, and order groceries.

As Piret Harmon from SVWD points out, utilities are under increasing pressure to build experiences that are as easy to use and intuitive as the ones we encounter when ordering toilet paper on our smartphones.

“We are trying to actually empower our customers to get more things done without us. For example, why do people have to call us so we can find a piece of paper for them? Why can’t it be like, ‘no, go and browse for it yourself?’”

#2 Bracing for the ‘Gray Tsunami’

Water utilities across North America face huge personnel crises as a generation of experienced workers prepare for retirement, with institutional knowledge walking out the door with them.

As workers prepare to retire, it’s more important than ever for utilities to document processes and institutional knowledge so new employees can train for the job properly.

“I’ve got people about to retire, and also recent college grads. I’ve somehow gotta get these people ready for very technical positions very quickly,” one Compliance Manager told us.

#3 Getting New Infrastructure Funded and Built

The less time a compliance department spends chasing down regulatory information, the more time they have to serve internal customers and help them usher large-scale projects through complicated regulatory processes.

“[I want to] be able to better serve our other customers, like Engineering. Having more time to support them as they navigate complicated, sometimes confusing regulations would make their jobs so much easier,” said one Compliance Manager.

“If we could free up some of our time, that would allow us to give them the consultation that they need to navigate new permits for new projects. We could be a better service and have more time to help them navigate all of those regulations.”

#4 Responding to Water Quality Issues Quickly and Building Trust

When customers’ water quality is threatened and regulatory bodies are demanding up-to-date information, time is of the essence.

“We’re just beginning to dive into the world of letting customers report with web mapping applications,” says Adam McKnight, a former analyst with Halifax Water.

In the event of a water main break, rather than solely relying on calls from customers, McKnight’s department has given residents the ability to file their own reports online. It’s faster and more efficient than before.

“They pin the dropper point on the map, and we can go out and we can investigate,” says McKnight. “That becomes a part of our water main break response. That’s one emergency situation where it’s really beneficial having all the data right there.”

#5 Bringing Utility Management Into the 21st Century

Overstretched Compliance Managers might have it the worst when it comes to administrative overload, but important data is pooling across every department.

A single large wastewater treatment plant (0.8-3 million population served) can generate upwards of 30,000 data points, most of which pile up in data graveyards: employee hard drives, OneDrive, the utility’s servers, etc.

When managers look out across their organizations today, they see the tops of numerous icebergs with no way of knowing what’s underneath.

To move forward with some of the more exciting innovations in water technology like AI and predictive analytics, large utilities will need to do the hard work of taming these icebergs with a sound data management strategy. And developing objective metrics for utility performance will be crucial as utilities approach state and federal governments for more funding.

Section 2: From Asset to Event Management: Turning Software Into an Essential Operations and Maintenance Tool

Operations and maintenance leaders at water utilities are faced with a seemingly impossible task: maintain massive, complex and at times century-old drinking, waste and stormwater infrastructure, often with limited resources and a shoestring budget.

In many cases infrastructure is breaking down faster than it’s being renewed, while economic and population growth puts further stress on existing systems, leading to frustrating situations for utility leaders.

As Piret Harmon from SVWD puts it, “Why are you building if you’re asking me to conserve? How is that even in the same sentence?”

With a problem so deeply rooted in physical infrastructure and engineering challenges, taming a utility’s data might not be the first solution that comes to the minds of utility leaders.

That is until you look at the way leading utilities like DC Water are managing their data—not just to cut down on administrative work, but to make the job of the operator easier, drive real change in their physical systems, and anticipate and fix asset risks before they become asset disasters.

The Typical Utility ‘Stack’

In addition to operating one of the world’s most advanced wastewater treatment plants at Blue Plains, DC Water has made significant strides in bringing all of their work into the digital sphere properly.

The utility has methodically built and adopted systems to help it decrease administrative workload, create processes that are more self-serve, and lay the groundwork for more sophisticated technologies like predictive analytics.

Like many similarly-sized utilities, DC Water sorts its systems into three general buckets:

  1. Its Core Underlying Systems that manage assets and track internal work using IBM Maximo and ArcGIS, as well as payroll and finance which is handled by Oracle.
  2. Its Customer Information Systems, through which it manages 130,000 metered connections.
  3. Its Third Party Portal, nicknamed the ‘Plumber Portal,’ a collection of contractor-facing applications through which the utility manages programs like Backflow Inspections and Grease Abatement.

Getting as many contractors, employees and customers plugged into and using this system has been a big priority for DC Water’s IT lead Tom Kuczynski—and a big achievement.

While DC Water’s shiny, futuristic HQO headquarters has a mailroom, it might not need one for long: 70,000 of the utility’s customers have signed up for online accounts, and about 50,000 currently receive an e-bill.

Thanks to the ‘Report a Problem’ app, customers can submit issues online even if they don’t have an online account.

Dispatching plumbers for inspections is also now an entirely digital process handled through the Plumber Portal, which automatically generates and sends work orders to Maximo.

“It’s a lot more efficient for us to manage any information, and it integrates better with our core systems. So if you need a meter installed or a service connection completed, you can send us requests that automatically generate a work order in our system,” says Kuczynski.

At-A-Glance: Utilities Featured in the Report

The Disaster Response Challenge

DC Water’s IT systems faced a new challenge in September of 2021 when Northeastern DC experienced a “microburst”—an extreme climate-change fuelled weather event concentrated in one area.

“It didn’t rain at all here [in the south], but we had six inches of rain in northeast DC that caused major flooding in the area,” recalls Kuczynski.

The utility’s 24/7 helpline and ‘Report a Problem’ apps immediately lit up as numerous customers’ homes flooded during the microburst, and DC Water’s crews had to respond quickly.

Suddenly there were three groups of people sitting in three different locations who had to work closely together:

  1. The pumping operations crew who sit in the pumping station right outside of HQO and run the sewer system.
  2. The plant workers four and a half miles away at Blue Plains WWTP, where all of the water pumped through the system eventually ends up.
  3. The customer service crews on the third floor of HQO who monitor the help line and dispatch crews.

Communication between the three groups became tricky when multiple work orders were generated for the same neighborhood or geographical area.

All three would have to rely on a fourth party, the foreman in that area, to know that those work orders were all related to the same problem and avoid sending multiple crews.

“We didn’t really have a comprehensive understanding of what was really happening across our physical collection system and our customer system: none of those systems talked to each other back before September. We needed a better way to manage that event in a more comprehensive way,” says Kuczynski.

Enter the Events Management System

Working with a local vendor, DC Water set out to build an application that would knit the information in its Core Systems and Customer Systems together into one seamless, real-time emergency response dashboard.

The result was the Events Management System, an award-winning dashboard-based application that gave operators sitting in the DC Water war room access to:

Real-time feeds that they can use to monitor the severity of an incident.

An incident tracking tool that integrated with the utility’s call center and customer information system.

Information about all crews and vehicles in the field, making it easier to allocate resources to an event quickly.

“This one pane of glass now gives you all of that information in a single view,” says Kuczynski. In the event of another microburst, crews could be dispatched and managed seamlessly using a single user interface.

“So they can say, ‘These five work orders and incidents can all go to one crew.’ And they circle and drag them (on screen) to create a work order. They can literally do what they did before in seconds compared to minutes.”

In an emergency situation where five new calls might come in by the time you’re done attending to one, that’s a game changer.

Proactive Utility Management in Action

DC Water’s experience with the EMS is a concrete example of how sound data management and connecting disparate data sets can unlock new levels of efficiency, responsiveness and insight at a water utility.

It shows how there’s a direct line between the less glamorous aspects of digital transformation—pushing customers to sign up for online accounts and building a reliable customer database, for example—and the more exciting, transformational technologies like the EMS.

Take Pipe Sleuth, another application DC Water built with an external vendor, which uses neural networks and advanced image processing to analyze photos of pipes to grade them based on condition and report potential pipeline defects.

Kuczynski says the ability to better predict main breaks could be a game changer for the utility, from both a service and a cost standpoint.

“You eliminate service interruptions to customers, you eliminate street closures, but you also reduce the cost of a repair—$50,000 for a small break vs. up to $1,500,000 to fix a 36- inch transmission main.”

Section 3: Using Better Data To Tackle The Resource Recovery Challenge

Getting rid of data icebergs and leveraging compliance and operational data for insights will be crucial for bringing utilities into the digital age properly. But how does better data management fit into the broader transformation that’s going on at water utilities today?

Let’s stick with the DC Water example a bit longer. Their push to squeeze every last bit of value out of every asset there hasn’t stopped with faster emergency response times.

Blue Drop, a nonprofit LLC spun out of DC Water in 2016 and lead by Kuczynski, has recently started generating revenue by renting out the utility’s headquarters for events, leasing surplus cell tower space, licensing its EMS and PipeSleuth software to other utilities, and selling a Class A biosolids fertilizer product called Bloom.

“You can’t keep raising prices, right? There gets to be a point in time where the cost of service exceeds the ability of the customers to pay. So you’ve got to figure out ways to do it better, faster, cheaper,” says Kuczinski.

It’s an unavoidable fact that most utilities are going to have to start looking for additional cost savings and sources of revenue to offset rate increases. For most, that means aggressively pursuing resource recovery: the process of extracting and recycling as much of what passes through a wastewater system as possible.

Better Biosolids With Better Data

Disposing waste sludge is an expensive process, and getting better at biosolids—by reducing the amount of biosolids that are thrown out and increasing the amount of Class A material that can be sold—is a huge cost-saving and revenue opportunity for utilities.

According to Urban Utilities General Manager of Resource Recovery Peter Donaghy, mapping out our water and wastewater systems and developing a better understanding of how they work using better data is one of the most effective methods we have to improve the biosolids process.

His team recently used real-time analytics to discover that the way effluent moves through the system’s pumping stations could affect biosolids quality. As they worked through the biosolids system with a fine-toothed comb, they realized sewer network operators could have a massive role in biosolids quality.

“As soon as we saw [a contaminant] coming in at the head of a treatment plant, there were a certain number of pump stations we could inhibit that could slow that process and give us time to react.”

By allowing the pumping station to slowly fill up, Donaghy’s team could buy themselves an hour or two to send a worker to that pump station to test it for undesirable effluent and potentially stave off contamination.

“Inhibiting a pump station is not something you’d think is part of managing biosolids, it’s way off in the network. Some of the guys managing those pump stations wouldn’t even know what biosolids are.”

Direct Potable Reuse: The ‘Holy Grail’ of Resource Recovery

While generating additional revenue from a utility’s assets and recycling biosolids waste is a step in the right direction, recycled water continues to loom on the horizon as the biggest resource recovery prize.

Less than a fraction of a percent of all of our wastewater is ‘officially’ recycled back into the drinking water system today. But cities like Atlanta, Philadelphia, New Orleans, and Washington D.C. already draw their drinking water downstream from wastewater treatment plants.

In fact, of the 32 billion gallons of wastewater discharge the U.S. produces every day, the National Research Council estimates that up to 20 billion might already be re-entering drinking sources downstream.

And as utilities in Colorado, Florida and California take concrete steps towards implementing direct potable reuse (DPR) technologies and new research suggests that treated water might be cleaner than conventional sources, recycled drinking water will play an increasingly large role in the future of water.

Take Los Angeles Sanitation’s ‘Hyperion 2035’ plan, which aims to transform its Hyperion Wastewater Treatment Plant—one of the largest in North America—into a fully DPR operation by 2035.

Hyperion is a colossal 144-acre facility, with a sprawling network of streets that officials often describe as a city unto itself. To move to DPR, close to half of the existing footprint of the plant will need to be rebuilt or overhauled in some way with a raft of technologies like microfiltration and ultrafiltration, new biological processes and reverse osmosis.

But to hear LA Sanitation officials describe it, Hyperion 2035 is just as much about new treatment technologies and engineering challenges as it is about building (and in some cases, rebuilding) trust in recycled drinking water.

DPR’s Compliance Challenge

As utilities pursue DPR, the legacy of anti-potable reuse sentiment and California’s doomed efforts to start introducing DPR in the 1990s looms large in the minds of utility leaders and regulators.

It’s clear that the margin for error with DPR will be razor-thin, and building confidence in water quality and compliance data will be more important for DPR projects than it ever was for traditional water and wastewater utilities.

“The whole issue of public confidence is that very, very fragile link that keeps the system going. That’s something we are very aware of and try very hard to maintain,” says Pierre van Rensburg, strategic executive for urban and transport planning at Windhoek, Namibia.

That city built the world’s first DPR plant in 1968, which today produces purified water for the city’s 400,000 residents. Van Rensburg says that no illness has ever been directly linked to its operations in the decades since its opening.

“I think if there is ever one incident that could be linked back to the plant, the public would lose all confidence and simply refuse to use water from that source and that would severely taint our supply options.”

Conclusion

The Future of Water is Compliance

So what does this all mean for utilities? Firstly, it confirms something we’ve suspected for a long time at Klir: that many water utilities are struggling with digitization ‘basics,’ and they won’t be able to move forward with their ambitious 20 year strategies before they get them right.

As EPA and states make big strides to tackle issues like PFAS, LSLs, drought and increasing pressure on water systems, keeping up with regulations is only going to become a more burdensome process using existing tools.

At the same time, as utilities pursue efficiencies and more ambitious resource recovery projects while recycling or reclaiming more of their water, trust in the integrity of their data is only going to become more important, not less.

So how can utilities decrease the margin of error and build trust in their data? It all comes back to those ‘basics:’ building a single source of truth for regulatory data, breaking down icebergs and building certainty around a utility’s compliance data.

Wrangling water quality and permit data into a workable system and empowering Compliance Managers with better software tools might seem like a purely administrative challenge today. But it could very well turn out to be the single most important step utilities take in their digital transformation journey.

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Webinar

Backflow Webinar: Future-Proof Your Legacy

3
min read
Webinar

Backflow to the Future

Backflow prevention and cross-connection control programs are an essential part of maintaining clean and safe drinking water–but they’re also a huge undertaking.

In this webinar, backflow expert Chris Mayhew will share his perspective and experience as a backflow contractor, and offer strategies for how utilities and backflow operators can work together to implement a backflow program that will withstand the tests of time.

Webinar Recording

Meet Chris Mayhew

As the self-proclaimed “Backflow Whisperer”, Chris has more than 20 years of experience as an independent contractor implementing backflow prevention and cross-connection control programs for other contractors, municipalities, engineers, and other agencies.

For more than 8 years, Chris has been the President of Backflow Services, Inc., where he provides various backflow prevention and cross-connection control services to customers and purveyors.

Chris is also the former president of the Virginia chapter of the American Backflow Prevention Association, and his experience in backflow program management, inspections, and instruction give him a privileged perspective on the state of backflow prevention in our water systems.

“Protecting the water supply one backflow connection at a time.”

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What’s a Rich Text element?

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A rich text element can be used with static or dynamic content. For static content, just drop it into any page and begin editing. For dynamic content, add a rich text field to any collection and then connect a rich text element to that field in the settings panel. Voila!

How to customize formatting for each rich text

Headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, figures, images, and figure captions can all be styled after a class is added to the rich text element using the "When inside of" nested selector system.

What’s a Rich Text element?

The rich text element allows you to create and format headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, images, and video all in one place instead of having to add and format them individually. Just double-click and easily create content.

Static and dynamic content editing

A rich text element can be used with static or dynamic content. For static content, just drop it into any page and begin editing. For dynamic content, add a rich text field to any collection and then connect a rich text element to that field in the settings panel. Voila!

How to customize formatting for each rich text

Headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, figures, images, and figure captions can all be styled after a class is added to the rich text element using the "When inside of" nested selector system.

What’s a Rich Text element?

The rich text element allows you to create and format headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, images, and video all in one place instead of having to add and format them individually. Just double-click and easily create content.

Static and dynamic content editing

A rich text element can be used with static or dynamic content. For static content, just drop it into any page and begin editing. For dynamic content, add a rich text field to any collection and then connect a rich text element to that field in the settings panel. Voila!

How to customize formatting for each rich text

Headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, figures, images, and figure captions can all be styled after a class is added to the rich text element using the "When inside of" nested selector system.

What’s a Rich Text element?

The rich text element allows you to create and format headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, images, and video all in one place instead of having to add and format them individually. Just double-click and easily create content.

Static and dynamic content editing

A rich text element can be used with static or dynamic content. For static content, just drop it into any page and begin editing. For dynamic content, add a rich text field to any collection and then connect a rich text element to that field in the settings panel. Voila!

How to customize formatting for each rich text

Headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, figures, images, and figure captions can all be styled after a class is added to the rich text element using the "When inside of" nested selector system.

What’s a Rich Text element?

The rich text element allows you to create and format headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, images, and video all in one place instead of having to add and format them individually. Just double-click and easily create content.

Static and dynamic content editing

A rich text element can be used with static or dynamic content. For static content, just drop it into any page and begin editing. For dynamic content, add a rich text field to any collection and then connect a rich text element to that field in the settings panel. Voila!

How to customize formatting for each rich text

Headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, figures, images, and figure captions can all be styled after a class is added to the rich text element using the "When inside of" nested selector system.

What’s a Rich Text element?

The rich text element allows you to create and format headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, images, and video all in one place instead of having to add and format them individually. Just double-click and easily create content.

Static and dynamic content editing

A rich text element can be used with static or dynamic content. For static content, just drop it into any page and begin editing. For dynamic content, add a rich text field to any collection and then connect a rich text element to that field in the settings panel. Voila!

How to customize formatting for each rich text

Headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, figures, images, and figure captions can all be styled after a class is added to the rich text element using the "When inside of" nested selector system.

Blog

Preparing for the Retirement Wave: How Technology Can Capture Permitting Expertise

7
min read
Blog

How many people on your team are already planning for retirement? The silver tsunami cascading across the industry means that most water utilities are at risk of seeing institutional knowledge walk out the door.

The transition can put serious pressure on your team. This is especially true when it comes to permitting, as employees who carry the essential know-how for specific protocol and day-to-day operations take that expertise with them when they leave.

Fortunately, by using smart, digital tools to document that knowledge and to systemize the permitting process, you can mitigate the risks that come with institutional brain drain.

In this article, you’ll learn how technology can help capture the insights that currently live in employees’ brains so that you can develop a uniform, replicable process for managing permitting across the entire utility.

Why Continuity Planning is Critical for Permitting

When you need essential details about a specific type of permit, but the team member who knew it like the back of their hand has retired, it’s more than an inconvenience.

Not only do you have to dig up, read, and parse the details of the permit; you’re going into the job minus all the hard-earned knowledge that your former team member provided.

And the stakes are high: missing a detail could lead to costly fines, or worse, public health risks. Take wastewater discharge that falls outside of NPDES criteria, which can rack up fines up to $25,000 a day—and that’s for the first offense.

Day-to-day, gaps in institutional knowledge:

  • Eat up time and energy as personnel track down key information
  • Damage morale and lower internal confidence in your organization
  • Lead to patchwork systems that create more chaos later on

Plus, if your organization is mired in legacy software and spreadsheets, you risk alienating a younger generation that is more comfortable working in an online environment.

Where Offline Documents Fall Short

Not all permitting systems are created equal. At many utilities, every manager has their own process for tracking permits. Permit requirements and renewals are tracked across spreadsheets, Word docs, and even on paper. Without a centralized place to see the status of all permits, it’s easy to miss something.

Here are a few common challenges of managing permitting offline:

  • Relying On Memory - Whether it’s knowing the specific criteria required for a specific type of permit; ensuring you’re not running a generator overtime; or getting ahead of permit renewals, so much of the permitting process tends to rely on memory.    
  • Prone to Duplications and Errors - Files hosted locally on individual computers don’t sync up—meaning, that if Employee A makes changes to a spreadsheet, they won’t be reflected in Employee B’s copy. So, either A needs to send B an update, or mistakes are going to happen.
  • Lack of Transparency - If your colleague were to win the lotto and not show up for work on Monday, how would you know to pick up where they left off? Managing permitting tasks offline often means relying on a lot of guesses, assumptions, and blind trust.
  • Not Standardized -Team members often create their own private documents and spreadsheets to track tasks and manage information overload. Once that team member has retired, interpreting their files can become a headache.
  • Files Are Easily Lost or Corrupted - Local files are fragile. Even if you have your own in-house servers, they’re at risk of damage (natural disasters, malfunctions, negligence) or theft. If your entire organization’s knowledge base is hosted on a humming box kept in a storage closet, you’re much more vulnerable than you would be keeping your information in the cloud.

For many utilities, offline systems may work for now. But as soon as a new team member comes onboard, and needs to get up to speed, they have a massive task on their hands.

If your permitting system is leaving you at risk of missing something, it’s time to start looking at software solutions.

How Digital Permitting Software Supports Continuity

When your employee ‘Mike’ is the only one who knows how to deal with a specific type of permit, or when the status of renewals is tracked on a spreadsheet on someone’s desktop, it creates risk for your organization.

Cloud-based software can help you systemize your permitting processes, making it easier to manage day-to-day tasks, interpret requirements, and flag abnormalities—all while ensuring your team will continue succeeding well into the future.

And, since so many teams in your utility have a stake in permitting, adopting a universal system promises to save time, increase collaboration, reduce the risk of error, and create greater visibility at every level of the organization.

Here’s how software can support continuity:

Documenting Institutional Knowledge

A single, unified system can help pass on Mike’s knowledge to other team members.

When a new team member has a question about a permit, or when they need to confirm that all of the requirements are being met, they can turn to your permitting system and get the info they need. That saves time, and reduces the risk of serious errors.

Reducing Risk

When it comes to permitting, tiny oversights can have big consequences. A generator left running overnight can lead to a six-figure penalty and a damaged relationship with the regulator. Digital tools can eliminate these kinds of risks by proactively triggering alerts for deadlines, exceedances, renewals, and more.

Plus, an online system allows for increased transparency which introduces checks and balances within the team, so that one person isn’t responsible for catching every single mistake.

Managing Workflows

Managing permits means tracking tasks, sticking to standards, and creating reports. Modern water utility software (like Klir) automates many parts of the process, while setting up fail-safes to make sure everything is completed on time. Instead of always double checking that you have all the information you need, or that you’ve checked every task off a list, you can focus on managing your organization.

Simplifying Permit Renewals

With all your permitting information in one place, it’s easy to generate reports, visualize data, and plan. Rather than waiting for a tidal wave of permit renewals to roll in, a comprehensive system lets you get a bird’s eye view of the work ahead, and allocate resources as needed.

What to Look For in Permitting Software

Permitting software has the potential to make your job easier, reduce the likelihood of errors, and ensure the longevity of your organization.

But what kind of software is right for you? Here are four key criteria to look for:

Cloud-Based

A solution based in the cloud, accessible via web browser, wipes out a lot of headaches by creating a single source of truth that can be accessed anytime. There’s no need to install and update software, and it’s easy to share info    between team members without resorting to email. Plus, thanks to encryption and off-site servers, your data is secure.

Purpose-built

General enterprise software, meant to be used by a wide swath of different companies and organizations, often requires customization that’s not only costly, it often means sacrificing on functionality. Aim to use a software    that is specifically designed for your needs.

Ease of installation

On-premise software systems typically charge a large fee up front to install locally on your servers. Not only does this cost you more money out of pocket, but it slows down the entire process of getting your system up and running.

Try to choose a system that is easy to install or configure, and won’t leave you in the lurch for months as technicians work on it.

Hands-on support

When your whole organization relies on software for permitting, you shouldn’t be left to your own devices if problems come up. Make sure your software solution offers technical support from real, live humans with experience in water,    who can answer questions particular to your industry.

Get Permitting Peace of Mind With Klir

Klir lets you manage every permit detail and requirement in one place so your entire team always has the information they need. Curious to see how it works and what it can do for your team? Learn more or book a demo today.

What’s a Rich Text element?

The rich text element allows you to create and format headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, images, and video all in one place instead of having to add and format them individually. Just double-click and easily create content.

Static and dynamic content editing

A rich text element can be used with static or dynamic content. For static content, just drop it into any page and begin editing. For dynamic content, add a rich text field to any collection and then connect a rich text element to that field in the settings panel. Voila!

How to customize formatting for each rich text

Headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, figures, images, and figure captions can all be styled after a class is added to the rich text element using the "When inside of" nested selector system.

What’s a Rich Text element?

The rich text element allows you to create and format headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, images, and video all in one place instead of having to add and format them individually. Just double-click and easily create content.

Static and dynamic content editing

A rich text element can be used with static or dynamic content. For static content, just drop it into any page and begin editing. For dynamic content, add a rich text field to any collection and then connect a rich text element to that field in the settings panel. Voila!

How to customize formatting for each rich text

Headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, figures, images, and figure captions can all be styled after a class is added to the rich text element using the "When inside of" nested selector system.

What’s a Rich Text element?

The rich text element allows you to create and format headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, images, and video all in one place instead of having to add and format them individually. Just double-click and easily create content.

Static and dynamic content editing

A rich text element can be used with static or dynamic content. For static content, just drop it into any page and begin editing. For dynamic content, add a rich text field to any collection and then connect a rich text element to that field in the settings panel. Voila!

How to customize formatting for each rich text

Headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, figures, images, and figure captions can all be styled after a class is added to the rich text element using the "When inside of" nested selector system.

What’s a Rich Text element?

The rich text element allows you to create and format headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, images, and video all in one place instead of having to add and format them individually. Just double-click and easily create content.

Static and dynamic content editing

A rich text element can be used with static or dynamic content. For static content, just drop it into any page and begin editing. For dynamic content, add a rich text field to any collection and then connect a rich text element to that field in the settings panel. Voila!

How to customize formatting for each rich text

Headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, figures, images, and figure captions can all be styled after a class is added to the rich text element using the "When inside of" nested selector system.

What’s a Rich Text element?

The rich text element allows you to create and format headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, images, and video all in one place instead of having to add and format them individually. Just double-click and easily create content.

Static and dynamic content editing

A rich text element can be used with static or dynamic content. For static content, just drop it into any page and begin editing. For dynamic content, add a rich text field to any collection and then connect a rich text element to that field in the settings panel. Voila!

How to customize formatting for each rich text

Headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, figures, images, and figure captions can all be styled after a class is added to the rich text element using the "When inside of" nested selector system.

What’s a Rich Text element?

The rich text element allows you to create and format headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, images, and video all in one place instead of having to add and format them individually. Just double-click and easily create content.

Static and dynamic content editing

A rich text element can be used with static or dynamic content. For static content, just drop it into any page and begin editing. For dynamic content, add a rich text field to any collection and then connect a rich text element to that field in the settings panel. Voila!

How to customize formatting for each rich text

Headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, figures, images, and figure captions can all be styled after a class is added to the rich text element using the "When inside of" nested selector system.

What’s a Rich Text element?

The rich text element allows you to create and format headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, images, and video all in one place instead of having to add and format them individually. Just double-click and easily create content.

Static and dynamic content editing

A rich text element can be used with static or dynamic content. For static content, just drop it into any page and begin editing. For dynamic content, add a rich text field to any collection and then connect a rich text element to that field in the settings panel. Voila!

How to customize formatting for each rich text

Headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, figures, images, and figure captions can all be styled after a class is added to the rich text element using the "When inside of" nested selector system.

What’s a Rich Text element?

The rich text element allows you to create and format headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, images, and video all in one place instead of having to add and format them individually. Just double-click and easily create content.

Static and dynamic content editing

A rich text element can be used with static or dynamic content. For static content, just drop it into any page and begin editing. For dynamic content, add a rich text field to any collection and then connect a rich text element to that field in the settings panel. Voila!

How to customize formatting for each rich text

Headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, figures, images, and figure captions can all be styled after a class is added to the rich text element using the "When inside of" nested selector system.

What’s a Rich Text element?

The rich text element allows you to create and format headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, images, and video all in one place instead of having to add and format them individually. Just double-click and easily create content.

Static and dynamic content editing

A rich text element can be used with static or dynamic content. For static content, just drop it into any page and begin editing. For dynamic content, add a rich text field to any collection and then connect a rich text element to that field in the settings panel. Voila!

How to customize formatting for each rich text

Headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, figures, images, and figure captions can all be styled after a class is added to the rich text element using the "When inside of" nested selector system.

Blog

How to Overcome NPDES Challenges: Best Management Practices

7
min read
Blog

Managing permits under the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) is complex and high stakes for water utilities.

Ensuring NPDES compliance at your utility is not just important—it’s critical. While some discharges are routine and controlled, others are unplanned and can come up suddenly, such as combined sewer overflows, pipe breaks, and water main leaks. Either way, under NPDES they must be properly documented and reported. Failing to meet these requirements can result in hefty regulatory fines. In some situations, mismanaging NPDES compliance could even lead to a jail sentence.

What is NPDES?

The Clean Water Act prohibits anybody from discharging pollutants through a point source (such as a water or wastewater utility), into a “water of the United States” unless they have an NPDES permit. The permit includes limits on what you can discharge, stipulates monitoring and reporting requirements, and outlines other provisions to protect water quality and human health.

Achieving NPDES Coverage in California

Managing water pollutants is a huge concern for water and wastewater utilities. In California, it's a particularly big issue.

“Unlike some other states, we don’t have a lot of water. When utilities discharge into limited receiving waters, any pollutants are more likely to have an environmental impact,” says Francois Rodigari, Director of Corporate Sustainability & Innovation for San Jose Water.

Calero reservoir, Santa Clara county, California

Despite this, for years drinking water utilities did not qualify for existing discharge permits—even for routine reasons.

“In some cases, the regional water quality control board fined utilities for discharge incidents, even though there was no NPDES permit available to them,” he adds. “While most drinking water utilities followed the general NPDES requirements, we didn’t have permit coverage and consequently we weren’t doing any reporting. Our utilities were at risk.”

Rodigari was Director of Water Quality and Environmental Services when San Jose Water decided it would seek out better ways to manage NPDES. His team was instrumental in developing the Statewide General NPDES Permit for Drinking Water System Discharges to Waters of the United States, which the California State Water Board adopted in November 2014. Today, all utilities in the state with 1,000 connections or more are required to apply for an NPDES permit (unless they qualify under another permit). 

Ensuring NPDES Compliance Through Best Management Practices

With a state-wide solution, it’s now easier for utilities to make NPDES permit applications. For some utilities, NPDES has also underscored the importance of building and maintaining an accessible database.

“For NPDES compliance, we have to track and report our discharges when they’re over a certain volume,” says Rodigari. “There are annual reporting requirements, too. It’s a lot of information to manage.”

To support the state’s water utilities as they navigate NPDES, the San Jose Water Environmental Compliance group also led an effort to update the Best Management Practices Manual (BMP) for Drinking Water System Releases for the California-Nevada Section of the American Water Works Association. The manual provides directions on how to minimize and handle the number of planned and unplanned discharges.

How to Handle Common NPDES Challenges:

For many utilities, moving toward NPDES compliance is part of an ongoing commitment to implementing best management practices. For others, it means taking a brand new approach to managing data and meeting reporting requirements. 

Wherever you are in the process, achieving NPDES compliance probably means your utility will be going through some changes. 

With this in mind, we asked Rodigari to share some of his team’s best practices for improving utility performance and making NPDES reporting easier.

1. An effective data management system is key to achieving ISO 14001 standards

Achieving compliance in line with ISO 14001 standards means setting up an effective environmental management system. The requirements are extensive, Rodigari says. “Most utilities are actively working toward meeting the management framework, but it remains a complex process.”

Rodigari says choosing a secure, robust compliance system to manage your utility’s data is a critical part of the ISO 14001 journey.

“As an industry, we can no longer depend on spreadsheets,” he says. “The environmental and economic risks are too great.”

NPDES reporting requires utilities to track permit obligations, discharges, reporting, and fines. With the right platform in place, you can achieve compliance, but your utility can also raise its game. “When you can visualize your data and reports, it’s easier to see the ways you can improve your utility’s performance,” he says.

2. Track Hazardous Waste Sites Assessment Data for Reporting—and Future Projects

As a 150-year-old utility, San Jose Water often learns about legacy sites through site assessments for construction, renovation, or facility retirement. 

“When we complete an assessment, we generate a lot of data about the soil and hazmat that we might not have already known existed on the site,” Rodigari says. 

San Jose Water uses this information to prepare bidding documents. “Contractors need to know about any precautions they need to take during demolition and disposal,” he says. 

If the findings require action, the utility might map the site and construct barriers to ensure runoff doesn’t migrate to another property. In other cases, the utility works with Santa Clara County and the Department of Environmental Health to propose a cleanup and remediation plan. 

Furthermore, the utility maps the sites to protect workers. “If future work will disturb the soil, workers need to know,” Rodigari says.

With more than 100 properties, San Jose Water can’t manage everything with individual engineering reports, Rodigari adds. “We need our data to be readily available and easy to retrieve. It’s critical for managers to have that information.”

3. Keep a Central Record of Hazmat Manifests

A utility is required—and has an obligation—to manage hazardous materials manifests in order to minimize liability from cradle to grave, Rodigari says. “When you have multiple entities generating and disposing of waste on your utility’s behalf, you need a system that allows everyone to report uniformly.” 

In California there are tax requirements associated with generating hazmat and solid waste. Manifests play a key role in the ability to draw an inventory and understand its fate, he adds, so it’s important to store them in a platform that is easy to query.

4.  Remove the Burden of Gathering Environmental and Compliance Data with Automated Reports and Alerts

Automating NPDES reports can lift a huge administrative burden for a utility. The first challenge, however, is making sure you have all of the relevant data in the right place.

Rodigari says it can take time to harmonize NPDES data sources, but it should be an important priority. “Across our utility, several teams generate discharges, from operations to contractors to field service. Ensuring all reports are properly filed in one platform and easy to retrieve is a best practice that can protect your utility from liability.”

For San Jose Water, fully automating all NPDES reporting is a goal for the longer term. In the meantime, the utility is aiming to collect all data in one platform, Rodigari says. And, to ensure compliance, the utility’s platform is programmed to send reminders to parties responsible for collecting data that the NPDES permit requires. “If there’s a failure to document, the platform issues an escalation. This helps managers track and follow up on missed deadlines.”

Improving Performance and Environmental Impact with NPDES Best Practices

Rodigari says he's confident that the state-wide NPDES permit has improved best management practices in California’s water utilities. For San Jose Water, that’s meant a major shift in the way the utility manages discharges.

“We’re doing a better job of ensuring water quality, including reducing turbidity, and removing chlorine prior to discharge,” Rodigari says. “We’re also minimizing water loss during discharges, and we’ve set some ambitious goals in terms of non-revenue water.”

Rodigari credits the utility’s hard work, as well as the way the industry is starting to think about data and reporting. “Making sense of our data is an important step in the path to improving our environmental impact and organizational performance,” he says. “That’s the point of NPDES.”

What’s a Rich Text element?

The rich text element allows you to create and format headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, images, and video all in one place instead of having to add and format them individually. Just double-click and easily create content.

Static and dynamic content editing

A rich text element can be used with static or dynamic content. For static content, just drop it into any page and begin editing. For dynamic content, add a rich text field to any collection and then connect a rich text element to that field in the settings panel. Voila!

How to customize formatting for each rich text

Headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, figures, images, and figure captions can all be styled after a class is added to the rich text element using the "When inside of" nested selector system.

What’s a Rich Text element?

The rich text element allows you to create and format headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, images, and video all in one place instead of having to add and format them individually. Just double-click and easily create content.

Static and dynamic content editing

A rich text element can be used with static or dynamic content. For static content, just drop it into any page and begin editing. For dynamic content, add a rich text field to any collection and then connect a rich text element to that field in the settings panel. Voila!

How to customize formatting for each rich text

Headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, figures, images, and figure captions can all be styled after a class is added to the rich text element using the "When inside of" nested selector system.

What’s a Rich Text element?

The rich text element allows you to create and format headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, images, and video all in one place instead of having to add and format them individually. Just double-click and easily create content.

Static and dynamic content editing

A rich text element can be used with static or dynamic content. For static content, just drop it into any page and begin editing. For dynamic content, add a rich text field to any collection and then connect a rich text element to that field in the settings panel. Voila!

How to customize formatting for each rich text

Headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, figures, images, and figure captions can all be styled after a class is added to the rich text element using the "When inside of" nested selector system.

What’s a Rich Text element?

The rich text element allows you to create and format headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, images, and video all in one place instead of having to add and format them individually. Just double-click and easily create content.

Static and dynamic content editing

A rich text element can be used with static or dynamic content. For static content, just drop it into any page and begin editing. For dynamic content, add a rich text field to any collection and then connect a rich text element to that field in the settings panel. Voila!

How to customize formatting for each rich text

Headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, figures, images, and figure captions can all be styled after a class is added to the rich text element using the "When inside of" nested selector system.

What’s a Rich Text element?

The rich text element allows you to create and format headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, images, and video all in one place instead of having to add and format them individually. Just double-click and easily create content.

Static and dynamic content editing

A rich text element can be used with static or dynamic content. For static content, just drop it into any page and begin editing. For dynamic content, add a rich text field to any collection and then connect a rich text element to that field in the settings panel. Voila!

How to customize formatting for each rich text

Headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, figures, images, and figure captions can all be styled after a class is added to the rich text element using the "When inside of" nested selector system.

What’s a Rich Text element?

The rich text element allows you to create and format headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, images, and video all in one place instead of having to add and format them individually. Just double-click and easily create content.

Static and dynamic content editing

A rich text element can be used with static or dynamic content. For static content, just drop it into any page and begin editing. For dynamic content, add a rich text field to any collection and then connect a rich text element to that field in the settings panel. Voila!

How to customize formatting for each rich text

Headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, figures, images, and figure captions can all be styled after a class is added to the rich text element using the "When inside of" nested selector system.

What’s a Rich Text element?

The rich text element allows you to create and format headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, images, and video all in one place instead of having to add and format them individually. Just double-click and easily create content.

Static and dynamic content editing

A rich text element can be used with static or dynamic content. For static content, just drop it into any page and begin editing. For dynamic content, add a rich text field to any collection and then connect a rich text element to that field in the settings panel. Voila!

How to customize formatting for each rich text

Headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, figures, images, and figure captions can all be styled after a class is added to the rich text element using the "When inside of" nested selector system.

What’s a Rich Text element?

The rich text element allows you to create and format headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, images, and video all in one place instead of having to add and format them individually. Just double-click and easily create content.

Static and dynamic content editing

A rich text element can be used with static or dynamic content. For static content, just drop it into any page and begin editing. For dynamic content, add a rich text field to any collection and then connect a rich text element to that field in the settings panel. Voila!

How to customize formatting for each rich text

Headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, figures, images, and figure captions can all be styled after a class is added to the rich text element using the "When inside of" nested selector system.

What’s a Rich Text element?

The rich text element allows you to create and format headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, images, and video all in one place instead of having to add and format them individually. Just double-click and easily create content.

Static and dynamic content editing

A rich text element can be used with static or dynamic content. For static content, just drop it into any page and begin editing. For dynamic content, add a rich text field to any collection and then connect a rich text element to that field in the settings panel. Voila!

How to customize formatting for each rich text

Headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, figures, images, and figure captions can all be styled after a class is added to the rich text element using the "When inside of" nested selector system.