ADEQ: Arizona Department of Environmental Quality, Arizona's Official Web Site
Our mission is to protect and enhance public health and the environment
Water Quality Division: Safe Drinking Water

Friday, December 19, 2014

When amendments to the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) were implemented in 1996, it was recognized that water system operator competence is of paramount importance in providing safe, reliable drinking water.

The operator is responsible for operating the drinking water system which includes equipment like wells, pumps and tanks, the distribution system, and ensuring the appropriate samples are collected and analyzed.

ADEQ's Operator Certification Program establishes guidelines to ensure that only certified operators make decisions about process control or system integrity which affects public health. The program establishes minimum standards for certification and recertification of the operators of drinking water and wastewater systems.

The program has been very active on the training front. Since 2001, ADEQ has conducted 236 free workshops throughout the state for Arizona’s about 6,500 operators. The events have attracted more than 11,000 operators and other interested stakeholders. Workshops have been held in Phoenix, Tucson, Yuma, Sierra Vista, Flagstaff, Show Low, Kingman, Camp Verde, Willcox, Winslow, Safford, Rio Rico, Tubac and Sedona.

Among the training topics have been backflow basics and assembly and repair, operation and maintenance, Monitoring Assistance Program (MAP), capacity development and technical assistance, operator certification, inspection and enforcement, groundwater and surface water rules, water chemistry and treatment, disinfection/fluoridation, water sampling analysis/techniques/equipment, data collection, system security, source water protection, consumer confidence reports and health and safety.

In addition, Arizona-specific topics have been presented, including watershed protection, water adequacy, drought and extreme weather conditions and energy and sustainability.

To date, more than 75,000 professional development hours (PDH) have been obtained by operators who have attended ADEQ workshops. Workshops educate system staff operators in becoming certified as well as provide continuing education to increase competency in properly operating a facility for safe drinking water distribution to Arizona communities.

ADEQ regulations require any person who is the operator in direct charge of a drinking water or wastewater treatment facility to be certified by the department. All drinking water and wastewater treatment facilities are assigned a grade and classification according to the criteria contained in Arizona Administrative Code R18-5-100.

Generally, an operator must possess a valid operator certificate at or above the required grade and within the proper classification in order to be the operator in direct responsible charge to operate a facility. Each operator is required to pass a written examination that will elicit specific knowledge necessary for successful operation of a water system within a particular grade and classification. Once certified, operators are required to obtain and maintain documentation of 30 PDH during the three-year period that certificates are valid. Testing and training services are provided by ADEQ-approved entities. ADEQ reviews, selects and evaluates the training and testing material.

An Arizona Operator Core Competency CD was developed through the cooperation of ADEQ and eTRAIN Online. The training CD is divided into eight lessons including source water, water treatment part 1 and 2, operation & maintenance part 1 and 2, process control, compliance sampling and safety. Each lesson has knowledge check points throughout. A final 100-question exam has been integrated into the CD as well.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

In the early 1990s, Arizona’s small public water systems found themselves in a real bind.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, under the Safe Drinking Water Act, added 49 new pollutants that required testing. The state’s smaller water systems, serving 10,000 or fewer customers, were hit particularly hard as many of the tests would cost between $3,000 and $4,000 per sample for laboratory analysis.

ADEQ began its Monitoring Assistance Program (MAP) to lessen the monitoring and financial burdens faced by systems to ensure that water served met state and federal safe drinking water standards.

MAP has been quite the success story. Before the program began in 1999, 697 of those systems, almost three-fourths of the systems in the state, did not conduct proper monitoring nor report the results to the state to determine compliance with state and federal standards. That number was reduced to just nine water systems by 2010, which is less than 2 percent not in compliance.

“The Monitoring Assistance Program was a tremendous help to a lot of the systems I interacted with throughout the state,” said Flavio Gonzalez, operations manager for Bella Vista Water Company in Sierra Vista. “Some systems went from paying thousands of dollars a year in laboratory costs down to paying only a few hundred dollars in MAP fees per year.”

Darren Campbell, director of water quality testing for Luke Air Force Base in Glendale, also spoke glowingly of the program.

“MAP has really helped us in terms of continuity,” Campbell said. “Before MAP, we had compliance concerns related to missing sampling events.”

Because of MAP, the compliance rate for synthetic organic compounds like pesticides, herbicides and PCBs went from just 26 percent before the program began to 100 percent for participating public water systems from 2008 until 1010. MAP expanded to include asbestos, radionuclide, nitrite, sulfate and nickel monitoring in 2002 and the compliance rate increased from 44 percent to 99 percent. Nitrate monitoring was added in 2008 and the compliance rate has increased from 75 percent to 99 percent.

Prior to MAP, all public water systems were required to monitor for contaminants at prescribed schedules and at various locations in their system as required by the Safe Drinking Water Act. Monitoring was often required for multiple contaminants in multiple years and proved to be a challenge for many systems, especially smaller ones. Since introducing MAP, more small drinking water systems are being fully and accurately monitored and the results are provided to ADEQ, which keeps these small systems in compliance with complex reporting regulations, and ensures safe, healthy drinking water.

In Arizona, MAP currently provides assistance to 850 of the smaller public water systems, which is 55 percent of the total number of regulated public water systems in the state.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

SDWA 40th Anniversary ADEQ’s Source Water Protection Program for Schools that are their own Public Water System

One of the most important outgrowths of the Safe Drinking Water Act has been providing ADEQ with the ability to assist in greatly enhancing the quality of drinking water for many schoolchildren, especially in rural areas.

The agency has completed Source Water Protection (SWP) plans for 30 schools that have their own public water systems, protecting water for about 12,200 Arizona schoolchildren since the program began in 2008. The plans also are in various stages of evaluation and development for another 58 schools, which will protect many additional students throughout the state when completed.

During field work, ADEQ workers have identified potential sources of contamination that schools have rectified.

At one school, a chemical storage area was located within 10 feet of an active well head and the school followed ADEQ’s recommendation that the chemicals be moved away from the wellhead area and placed on shelves with secondary containment to prohibit direct contact with soil. At another school, a corroded steel tank used to dispose of vehicle fluids was located about 30 feet from the school’s well. The school replaced the tank with a new tank on a concrete slab to prevent potential contamination of the well.

The SWP program, a national initiative by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, was launched by ADEQ’s Drinking Water Monitoring and Protection Unit in February 2008, in conjunction with ADEQ’s Children’s Environmental Health initiative, for schools that operate their public water systems. Schools were invited to partner with ADEQ to develop a SWP plan to protect two precious resources, our children and our water.

Schools were provided information sheets with tips on ways schools can protect their drinking water source. ADEQ educates and encourages the schools to understand and follow the multi-barrier approach, which includes teaching the schools to focus on good housekeeping practices.

The multi-barrier approach is comprised of protection, treatment, monitoring and compliance, and community involvement. SWP is the first step of this approach, designed to prevent contaminants from entering drinking water supplies. This approach is far less expensive than remediation of current water supplies that are contaminated or developing a new source of water.

Best management practices are also employed such as limiting activities around the wellhead, directing storm water away from the well, restricting chemical use near the well, and performing routine inspections of the water system which can all help protect the school’s source of drinking water.

ADEQ drinking water staff provides on-site guidance and technical support to aid in developing a SWP plan specific to each school. When developing the plan, the main components include compiling available information about the water system, delineating a protection area around the school’s well or water source, identifying potential sources of contamination, developing strategies to protect the water, implementing protection activities and involving the community.

ADEQ’s SWP program was further strengthened following feedback from the 2009 Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Hearing on Federal Oversight of Drinking Water Programs.

Committee members singled out children’s health as a particular concern, and wanted to know what regulators were currently doing to address ongoing drinking water-related health issues in schools. During the hearing, members described some of the problems faced by schools in working to meet Safe Drinking Water Act requirements and the resulting negative impacts on children when requirements are not met. The hearing concluded with several recommendations, including that Congress should increase funding for safe drinking water and schools and that child-care providers need more assistance.

ADEQ identified schools that operate their own public water systems as a group of public water systems which were unlikely to voluntarily participate in SWP because they most likely lacked the resources and expertise to create a SWP plan on their own. Given the fact that most of those schools often only have a single source of water and are often times remotely located without the ability to receive service from another public water system shed light on their vulnerability and moved ADEQ’s school program to fruition.


Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Today we commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) becoming the law of the land.

The SDWA was passed to protect public health by regulating the nation’s public drinking water supplies. Under the SDWA, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency sets standards for drinking water quality and oversees the states, localities, and water suppliers who implement those standards.

The act originally was passed by Congress in 1974 to protect public health by regulating the nation's public drinking water supply. The law was amended in 1986 and 1996 and requires many actions to protect drinking water and its sources: rivers, lakes, reservoirs, springs, and ground water wells. SDWA does not regulate private wells which serve fewer than 15 connections and 25 individuals.

The SDWA authorizes EPA to set national health-based standards for drinking water to protect against both naturally occurring and man-made contaminants that may be found in drinking water. The EPA, states, Indian tribes and water systems then work together to make sure that these standards are met.

Millions of Americans receive high quality drinking water every day from their public water systems, which may be publicly or privately owned. Nonetheless, drinking water safety cannot be taken for granted. The SDWA applies to every public water system in the United States. There are currently more than 170,000 public water systems providing water to almost all Americans at some time in their lives.

There are a number of threats to drinking water such as improperly disposed-of chemicals, animal wastes, pesticides, human wastes, wastes injected deep underground and naturally occurring substances which can all contaminate the water. Likewise, drinking water that is not properly treated or disinfected, or which travels through an improperly maintained distribution system, may also pose a health risk.

Originally, the SDWA focused primarily on treatment as the means of providing safe drinking water at the tap. The 1996 amendments greatly enhanced the existing law by recognizing source water protection, operator training, funding for water system improvements, and public information as important components of safe drinking water. This approach ensures the quality of drinking water by protecting it from source to tap.

To ensure that drinking water is safe, the SDWA sets up multiple barriers against pollution including source water protection, treatment, monitoring and compliance and distribution system integrity and public information involvement. The 1996 amendments required states and water suppliers to conduct assessments of water sources to see if they may be vulnerable to contamination. If drinking water monitoring of a water system shows that the water is not meeting standards, it is the water supplier’s responsibility to notify its customers and community water system suppliers are required to prepare annual reports.

In most cases, the most direct oversight of water systems is conducted by state drinking water programs. Like almost all states and territories, Arizona has applied for and received “primacy,” the authority to implement SWDA within state boundaries. To receive primacy, states must show that they will adopt standards at least as stringent as EPA standards and make sure that water systems meet those standards.

The regulation of Arizona’s public water systems is shared among the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality, Maricopa County Environmental Services Department and Pima County Department of Environmental Quality. They ensure safe drinking water at more than 1,550 public water systems serving more than six million Arizonans.

Based on an SWDA mandate, ADEQ evaluated each water source used by public water systems in Arizona. Those studies assessed the hydrogeology of drinking water sources to determine the quality of groundwater drawn into wells, evaluated the watersheds supplying surface water and surveyed land use activities occurring near drinking water sources.

This information is now used to determine the degree to which a public drinking water source is protected from, or at risk of, contamination. It is also used to assist local communities in implementing source water protection measures.

View a copy of Arizona’s Source Water Assessment Plan.

Monday, December 15, 2014


ADEQ Celebrates 40th Anniversary of Safe Drinking Water Act

The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality will be celebrating Tuesday's 40th anniversary of the national Safe Drinking Water Act with a series of stories on ADEQ's website Tuesday through Friday illustrating ADEQ's successes in protecting the state's drinking water.

Among the subjects to be addressed are:

  • Tuesday, Dec. 16, a national overview of the significance of the Safe Drinking Water Act and the ways it has helped protect the health of U.S. residents for four decades.
  • Wednesday, Dec. 17, how Arizona's Source Water Protection Program has been protecting the drinking water since 2008 of more than 12,000 students in 30 schools that have their own public water systems. Plans are in various stages of evaluation and development for another 58 schools, which will protect many more thousands of students throughout the state when completed.
  • Thursday, Dec. 18, ADEQ's Monitoring Assistance Program (MAP) has assisted nearly 700 small public water systems in the state conduct proper monitoring since 1999 to ensure that their drinking water meets state and federal safe drinking water standards. Before the program began in 1999, 697 of the systems did not conduct proper water monitoring nor report results to the state but by 2010 that number had been reduced to only nine systems.
  • Friday, Dec. 19, the Operator Certification Program of ADEQ has conducted nearly 250 free workshops since 2001 on a variety of topics for more than 11,000 operators of drinking water and wastewater systems in 14 municipalities throughout the state. Operators are responsible for operating drinking water systems which includes equipment like wells, pumps and tanks, the distribution system, and ensuring the appropriate samples are collected and analyzed.
The stories will be posted daily on ADEQ's website.

"ADEQ's mission is to protect public health and the environment and providing safe drinking water is a critical part of that mission," said ADEQ Director Henry Darwin. "I encourage everyone to read the stories that we post on our web site this week to familiarize themselves with, and take advantage of, the services that we offer."

For more information about protecting source water, visit the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s web page on the subject at: