Wednesday, March 29, 2023

How can the Local Assistance Unit help you?

As the state primacy agency for implementing the Safe Drinking Water Act in Colorado, the Department of Public Health and Environment is responsible for implementing a capacity development program. The department implements parts of their capacity development program through the activities of the Local Assistance Unit (LAU). The goal of the LAU is to protect public health by assisting public water systems as they build their Technical, Managerial, and Financial (TMF) capacity. Division staff wrote an article in August of 2022 highlighting the importance of TMF capacity building. This article will detail the ways in which the LAU can help you and your drinking water system continue to improve your TMF capacity to better serve your customers and community. 

The department's Safe Drinking Water Program operates under a culture of health and LAU’s primary focus is to work with water professionals to build a culture of health in their duties and in the public water systems they work with. In our work with public water systems we focus on the primary mission of our industry: to protect public health by providing Colorado’s communities with safe drinking water. We know this work takes precision, dedication, expertise, and continuous improvement. Our aim as a unit is to assist you in the critical work you do.

Any water system can implement capacity development and feel the benefits of increased TMF capacity. Small systems can especially benefit from capacity development as these systems often face resource challenges (few staff members, limited funding, aging infrastructure etc). The LAU and our team is dedicated to assisting all public drinking water systems in Colorado, and especially small and rural systems. Please note that all of the programming that our unit offers is free of charge. Our coaching and training opportunities are meant to help all water sector professionals including but not limited to: decision makers, administrative staff, operators, maintenance staff, water boards, city councils, lab staff, and anyone else that is invested in and responsible for protecting public health by providing safe drinking water.  

Water Sector Coaching 

Our water coaches travel across the state to deliver one-on-one assistance to public water systems. To work with a coach (free of charge) please fill out our coaching request form. Our coaches will reach out to you to establish contact and to determine the areas where your system wants to improve. We will then work with you to create a project plan, implement that plan, and help you overcome roadblocks and challenges to your plan. The main tool that our coaches use to establish these goals is a TMF worksheet. This worksheet is a series of questions that help you and your coach identify what is working well, what needs work, and where you would like to focus your efforts. Based on the TMF worksheet your coaches may work with you on one of the below areas.

Regulatory compliance: Lead and copper rule revision, backflow and cross-connection planning and implementation, tank inspection and summaries, updating your monitoring plan, interpreting and responding to recent sanitary survey findings, preparation for an upcoming sanitary survey, developing a plan to return to compliance in cases of enforcement orders, interpreting sampling schedules, and developing sampling techniques. 

Technical troubleshooting: source water protection and analysis, storage tank operations and maintenance, data collection for potential GWUDI, treatment operations, distribution system operations, maintenance planning and execution, special studies (tracer study, jar test, etc), waste stream residual management, changes in operations that would warrant a design approval submission to division engineers, and setting up a newly discovered system. 

Facility management optimization: project management techniques, administration organization techniques and tools, regulation 100 overview, roles and responsibilities of the operator in responsible charge (ORC) and decision-maker, creating a written agreement with an ORC, delegation planning, operations and maintenance planning, standard operating procedures, staff training programing, and workforce development. 

Financial planning: capital improvement planning, grants and loans documentation, asset management planning, financial project management, rate setting, and budgeting. 

Emergency management: tabletop exercises, Continuity of Operations Planning (COOP), development of risk and resilience assessments and emergency response planning documents, security and safety, and emergency preparedness and response.

Water Sector Training Events 

In addition to coaching, LAU also offers free virtual and in-person training events every month. Below are LAU’s current training opportunities. To register for any of the training events please click on the training title, this will send you to a document with all of the upcoming offerings for that training. You can then register for the training you are interested in by selecting the date and filling out the registration form. You will receive an email shortly after you fill out your registration. Please contact if you have any questions or run into any issues with registration. All of the training events we offer are approved for training units. 

  • Monitoring and Operating for Regulatory Compliance: This 4-hour course is offered on the first Wednesday of every month. The training is approved to meet the operator certification regulatory training requirement for Water. The purpose of this training is to equip you and your system with the tools and strategies to comply with Regulation 11 and 100. We are currently focusing on the following topics in this training: storage tank operations, maintenance and planning, monitoring schedules, monitoring plans, backflow prevention and cross-connection control planning and implementation, compliance with current the lead and copper rule and planning for the upcoming lead and copper rule revision, and  regulation 100 planning and compliance. 
  • Sanitary Survey Preparation: This 3-hour training is offered on the third Wednesday of every month. We aim to equip you with resources and skills to recognize and proactively address potential violations and significant deficiencies.  
  • Building Resilience in Your Water/Wastewater System: This 4-hour training is offered on a quarterly basis. The training focuses on resilience planning and aims to help you create, implement, and build upon your emergency management plans, improve your system’s security measures, take stock of your current financial situation and plan for your system’s financial future, and navigate State Revolving Fund (SRF) funding opportunities.  
  • Lead and Copper Rule Revisions: This 2-hour training is offered monthly throughout 2023. The training will help your system plan and prepare for the rule revision changes that go into effect October 2024. 

Thank you for all of your hard work to protect the public health of Colorado Communities. The Local Assistance Unit looks forward to working with you! 

➽ Kyra Gregory Drinking - Water Training Specialist

Wednesday, March 22, 2023

History of Disinfection Waivers and Where We Go From Here

 Hello everyone, 

In the Fall 2013 issue of Aqua Talk we ran a brief article regarding the history of disinfection waivers in Colorado and where we were planning to go in the future. We thought it would be a good time now to provide an update. 

In 1955 the State Board of Health recognized the tremendous risk reduction from waterborne disease that results from disinfecting drinking water, and adopted a resolution recommending that all drinking water supplied to the public contain at least 0.1 parts per million of free available chlorine. In 1967 the State Board of Health required disinfection of all drinking water unless that requirement was specifically waived by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment based on evidence that the drinking water was free of contamination.  

Over the years from 1967 to about 2000, approximately 126 disinfection waivers were granted across the state including 62 community water systems serving 60,695 people. The department lacked a systematic process for reviewing the status of these waivers on a periodic basis. The department began to review the status of disinfection waivers in about 2007, which was before the 2008 Alamosa waterborne disease outbreak. We found that many of these systems had already begun to disinfect their drinking water. 

In 2010, the Water Quality Control Commission banned new disinfection waivers and imposed more appropriate requirements on systems with disinfection waivers if they wished to retain them. After that, the division began systematically reviewing all the disinfection waivers in the state to make sure that they complied with the requirements and working with systems to get disinfection installed if their disinfection waiver was withdrawn. We continued implementing this rule, and systems that struggled with bacterial contamination had their waivers withdrawn. We also started to periodically review the waivers every year. By late 2010, the number of disinfection waivers fell to less than 40 public water systems. 

From late 2010 through about 2013, the division implemented the new requirements regarding disinfection waivers and many systems chose to begin disinfecting while several disinfection waivers were withdrawn as well. By late 2013 only about 15 disinfection waivers remained in place. Since then, the division continued to review disinfection waivers and withdraw waivers when circumstances merited, typically when multiple positive total coliform or E. coli events occurred without there being an adequate way to assure that such events would not recur.

As of 2023, only two (2) of the approximately 2,075 public drinking water systems in Colorado have disinfection waivers, and they are both at community water systems. The systems are the Towns of Ward in Boulder county serving about 230 people and Sanford in Conejos county serving about 850 people. Without further regulatory changes, those systems will retain their waivers as long as they continue to meet the regulatory requirements. We review the status of disinfection waivers annually, whenever there are total coliform rule violations or positive bacterial tests, and during sanitary surveys. The graph below displays the history of disinfection waivers in Colorado from the high point of 2007 to 2023.

➽ Ron Falco, P.E. Safe Drinking Water Program Manager

➽ Bryan Pilson, Technical and Regulatory Implementation and Coordination Unit manager

Wednesday, March 15, 2023

Coming Down the Pipe - TMF R541 Observation

During sanitary surveys, the Field Services Section (FSS) has encountered serious significant deficiencies at water systems such as tanks with collapsing roofs, major water loss in raw water transmission lines and distribution systems, or evidence at water treatment plants of a substantial lack of preventative maintenance. Many of the systems experiencing these major issues are small community water systems struggling to manage a water system and keep up with replacement of aging infrastructure. Fundamental to this issue is Technical, Managerial, and Financial (TMF) Capacity of a public water system (PWS). TMF capacity, also known as Capacity Development, is part of the 1996 Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) Amendments. Capacity Development is a process for PWSs to build technical, managerial and financial (TMF) capacity to be able to continuously provide safe drinking water to the public. Activities involved with developing adequate TMF capacity include items such as asset management, financial planning and water rate setting in addition to managerial and technical capacity as shown below:  

Source: US EPA - Building the Capacity of Drinking Water Systems

As inspectors work with PWSs during the sanitary survey process, they may ask basic questions regarding TMF actions that the PWS has implemented. If a PWS has TMF capacity areas of improvement, a new observation will be listed in the inspection report. This observation will be coded as R541 TMF and will explain the importance of TMF and provide links to resources that are available to PWSs. Water system operators may find it helpful to review this observation with system ownership and management to gain support to undertake needed TMF capacity development activities and get help as discussed below.  

Please note that Regulation 11.4.1 also requires all new community or non-transient, non-community water systems commencing operations after October 1, 1999 to receive Department approval of a TMF capacity assessment using the criteria found in the New Public Water System Capacity Planning Manual (Drinking Water Policy 11). Please reach out to the WQCD Engineering Section at for any questions regarding new PWS TMF requirements.


➽ Heather Young, PE, CWP, Field Services Section Manager

➽ Tom Valenta, Field Unit III Work Group Lead 

Wednesday, March 8, 2023

Upcoming Regulatory Changes for the 2020s

In January 2023 we published a recycled Aqua Talk article about upcoming drinking water regulatory changes that were expected in the 2000s. The article was recycled from our December 2000 newsletter. Back then the newsletter was called Tapping In.  In February 2023 we again published a recycled Aqua Talk article about upcoming drinking water regulatory changes. This time the article was the October 2008  Aqua Talk article entitled “New Rules in Challenging Times” about our then-recent adoption of the Long-Term 2 Enhanced Surface Water Treatment Rule, Stage 2 Disinfectants/Disinfection By-Products Rule, and the Groundwater Rule. These rules were significant and  together applied to all the public water systems in Colorado. In both the early and late 2000s the challenges faced in the U.S. were largely economic, and there were also security concerns. 

As we move forward in the 2020s, we again face tremendous challenges in our country and the water industry. The challenges are too numerous to fully elaborate, but many stem from the COVID-19 pandemic and related economic upheaval, including serious supply chain issues. We are also faced with more severe security threats than ever before. Colorado water utilities have been targeted with ransomware attacks and other physical security incidents have occurred as well.

On top of all this, as noted in the lead-in paragraph of the January 2023 recycled article, the 2020s promise to be a decade of substantial changes to the federal Safe Drinking Water Act. I believe that these will be the most significant and intense set of new and updated drinking water rules we have experienced since the early 2000s. In the early 2000s Colorado was well-positioned for a number of these rules because of the way we approached drinking water regulations over a long period of time, such as our disinfection and certain surface water treatment practices, combined with intense planning to get ahead of, or at least early starts on, the arsenic rule, radionuclides rule and groundwater rule. Now, in 2023, I believe that we are once again well-positioned to tackle a number of the challenges associated with the upcoming rules. We have instituted special projects since the late-2010s that will help us with preparations for the Lead and Copper Rule Revisions (LCRR) via the Lead Outreach and Verification Effort (LOVE) project, surface water treatment via the Disinfection Outreach and Verification Effort (DOVE) project, and extensive PFAS sampling. We also have a considerable influx of federal funding dollars via the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) to help with the investments that water utilities will need to make in this decade. Additionally, we recently completed the development of a Direct Potable Reuse (DPR) Rule that will support Colorado’s water supply future. The table below summarizes all these new (DPR and LCRR are either completed or underway) and new rules in the 2020s. As of this writing, the EPA’s draft PFAS rule has not been published. The modest change to the Backflow Prevention and Cross Connection Control (BPCCC) Rule slated for August 2023 is not shown. 

Please note that states typically have two years, from the date of a final federal rule to adopt and implement it, with compliance dates usually starting soon thereafter. So, for the PFAS rules, states would have until Fall 2025 to adopt the rule. However, some rules have had “early implementation” requirements in the past. Each rule is unique. 

As you can see, this is quite a list. While utilities must comply with these rules, states must be able to adopt and adequately enforce the rules to maintain primary enforcement authority or “primacy”. To gain primacy for each rule, detailed “primacy packages” need to be prepared by the state and reviewed by EPA to gain approval. In talking with many of my colleagues across the U.S., many states have experienced such a degree of staff turnover in the last several years, that a number of states have no staff that have previously prepared a primacy package for EPA. But rest assured in Colorado, we still have many experienced staff that have conducted stakeholder engagement processes and prepared primacy packages. As always, we will be engaging stakeholders in developing these rules, a process well underway for LCRR, and also importantly identifying assistance, policy and training needs during those processes as well. 

We will strive to help water systems meet these rules and requirements as best as our funding and resources enable us to. But I urge you to learn about these new rules as soon as you can, so that you can best prepare your water system for the challenges that it may face in addressing them and keeping tap water safe for your customers. Thank you.

Ron Falco, P.E. Safe Drinking Water Program Manager

Wednesday, March 1, 2023

You’ve met your AWIA requirements - now what?

As many of you know, on October 23, 2018, America's Water Infrastructure Act (AWIA) was signed into law. AWIA Section 2013 required community drinking water systems serving more than 3,300 people to develop or update risk assessments and emergency response plans (ERPs) and submit a statement of certification for each document to the EPA. The deadline for both the risk assessment and emergency response plan has come and gone. Many systems may be asking, What now?

EPA built a framework to help drinking water and wastewater systems build resilience, which involves the following elements: 

  • Assess
  • Plan
  • Train 
  • Respond
  • Recover 

So, now that you have assessed risks to your system and written a plan you can move forward with training your staff on emergency planning, responding to emergencies as they arise, and recovering from unexpected upsets.

Below are some resources to help you with each of these aspects of emergency management: 

1. Train 

2. Respond

3. Recover

How to keep your plan up to date?

Another aspect of keeping you and your team prepared for any situation is to periodically review your risk assessment and emergency management plan. A crucial part of your emergency planning is creating and sustaining partnerships in your community and in your county. Your major partners include: 

  • Local Emergency Planning Committee
  • Local police departments, fire department, emergency medical services 
  • Other local critical infrastructure: gas, electric, etc. 
  • Critical customers: child care facilities, hospitals, dialysis centers, schools, etc.

Thank you for all that you do to protect the public health of your communities, especially during emergencies! 

➽ Kyra Gregory, Drinking Water Training Specialist 

Wednesday, February 15, 2023

Drinking Water Sanitary Survey Follow Ups and Compliance - What you need to know

The Field Services Section (FSS) works with public water systems on sanitary survey inspections to ensure the production and distribution of safe drinking water. Just as water systems have inspections on a routine basis, our program also gets “inspected” by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Region 8 to ensure that we meet federal requirements. Starting in 2021, EPA Region 8 conducted an audit of 86 sanitary surveys across 43 large community public water systems in Colorado. In September 2022, EPA Region 8 provided their final report. Overall, the report highlighted some of the WQCD sanitary survey processes as best practices such as public notice for field based violations, our online records system and our sanitary survey report quality. The report also  includes areas where we need to improve on sanitary survey follow ups. Going forward, we'll be working on those areas of improvement with a focus on the items below.

Type 45 Violations for Unresolved Significant Deficiencies:

Regulation 11, Section 11.3(72) defines a significant deficiency as: any situation, practice, or condition in a public water system with respect to design, operation, maintenance, or administration, that the state determines may result in or have the potential to result in production of finished drinking water that poses an unacceptable risk to health and welfare of the public served by the water system. Water systems have to either fix significant deficiencies and violations no later than 120 days after the date of the inspection letter or request a corrective action plan (CAP). If the water system does not fix a significant deficiency by 120 days or an approved CAP schedule, a violation (type 45 violation) occurs.

The EPA audit found that the WQCD was not consistently issuing 45-violations when necessary and must issue compliance advisories and treatment technique (type 45) violations in situations where a significant deficiency is overdue and unresolved. Please note that type 45 violations require Tier 2 public notice by the supplier within 30 days of receipt of the violation letter from the Compliance Assurance Section and every 90 days thereafter as long as the significant deficiency remains unresolved. Please avoid this situation and protect public health by fixing significant deficiencies. For significant deficiencies that need more time for engineering evaluations, financing and construction, a Department-approved CAP may be an option. 

Department-approved corrective action plans (CAPs):

For significant deficiencies and field violations that need more than 120 days to fix, the water system can request a Corrective Action Plan (CAP). The CAP request must include the actions the supplier will take to fix the significant deficiencies and/or violations and the schedule for completing the actions. Field Services then reviews the CAP proposal and, if appropriate, issues an approval letter. Any changes to the CAP or CAP schedule also need to be approved prior to the CAP expiring. If you are in compliance with your CAP, you may avoid the Type 45-violation with Tier 2 public notice. However, it is very important to know that community water systems still have to include any unresolved significant deficiencies and their approved CAP schedule in their annual Consumer Confidence Report.

CAP schedules are normally limited to a year unless special circumstances such as financing, engineering design and construction need additional time. Also, interim measures to protect public health may be required at any time during the CAP process. The EPA audit identified that extended timelines CDPHE allowed for unresolved significant deficiencies as a concern. As part of our follow up improvements, CAPs that are expired will no longer be repeatedly renewed. Please reach out to your inspector if you have any questions about CAPs. 

Thank you for all you do to protect your customers by resolving significant deficiencies and field violations. To see the compliance status for your water system, please look at your monitoring schedule available online at the division's monitoring schedule webpage. If you need help on technical issues or sanitary survey significant deficiencies and violations, please reach out to your inspector or sign up for individualized coaching hereFor any questions or concerns about sanitary surveys, please email our Field Services team at

Thank you for all your efforts to protect public health!

 Heather Young, PE, CWP, Field Services Section Manager

 Nicole Graziano, PE, Compliance Assurance Section Manager

Wednesday, February 8, 2023

New Rules in Challenging Times - Recycled from our October 2008 newsletter

Hello everyone, 

As discussed briefly in a recent Aqua Talk article, the 2020s promise to be a decade of substantial changes to the federal Safe Drinking Water Act. I believe that these will be the most significant and intense set of regulatory changes we have experienced since the 2000s. So, look for an upcoming article summarizing the Upcoming Regulatory Changes in the 2020s, one of which - the Lead and Copper Rule Revisions is already in process. In the meantime, we wanted to share an article that ran about 15 years ago regarding tackling new rules in challenging times. Those were challenging times - remember the Great Recession? Well, the 2020s have brought their own set of challenges as we grapple with a host of new drinking water rules: pandemic with an immediate economic crisis followed by ongoing supply chain issues, staff shortages, inflation and economic risks. We thought we would share this article from the past as a reminder that we have tackled new rules during challenging times before. We believe that by working together we can rise again to meet the needs of keeping drinking water safe. Thank you.

➽ Ron Falco, P.E. Safe Drinking Water Program Manager

New Rules in Challenging Times - Originally published 2008

Ron Falco, P.E.

Since 2007 the Drinking Water Program has adopted the Long-Term 2 Enhanced Surface Water Treatment Rule, Stage 2 Disinfectants/Disinfection By-Products Rule, and the Groundwater Rule. These are major new rules that will apply to every public water system in the state. We are striving to help water systems meet the federal early implementation requirements of the first two rules, and I urge all public water systems to conduct the necessary monitoring and distribution system analysis so the correct approach can be used for your system. Failing to meet the early implementation requirements can have negative consequences going forward. For example, failing to monitor your surface water as required can lead to a higher bin classification than truly necessary, which may in turn lead to a requirement to install additional treatment. We are also reaching out to groundwater systems in advance of the December 2009 effective date for that rule.

In the coming year, the program will also be required to adopt the minor Lead and Copper Rule revisions to avoid seeking an extension with EPA. In response to the Alamosa outbreak, we will be working with stakeholders to update and revise our regulatory approach to disinfection waivers. A number of water systems have also asked that we update and revise Article 12 regarding cross connections. 

All of these changes will certainly keep program staff and public water systems very busy. I wish to thank all of the water systems that have helped us develop our regulatory language and implementation strategies. Please contact us if you wish to participate in any of these efforts or have some feedback that you would like to provide. We will be facing these new challenges at a time when economic uncertainty makes it especially difficult to obtain the necessary resources to complete the job at hand today, let alone the resources needed to prepare for tomorrow. We are available to help you and we will continue to sponsor training events all around the state. Through it all, I know that we will all do our best to maintain our vigilance and protect public health. Thanks.