Compliance Advisors for Sustainable Water Systems Program
On this page:
- Assistance Provided
- Types of Systems Supported
- How Systems are Nominated to Receive Compliance Advisor Assistance
- Success Stories
- Tools for Compliance Success
- Other Technical Assistance Providers and Resources
The Compliance Advisors for Sustainable Water Systems Program is sponsored by EPA’s Office of Compliance. Compliance Advisors bring one-on-one technical assistance right to the door of those drinking water and wastewater systems serving small communities with compliance problems, many of which serve overburdened communities. These noncompliant systems are often under-resourced and lack sufficient technical, managerial, and financial expertise to manage their operations to achieve and maintain compliance.
The Compliance Advisors program complements other technical assistance programs supported by the EPA’s Office of Water, USDA Rural Development, and other organizations.
Compliance Advisors serve as part coach and part consultant to help troubleshoot issues, develop recommendations to return systems to compliance and increase the technical capacity of operators so they can maintain compliance. There is a variety of one-on-one direct technical compliance assistance that can be provided depending on the need in a particular community.
Examples of the types of technical assistance that Compliance Advisors can provide include:
- Support in reviewing and understanding permit or rule requirements and resolving reporting/recordkeeping issues;
- Troubleshooting and diagnosing non-compliance at small systems (e.g., plant optimization, diagnosing plant inefficiencies or malfunctions, and addressing the underlying causes of noncompliance);
- Hands-on education based on preliminary assessment of needs (such as management and operations including inventorying of assets or financing options);
- Assessing rates and financial impacts of proposed options;
- Sharing reference materials such as manuals, standard operating procedures, and checklists to improve compliance; and
- Customized group training for neighboring operators to facilitate mutual assistance and mentoring.
Compliance Advisors are limited to providing technical assistance and cannot provide capital funding, conduct operation and maintenance activities, nor develop detailed engineering studies.
Compliance Advisors visit groups of 4-5 systems in a single week depending on the complexity of the systems and travel time. Small drinking water systems are typically less time-intensive than mechanical wastewater systems. Compliance Advisors serve as part-coach and part-consultant. They can help troubleshoot issues, develop recommendations to return systems to compliance, and increase the technical capacity of operators so they can maintain compliance.
The Compliance Advisors will develop a list of prioritized recommendations and activities for each system to achieve and maintain compliance. Compliance Advisor technical support typically lasts 12-18 months for each system, with up to two on-site visits and multiple interactions via tele or video conferencing.
While publicly owned systems (e.g., towns, municipalities, water districts) are the top priority for EPA Regions and States, other unincorporated communities such as, sub-divisions, homeowner associations, and trailer parks are also eligible for Compliance Advisors support when there is a compelling need and the selection criteria are met.
In general, systems that meet the following criteria are eligible to receive technical assistance by OC’s Compliance Advisors:
- System has problems attaining and/or maintaining compliance with the SDWA and/or CWA requirements;
- System agrees to participate and exhibits a good faith effort to comply;
- To succeed, systems will need to respond promptly and have operator(s) who are engaged and willing to work with the Compliance Advisors.
- System is small (generally serving a population less than 10,000); and
- System is reasonably close (within a two-hour drive) to other systems that could be supported during the same tour.
States nominate to their respective EPA Regional office the names of systems interested in receiving technical assistance from EPA’s Compliance Advisors. Systems should meet the eligibility criteria described above. EPA Regions then submit nominations to the Office of Compliance which selects systems based on available funding
Compliance Advisors began working with systems in early 2020 but because of COVID-19 pandemic, on-site visits were limited until 2021. Since this time, dozens of systems have received technical assistance and training. Examples of successes to date include the following:
- A tribal utility with ten small drinking water systems resolved 111 their 116 significant drinking water deficiencies. The remaining 5 significant deficiencies require infrastructure upgrades, which will take additional time and funding to resolve.
- A consecutive drinking water system is a system that only distributes water and receives treated water from another wholesale system. A consecutive drinking water system with disinfection byproduct (DBP) issues returned to compliance by making modifications to their tank operation, conducting strategic distribution improvements, and collaborating with their wholesale water system.
- A tribal system recently returned to compliance after violations of the Revised Total Coliform Rule. The system was burdened by a loss of its institutional knowledge due to staff turnover. Compliance Advisors were able to assist a very new operator through the technical and administrative requirements to collect key infrastructure and operational information needed for operation of the system and to maintain high quality water and compliance.
Compliance advisors have developed dozens of standard operating procedures (SOPs), checklists, tools and other products to help systems return to compliance. A few examples of these SOPs/tools include:
- Drinking Water Sampling Calendar (pdf) sampling requirements for drinking water systems can be complex and confusing to small operators. The example calendar illustrates when the operator should sample for different parameters.
- Cross Connection Handout (docx) – this handout is intended for drinking water system operators to distribute to customers. It describes backflow and cross connection scenarios and prevention practices.
- Drinking Water System Weekly Inspection Checklist (docx) – this is a checklist for drinking water system operators to use while they conduct a weekly inspection of their system.
- Ammonia Removal Best Practices Tool (xltm) - Excel-based best management practice (BMP) tool to evaluate elevated wastewater treatment plant ammonia effluent levels.
- Local Government Environmental Assistance Network (LGEAN) – LGEAN is a compliance assistance center that provides local government managers (mayors, town council members and public works directors, etc.) with user-friendly information on compliance with federal environmental regulations, funding strategies, and tools for advancing healthy and sustainable communities.
- Small and Rural Wastewater Systems – Information on financial and technical assistance to small and rural communities to establish and improve wastewater treatment services.
- Building the Capacity of Drinking Water Systems – Information on capacity development, operator certification, water system partnership, asset management, funding, and other information for drinking water systems.
- WaterOperator.org – General information for small system operators.
- Rural Community Assistance Partnership (RCAP) - A national network of non-profit organizations working to provide technical assistance, training, resources, and support to rural communities across the United States
- Environmental Finance Centers (EFCs) – EFCs deliver targeted technical assistance to, and partner with states, tribes, local governments, and the private sector in providing innovative solutions to help manage the costs of environmental financing and program management.
- USDA Rural Development – Provides technical assistance via Circuit Riders to rural water systems that are experiencing day-to-day operational, financial, or managerial issues.
- Improving CWA-NPDES Permit Compliance Technical Assistance Webinar Series - Information on upcoming as well as past webinars to help NPDES wastewater discharge permittees.
Additional related resources from EPA:
- National Compliance Initiative - Reducing Significant Non-Compliance with National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Permits
- National Compliance Initiative - Reducing Non-Compliance with Drinking Water Standards at Community Water Systems
- Environmental Justice
For Additional Information, email Water.Compliance@epa.gov