SDWIS Modernization

by- Greg Fabian

During the DMUC in early May, I described the SDWIS modernization program and its two phases. The program consists of two phases:

  1. Complete development and begin rolling-out the Compliance Monitoring Data Portal (CMDP)
  2. Ramp-up SDWIS Prime development and release the core SDWIS Prime system in September 2017.

In this article, I’ll describe these two phases in more detail.

Modernization Phase I – CMDP

CMDP development and testing will continue through the spring and summer of 2016 with the system going live in late September. In a very real sense, SDWIS Prime is going live in September as CMDP uses the SDWIS Prime database and middleware.

There’s much more to the CMDP project than software development. For example, the project team is working on setting up a new user support portal involving a new tool called “Zendesk”. Labs, water systems, and primacy agencies will use the user support portal to:

  • Fetch CMDP user, training and technical documentation
  • View the latest announcements about CMDP
  • Search a knowledgebase of articles about using CMDP
  • Submit a help ticket for assistance with issues that you cannot resolve using the knowledge base or the available documentation

This is a bit different than the current process that EPA uses for supporting SDWIS State. Instead of calling and talking to a help desk analyst, who would create a ticket for you and then work with you to resolve the issue, you would first complete a help ticket and then receive a call within a certain amount of time from an user assistance specialist. The specialist would then work with you to resolve your issue.

The reason we are moving to this support model is that the current SDWIS State user support process is very expensive. When you consider that we could have thousands of labs and water systems using CMDP, maintaining a “live” help desk could easily overwhelm the EPA’s budget and user support contractor. Making the help desk process more of a “self serve” operation allows EPA to maximize its user support budget.

Phase II – SDWIS Prime

Most of the development effort has focused on CMDP since April 2015, but we’ve done a lot of work on refining SDWIS Prime requirements, particularly in the compliance, monitoring, enforcement, and water system assistance areas (CMEWA). In my SDWIS Prime discussion on the first day of the DMUC, I suggested that we group these four areas under the general heading of “scheduling”.

We also began using a new “higher fidelity” prototyping tool for creating simulations of how SDWIS Prime would operate. This new tool gives us a better sense of the system than the Balsamiq “wireframes” the team developed nearly two years ago. We were able to demonstrate the new SDWIS Prime user experience at the DMUC and we received some great feedback from the meeting attendees. The project team has gone through most of the comments and will post them on the SDWIS SharePoint site in the near future. The team is using the comments to help tweak the design we showed at the DMUC and to inform building the next portions of the prototype. In the upcoming months, we will further develop the SDWIS Prime prototype and seek feedback from the user community so that we can refine the prototype before beginning actual development.

SDWIS Prime development will begin ramping-up as CMDP development winds down. By September 2017, the project team will deliver the SDWIS Prime core into the production environment. This core version of the system will not contain the full set of SDWIS Prime features, but it will have enough that states can begin evaluating how they will use the system. For example, we expect that features in the core system for generating candidate violations, schedules, standard responses, and return to compliance actions for the Revised Total Coliform and Lead and Copper rules to be completely tested and available in the pilot release. Other rules will be available as well, but may not be as fully tested as RTCR and LRC. Later releases of SDWIS Prime will include more features and the drinking water rules will have undergone further testing and verification.

We expect that a few states may volunteer to participate in a pilot program shortly after the core release. We’ll flesh-out the design of the pilot program in the next few months, but you can think of it as a “shake-down” of the system in a production environment.

We’ll have a more complete description of the features available in the first, “core”, release of SDWIS Prime later in the summer. We will share this information with the community after the SDWIS Advisory Board and EPA management have had a chance to weigh in.