ASDWA Innovative Treatment Technology Project

Deployment of Innovative Water Treatment Technologies for Very Small Drinking Water Systems, Areas Served by Private Wells & Source Waters

ASDWA is leading a research project by EPA’s Office of Research and Development (ORD) – Innovation Applied: Streamlining Access and Approvals of Treatment Technologies for Small Systems and Private Wells. The primary objective of this project is to develop and validate programmatic approaches through research and technical assistance for obtaining approval for new or alternative treatment technologies for very small water systems in a state, and how to ensure that, or to the greatest extent possible with technical assistance, approvals could transfer from state to state without compromising public health protection.

ASDWA is the principal investigator on this project and is partnering with the Water Research Foundation (WRF), the Rural Community Assistance Partnership (RCAP), the University of Massachusetts-Amherst (UMass), and Corona Environmental Consulting. The research project has a three-year duration (August 1, 2021-July 31, 2024).

This research project has four objectives:

  1. Scope the problem with the primacy agencies, water systems, technical assistance providers, and technology providers and collect the appropriate information from the stakeholders through interviews and surveys to understand the technical, institutional, social, and cultural barriers to innovative treatment approvals.
  2. Collaborate with the stakeholders to develop potential approaches and solutions for approving and deploying innovative water treatment technologies.
  3. Validate the potential solutions with the stakeholders, develop test cases for implementation of one to three solutions at a small number of state primacy agencies, and then synthesize the results of the test cases and pilot testing.
  4. Finalize and circulate the results, solutions, and outputs.

If you’d like to participate in the project or provide feedback for the research team, please fill out the form below:

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Additional Background

Effective deployment of innovative water treatment technologies for very small public drinking water systems has been challenging due to multiple technical, institutional, social, and cultural barriers. In recent years, state drinking water programs have been challenged by reviewing (and approving) new treatment technologies in a timely manner while ensuring public health protection from the specific treatment technology. The state primacy agencies must ensure that a specific treatment technology will remove the desired contaminant(s) from a specific drinking water source at full-scale.

The current dilemma for treatment technology deployment is obtaining state approval for new or alternative technologies, and how to ensure, to the greatest extent possible, approvals could transfer from state to state without compromising public health protection. State and territorial primacy agencies are responsible for the public health protection and must ensure that innovative treatment technologies operate as tested and designed and do not fail. It can be challenging for the agencies to balance the review and approval of a new treatment technology with the mandate of public health protection.

This dilemma is compounded by the large number of public water systems (PWSs) as defined by the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA). Of the approximately 150,000 PWSs, 97% are small systems, serving communities of 10,000 or less. Because of their large number, small systems account for the majority of SDWA violations (GAO, 2020). Very small systems, or those serving under 500, are the systems most at risk of failure due to lack of financial, managerial, or technical capacity.

While not regulated by the SDWA, private wells suffer from similar issues. Populations served by private wells are also vulnerable to higher numbers of contaminants (Hunter et al 2011) inflicting significant health, social and economic burden on these communities even in developed nations (Hunter et al 2009).

Availability of treatment technologies to remove contaminants to meet health-based standards is not the problem. Rather, the problem is two-fold: the affordability of the treatment and the many challenges in deploying these technologies at very small water systems (and sustaining these technologies). The challenges and barriers to deploying such treatment goes well beyond the pilot testing and construction and into long-term sustainability and cultural adoption of the treatment technology.