Water resources education: Sustainability in stormwater, wastewater and drinking water
For decades, Wisconsin has been a pioneer and national leader in efforts to protect and preserve water resources. Likewise, the department offers nearly two dozen courses that address a broad range of engineering, environmental, sustainability, energy and policy concerns related to water.
- Here comes the rain: Managing stormwater runoff
- The royal treatment: Improving wastewater treatment
- Go with the flow: Protecting potable water
Here comes the rain: Managing stormwater runoff
As we build and pave more of the world, we create surfaces that encourage, rather than manage, runoff, says Faculty Associate Howard Rosen. “With increased development and climate change, the issue of managing stormwater runoff in an environmentally sound and cost-effective way has become a crucial challenge for hydraulic engineers,” he says.
With a background in stormwater and flood control, Rosen coordinates a dozen unique courses related to managing stormwater. Among them is one that helps engineers, architects, contractors, developers and regulators involved in low-impact development projects take advantage of bioretention techniques and technologies. In this course, professionals learn how to evaluate a site, determine soil modifications, analyze construction and post-construction issues, and analyze the effects of best-management practices.
Another course introduces engineers, contractors and others to WinSLAMM, a computer model for urban stormwater management. “The model is a way of evaluating the water quality effectiveness of your stormwater program,” says Rosen. “The WinSLAMM software is a useful tool that helps stormwater engineers incorporate water quality into their water quantity designs.”
Historically, says Rosen, stormwater engineers have focused on designing structures that manage water quantity; more recently, as polluted runoff and groundwater depletion have become greater issues, their designs now must include components that address stormwater quality. “We need to take a sustainable approach to stormwater,” he says.
Rosen also offers four courses that center around learning, applying and mastering the HEC-RAS software program developed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Hydrologic Engineering Center. In use worldwide, these programs are important flow-modeling tools for engineers who design flood-control facilities.
Stormwater professionals from around the world can enroll in these courses in Madison. Groups also can have these courses delivered on-site anywhere in North America. “We teach people how to use these programs most effectively, and to determine which one may be best for them to use,” he says.
The royal treatment: Improving wastewater engineering
“We don’t often think about it, but in our homes, workplaces and communities, each of us typically uses more than 100 gallons of clean water each day,” says Faculty Associate Ned Paschke.
Finding that water, treating it, delivering it, collecting the used wastewater, cleaning that, and returning it safely to the environment requires an extensive network of public infrastructure. “It’s hard to imagine a more beneficial investment for public health and the environment,” says Paschke.
Paschke spent much of his career as a hydraulic engineer and a longtime director of engineering with the Madison Metropolitan Sewerage District. Now, he leads an array of 15 water and wastewater engineering and management courses for the department. Often held on campus, the two- and three-day courses focus on specialized topics, such as pumping station design, water reuse engineering, water treatment technologies, and infrastructure asset management.
Improving energy efficiency in pumping stations is another of Paschke’s areas of interest. “Water, energy and sustainability are closely linked,” he says. “And next to staffing, energy is often the second-largest component in a water or wastewater utility’s operating budget.”
The EPD water programs in Madison have attracted engineers, managers and technical professionals from the Midwest and from across the country. In addition, a number of agencies and associations nationwide have sponsored custom, on-site editions at their home plants or offices. Recently, such agencies as the Prince William County Service Authority (Virginia), the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (North Dakota), Southern California Edison, the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago, Milwaukee Water Works, National Grid (Rhode Island), Hampton Roads Public Works Academy (Virginia) and Gwinnett County, Georgia, hosted on-site courses.
To design his courses, Paschke works with UW-Madison faculty and with practicing engineers, consultants, managers and experts from across the country. “Wisconsin historically has been a leader in water and environmental issues and EPD is known as one of the leading national providers of professional engineering education,” says Paschke. “So, it’s a natural fit.”
Go with the flow: Protecting potable water
Whether it’s in a residential, commercial or industrial facility, keeping drinking water separate from wastewater seems as straightforward as Plumbing 101.
It turns out, however, that the process is anything but simple, and cross-connections, which could contaminate the potable water supply, can occur in a variety of ways. The engineers, plumbers, sprinkler fitters and maintenance people who annually test backflow-prevention assemblies, which can prevent cross-connections, must be certified.
Through the hands-on, five-day course, Cross-Connection Control and Backflow Prevention, the department annually teaches nearly 100 people how to install, test and repair backflow-prevention assemblies and qualify for cross-connection control tester registration through the Wisconsin Department of Commerce. “We try to teach students why they’re testing backflow preventers, stressing the importance of their job in terms of protecting potable water, protecting public health and public safety,” says Associate Faculty Associate Ben Jordan, program director for the course. “We don’t just go through the mechanics of, ‘You attach this hose to this part of the valve and read this dial.’We work to have students come away from the course with an understanding of what is going on in the assembly and the piping system.”
Jordan also offers a three-day course, Cross-Connection Control Surveying, for plumbers, inspectors, cross-connection control testers, utility operators, and building and facility managers and engineers. The course builds on the students’ knowledge of cross-connection control and backflow prevention and gives them the tools to inspect entire buildings. “We teach them how to comprehensively and systematically walk through a building and trace pipes to identify cross-connection hazards,” says Jordan.
In addition to their classroom experience, students also visit boiler rooms, equipment rooms, kitchens and other areas where cross-connection contamination is possible. They learn how the instructor would conduct a cross-connection survey in these areas, then conduct their own surveys and present a report.
Jordan says that, in part, evolving state and federal regulations continue to create demand for the course. “The rules are changing and there’s more focus at the state level on doing these cross-connection control surveys,” he says. “We’ve tried to be out in front of these changes.”
While both courses center around compliance with Wisconsin regulations and training requirements, students from several other Midwest states also can attend and qualify for certification in their states.