The Southwest Environmental Finance Center (SW EFC) has been working with Tribal public water systems since 1997 and has become the go-to resource for providing customized tools and trainings to enable Tribal water systems to protect the public health of the communities they serve while meeting Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) compliance requirements. To do this, the Tribal Drinking Water Program at the SW EFC is focused on assisting Tribal water systems in meeting the goals of:

Tribal Water System Goals:

  • Compliance with current SDWA regulations
  • Compliance with new SDWA regulations
  • Increased number of Tribal water systems served by certified operators
  • Increased operator competency and knowledge
  • Increased technical, managerial, and financial capacity at Tribal water systems

The SW EFC works towards achieving these goals by offering a comprehensive array of services that are tailored to meet the needs of individual Tribal water systems while developing a strong understanding among Tribal drinking water system operators, managers, and board members on the need for multiple barriers for public health protection. The Multiple Barrier Approach (MBA) for public health protection strives to maximize the capabilities of each of the three barriers – source, treatment and distribution – to prevent contamination from entering the water system. This central concept is reinforced throughout the various trainings, technical assistance, and other services provided by the SW EFC. Some of the specific services provided by the SW EFC include:

SDWA Compliance Monitoring Support & Technical Assistance

The SW EFC offers a comprehensive program to assist Tribal PWSs in collecting all required SDWA compliance samples each year. Communication between the water system, the laboratory and the primacy agency is an important part of maintaining compliance. To ensure the flow of information, the SW EFC provides PWSs with an annual compliance sampling schedule, training on how to collect samples and tools such as customized chains-of-custody and compliance sampling pocket guides. The SW EFC also reviews all water quality data and helps primacy agencies in make determinations on potential violations or increases/decreases in sampling frequency. As part of this program, the SW EFC also assists Tribal PWSs with creating and maintaining updated sampling plans for the Revised Total Coliform Rule (RTCR), the Lead & Copper Rule (LCR) and the Stage 2 Disinfectant/Disinfection Byproducts Rule (Stage 2 DBPR).

Consumer Confidence Reports (CCRs)

Each year community water systems must inform their customers regarding the quality of their drinking water including any violations that were issued to the system during the previous calendar year. This is done in the form of a Consumer Confidence Report. To ensure that Tribal Community PWSs meet the CCR requirement, the SW EFC provides one-on-one assistance to systems so that a CCR is developed and distributed to customers no later than July 1st of each year. The SW EFC provides this assistance by generating and distributing to each system a document that includes a water quality data table, required CCR standard language and violations. The SW EFC then works with a designated person at each system to guarantee that each CCR meets all requirements before it is finalized and distributed. The SW EFC also makes sure that each system provides a copy of the CCR to EPA along with a signed certificate of distribution methods.

Implementation of New Drinking Water Regulations

As new drinking water regulations are promulgated, the SW EFC collaborates with primacy agencies on an implementation pathway to ensure affected systems meet all new regulatory requirements. To do this, the SW EFC develops a combination of trainings and tools that allow water systems to have the information they need in order to meet these new requirements, to stay in compliance and to protect public health.

Multiple Barrier Evaluations (MBEs) / Sanitary Surveys

The SW EFC originally developed MBEs to evaluate the three main barriers for public health protection: source, treatment and distribution. The assessment aided in identifying deficiencies that could affect the ability of the three barriers to provide maximum public health protection. The MBE survey process was further developed when ground water systems (GWSs) had to begin complying with the Ground Water Rule (GWR) beginning December 1, 2009. The GWR requires Community GWSs to have a sanitary survey performed every 3 years and Non-Community systems to have it done every 5 years. It also requires the primacy agency to provide a list of deficiencies identified during the survey process and further requires systems to fix the deficiencies within 120 days after receiving notification or be on an approved corrective action plan. The current MBE that the SW EFC performs covers all eight required sanitary survey elements and is done using tablet based Adobe Acrobat forms. After a MBE/sanitary survey is completed, the SW EFC provides comprehensive technical assistance to help systems determine the best corrective action for identified deficiencies and helps water systems document corrective action to the primacy agency.

Operations & Maintenance Support & Troubleshooting

The SW EFC provides Tribal PWSs with one-on-one support and troubleshooting assistance in the operation and maintenance of their system. This technical assistance (TA) is dependent on the needs of the water system and often times is turned into a training opportunity so that system personnel can obtain the knowledge and skills they need to do things themselves. TA can take the form of remote assistance over the phone/computer or can be on site and hands on.

Public Outreach and Education Assistance

The public’s perception of their drinking water plays an important role in having a successful water system. Often times it only takes a few negative comments from a few individuals to turn the public’s opinion towards the negative. This is why it is so important for a water system to control these perceptions by having open communication with their customers. The SW EFC helps Tribal PWSs control this dialogue by assisting in the development of public education materials. Previous materials that were developed included why we add chlorine to the water and the importance of disinfection, the costs of providing safe drinking water and why it isn’t free as well as other drinking water educational campaigns for Tribal members and leadership.

Voluntary pre-Construction Plan Review

The SW EFC works with the EPA Region 6 Drinking Water Section to offer a voluntary pre-construction plan review for any proposed new facilities or renovations of existing ones. The plan review is not from an engineering perspective but rather examines the proposed facilities from an operations & maintenance perspective and looks for designs that when constructed might constitute a significant deficiency that could impact the water systems’ ability to provide safe drinking water. After construction these potential deficiencies would be identified during the sanitary survey process and would have to be fixed at that time.

Beyond Compliance

While maintaining compliance with the SDWA is an important part of public health protection, it can also be viewed as doing the minimum that is required. For those systems that want to do more than the minimum, the SW EFC offers assistance with water system optimization. This is typically done through an initial Comprehensive Performance Evaluation (CPE) that identifies the current status of the water system, followed by optimization activities that target areas identified during the CPE. Optimization activities allow systems to set a variety of goals that go beyond compliance to protect public health.

If you questions about the program or would like to request assistance please contact

Tribal water operators are essential in providing safe drinking water and protecting the public health of the Tribal communities they serve. The goal of the EPA Region 6 Tribal Operator Certification Program is to increase operator competency and to assist Tribal operators in achieving certification. The Program offers an opportunity for Tribal drinking water operators to attend training specifically developed for Tribes and to work towards certification.

As members of the Association of Boards Certification (ABC) for over 15 years, we are pleased to offer:

  • Both paper based testing and computer based testing
  • Quarterly and as requested EPA Region 6 operator certification exams
  • Tribal Utility Advisory Committee (TUAC) meetings
  • Reciprocity for Tribal water operators certified by other entities
  • Continuing Education Units (CEU's) for SW EFC trainings
  • Trainings in test-taking and basic math skills
  • Countrywide testing at AMP testing centers

EPA Region 6 Tribal Operator Certification Program
Requirements for Certification for Water Distribution and Treatment testing

Level Work Experience Education Continuing Education Hours
1 1 year of operating experience. (Education cannot be substituted for experience.) High school diploma or GED 10 hours
2 2 years of operating experience. (Post high school education or approved training may be substituted for up to 6 months of experience) High school diploma or GED 30 hours
3 5 years of operating experience. (Post high school education or approved training may be substituted for up to 1½ years of experience) High school diploma or GED & 1 year of post high school education or the equivalent in approved training 50 hours
4 6 years of operating experience, of which at least 1½ years must have occurred after obtaining a Level 3 Certificate. (Post high school education or approved training may be substituted for up to 4 years of experience.) High school diploma or GED & 2 years of post high school education or the equivalent in approved training 80 hours

For more information, email Rose Afandi: . Download and complete the below application forms and return the required documentation to the below address 2 weeks before the expected testing date:

Operator Certification Program
SWEFC/Civil Engineering Department
MSC01 1070, 1 University of New Mexico
Albuquerque, NM 87131

Water Operator Certification Resources

Training Approach

The SW EFC provides training on a variety of water system related topics. Training may be conducted one-on-one or in a group setting. A typical training includes a mix of PowerPoint presentations, demonstrations, hands-on activities, educational games and field exercises when appropriate. All classes are approved for Continuing Education Units (CEUs) both with the State and EPA Region 6 drinking water operator certification programs, as appropriate, and are designed to increase Tribal operator competency, as well as to increase the number of certified operators.

Trainings Offered

(Click for Current Trainings)

Basic Math & Water Math: When it comes to math, that old saying is true. You either use it or you lose it. That’s why it’s so important to practice, practice, practice! This half-day to full day training is tailored to the needs of each individual participant and can include breakout sessions for those interested in a more thorough basic math review and those interested in doing math associated with treatment processes and other more complex operations.

Chlorine Disinfection Workshop: This day long workshop provides both managers and operators with a better understanding of chlorine disinfection and disinfection system operations and maintenance (O & M) practices. Topics include: chlorine disinfection basics, chlorine safety, daily O & M practices, chlorine residual monitoring and disinfection math. In addition, chlorine disinfection is discussed as it relates to the Safe Drinking Water Act, sanitary surveys, and operator certification. The training includes hands-on activities with chlorine test kits and chemical feed pumps to enable water system personnel in becoming more comfortable with monitoring and controlling the disinfection process.

Distribution and Equipment O & M: This day long workshop assists operators with understanding basic O & M practices related to distribution systems. Topics include: storage tank components and inspections, piping installation and repairs, flushing, line disinfection, cross connection control, valves and hydrants, preventative maintenance schedules, and the benefits of distribution system mapping.

How to Comply with the Revised Total Coliform Rule: This full day workshop is intended to provide a better understanding of the requirements of the Revised Total Coliform Rule (TCR) and to assist in achieving compliance. Topics include: TCR vs RTCR basics, monitoring requirements, MCL violations, sampling plans, sampling procedures, troubleshooting Coliform problems and Level 1 & 2 Assessments. The training incorporates several hands-on activities to reinforce the specifics of the rule.

Protecting Your Drinking Water Using the Multiple Barrier Approach: The SW EFC developed this training to teach Tribal operators and managers how to evaluate their water system/s using the multiple barrier approach (MBA). Topics include all 8 elements of a sanitary survey, but focus primarily on the source, treatment and distribution barriers and how they can work together to provide protective barriers against waterborne disease. The intent of the training is to demonstrate why particular items noted in a sanitary survey may be a concern, help participants hone their skills in being able to identify potential deficiencies at their own water system/s and determine appropriate corrective action for deficiencies found. The training is conducted at a Tribal water system over a period of two days. The first day is spent in the classroom where lectures, pictures, and videos teach participants about what may constitute a deficiency and how to identify them. The morning of the second day is spent identify potential deficiencies at actual water systems facilities while the afternoon is spent creating a corrective action plan to address the deficiencies found.

SDWA Regulations: This one or two day training is designed to assist managers and operators in understanding and complying with the Safe Drinking Water Act. Topics include: Revised Total Coliform Rule, Chemical and Radionuclides Rules, Surface Water Treatment Rules, Disinfection Byproducts Rules, Ground Water Rule, Lead & Copper Rule, Public Notification Rule, and Consumer Confidence Reports. The training provides an overview of each rule, along with specifics on rule requirements. This training is updated as EPA promulgates new rules.

Understanding Compliance Monitoring: This one day workshop is designed to assist those managers and operators responsible for collecting SDWA Chem/Rad and DBP compliance samples at Tribal public water systems. Topics include: Understanding and updating EPA’s PWS Information Fact Sheet, descriptions of each SDWA contaminant group, and using the EPA Sampling Schedule to maintain compliance with the SDWA. In addition, procedures for collecting compliance samples, and laboratory specific procedures for submitting compliance samples are discussed and demonstrated.

Water Operator Certification Review: This half-day to full day training is designed for operators of Tribal public water systems in preparing for all levels of the Operator Certification Test. Topics include: drinking water regulations, equipment O & M, disinfection, water quality basics, and basic water math. In addition, study skills and test taking skills are reviewed.

Tribal Drinking Water Program Resources

SDWA Compliance Sampling

  • Accurate Environmental Chem-Rad COC – Invoice to SWEFC | download
  • Accurate Environmental Chem-Rad COC – Invoice to System | download
  • Accurate Environmental SDWA Compliance Sampling Pocket Guide | download
  • Hall Labs Chem-Rad COC | download
  • Hall Labs SDWA Compliance Sampling Pocket Guide | download

Water Operator Certification Program

SDWA Rules

General SDWA Information

Arsenic Rule

  • Arsenic Rule Quick Reference Guide | download
  • Drinking Water Standard for Arsenic Fact Sheet | download

Chemical Contaminant Rules

Consumer Confidence Reports (CCRs)

Ground Water Rule

  • Overview
  • Ground Water Rule: A Quick Reference Guide | download
  • Ground Water Rule Compliance Monitoring: A Quick Reference Guide | download
  • Ground Water Rule Sample Collection and Transport: A Quick Reference Guide | download
  • Ground Water Rule Triggered and Representative Monitoring: A Quick Reference Guide | download

Lead & Copper Rule

Public Notification Rule

  • Overview
  • Public Notification Rule Quick Reference Guide | download
  • Revised Public Notification Handbook | download
  • Public Notification Handbook for Transient Non-community Water Systems | download
  • Public Notification Instructions and Templates for the Revised Total Coliform Rule (RTCR) | download
  • PN templates in Microsoft Word format
    • Tier 1 templates for Community and Non-transient Non-community Water Systems | download
    • Tier 2 templates for Community and Non-transient Non-community Water Systems | download
    • Tier 3 templates for Community and Non-transient Non-community Water Systems | download
    • Appendix A: Transient Non-Community Systems templates for all three Tiers for Transient Non-community Water Systems | download

Radionuclides Rule

Revised Total Coliform Rule (RTCR)

Stage 2 Disinfectant/Disinfection Byproducts Rule (Stage 2 DBPR)

  • Comprehensive Disinfectants and Disinfection Byproducts Rules (Stage 1 and Stage 2) Quick Reference Guide | download
  • Stage 2 DBPR: A Quick Reference Guide For Schedule 3 Systems | download
  • Stage 2 DBPR: A Quick Reference Guide For Schedule 4 Systems | download

Additional Resources

Cross Connection Control

  • Cross-Connection Control: A Best Practices Guide | download
  • Cross-Connection Control Manual | download

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