7 Powerful Steps to Win at Sampling Schedules
Public water systems are complex, have a lot of moving parts, and place a tremendous amount of responsibility on water operators. Among the many responsibilities we have to juggle, sampling schedules is one of the most important. Improperly managing sampling schedules can create big issues for your water system and the community that relies on it.
Apart from the rather obvious potential for public health decline, the downstream effect of mismanaging sampling schedules are fines and violations from the TCEQ.
Both of these get a big "Nope!" from us. We don't want either of those to happen to you!
Checking your water system’s sampling schedule with the TCEQ’s Texas Drinking Water Watch utility is fast and easy. It's so easy it can be done in 7 simple, yet powerful steps. Let's take a quick look.
1. Follow the URL
You can start by visiting the Texas Drinking Water Watch utility.
2. Enter Your Water System ID
On the Texas Drinking Water Watch page, notice the six text fields in the Public Water Supply System Search Parameters section:
Water System No.
Water System Name
Principal County Served
Water System Type
Primary Source Water Type
Simply fill in the top field with your entity's water system number. You aren't required to fill in all six fields. Once you've filled in the appropriate information, click the "Search For Water Systems" button at the bottom left.
Unlike the TCEQ License Lookup utility, entering incomplete information won't necessarily end in an error message. This makes the Texas Drinking Water Watch utility easier to use, in our opinion.
If, for example, I mistype Lewisville's water system number by forgetting the trailing '4' (i.e., TX061000), the Texas Drinking Water Watch utility returns records that include all of the characters leading up to that missing/dropped character.
3. By the Numbers
In the image above, note there are three hyperlinks:
Water System No.
Click on the water system number hyperlink to access imminently valuable information about your water system. In the case of the City of Lewisville, that'd be TX0610004.
4. Find Your Schedule
The first column on the left contains the link we’re looking for: Sample Schedules/FANLs/Plans.
5. Track Your Due Items
There are multiple tables on the Sample Schedules page. The typical flow (from top to bottom) is Routine Total Coliform Rule (TCR) Sample Schedules followed by Repeat Total Coliform Rule (TCR) Sample Schedules. The third table down (in the case of Lewisville) is the Group Non-TCR Sample Schedules table, and this is where avoiding those fines and violations comes into focus.
In a nutshell, the table above shows what needs collection, where it needs to be collected, and when. Interpreting this table is your key to staying ahead of the compliance curve. For example, let's take the last line which deals with metals (what). Entry point 001 (where) must be sampled for metals once a year (when).
Simple, right? Yes, but perhaps too simple.
6. Get the Details
Often, a quick read of the table above doesn't offer the granularity we would like. So, deeper into the rabbit hole we go!
Note the link located on the left-hand side of the screen just above the table labeled Routine TCR Sample Schedules.
Or, see the image below (highlighted in yellow).
This is the key to getting the details you need. When selected, it will expand the details shown in the sample schedule and often helps clarify by breaking the Analyte Group column into:
the specific analytes.
the number of samples the TCEQ received.
a pass/fail condition.
Seasonal monitoring dates are shown in red. Samples with seasonal monitoring requirements must be collected during the period shown. If not, they won't count toward compliance. In other words, the Schedule Satisfied column will ways read "No," and that's a good way to get in trouble with the TCEQ.
7. Putting It Together
Let's take the same example from step 5—the metals requirement for EP001.
Under this expanded view, we can see:
the current monitoring period is 01/01/2022 - 12/31/2022.
the full list of required metal analytes.
the schedule has not been satisfied.
When you know the lab (yours or a contractor) finished analyzing samples and submitted them to the state, it's good to check this expanded sample schedule to make sure all the boxes are marked "Yes" under the Schedule Satisfied column.
If something is missing, reach out to your lab to correct the issue.
Being surprised by violations and/or enforcement actions due to missed sampling is completely avoidable. It's also possible for the TCEQ to make mistakes, leading to awkward questions and heart palpitations when this news hits the desk of the main water system contact. Checking up on your Water System’s sampling schedule with TCEQ Texas Drinking Water Watch won't just prevent the aforementioned, but it'll also ensure your water system continues to supply clean water to the public.
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