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Backflow testing & maintenance program promotes safe drinking water in Miami Dade

Miami, FL, USA
Aquatic Informatics

Government Champion

Chief Meter Operations & Maintenance

Cost

Zero upfront cost to local government

Project Status

Operational since 2013

Challenges Addressed

Motivation

Project Type

At a Glance

With 2.8 million residents, Miami-Dade County has roughly 30,000 backflow prevention devices crucial to potable water protection. Keeping on top of all the activity of a backflow prevention program proved to be a source of inefficiency in the county, and the department needed a more streamlined data solution.

Problem Addressed

The Safe Drinking Water Act makes backflow prevention a critical component of every municipal water distribution system, and compliance is mandatory. Critical to providing clean and safe water, faulty backflow devices can contaminate the potable water supply. Like most counties, Miami-Dade requires certain water customers to install backflow prevention assemblies at their water service connections. Backflow devices are most common at hospitals, assisted living facilities, service stations, auto repair shops, and establishments with lawn irrigation systems. However backflow devices are complicated and require maintenance beyond installation.

Juan Pelay, Chief Meter Operations & Maintenance for Miami-Dade County has been running the Backflow Prevention Program for 25 years. He says, “Because the backflow preventer is a mechanical device with springs, moving parts, and rubber seating surfaces that wear over time, the devices need to be tested every year to ensure that the assembly is working properly.” With a little over 1,100 certified testers reporting on 30,000 devices annually, Pelay and his team have a lot of information to review and verify. The team had a staff member dedicated to manual data entry, taking 3-4 minutes to review one test, completing only 150 a day.

To identify and address backflow and related safety issues, public and private water professionals, planning and development departments, and health department staff need a more efficient and effective way to manage cross-connection control inspections, assembly installations, and annual testing.

Miami-Dade Water & Sewer Department used/is using Tokay for backflow prevention and cross-connection control to address this/these challenge(s).

Solution(s) Used

Pelay and his technical staff manage the information gathered across all 30,000 devices in Tokay, a compliance and data management software program.

Tokay is a secure, central repository that streamlines the administration of backflow prevention programs. It automatically synchronizes water customer records from billing software, continuously updates mailing addresses, and maintains lists of industry-approved backflow assemblies. County staff can schedule activities, generate reports, send notices to water customers, and provide backflow technicians with vital information. Pelay values the ease of use. Having everything his team needs on one screen gives them a snapshot of all the cross-connections, so they know where they need to focus.

The County’s approach combines the power of the cloud with an on-premise database to modernize the test submission process. The utility website allows utility-approved testers to enter results and charges them a fee to help cover program costs. Each night, all test records are automatically downloaded from the cloud to the Miami-Dade server and any changes in customer information are synchronized to the tester portal. In the morning, tests are downloaded, approved, accepted into the Tokay database, and the next test date is scheduled electronically.

Miami-Dade is in total control who can access the tester portal and set rules to disallow testers with expired certifications and/or test kits. Testers in good standing have access to information about the site and assemblies without having to put in time to re-register.

“Because the data in Tokay is so current with the annual updates from testers, and automated weekly synching, we often use it for finding other information. For example, if we want to find out how many meters are in a location or how many accounts are tied to a specific customer. With 450,00 metered connections across the State’s most populous county, it’s a treasure trove of accurate, reliable data for our team to easily access and sort the data they are looking for,” said Juan.

Miami-Dade Water & Sewer Department is also required to file an annual report with the State of Florida and uses the Tokay to provide quick and easy reporting. With unlimited filters, staff can immediately drill down on any field and view contents across the entire database. This makes it simple to view program statistics, track and define data, and ultimately, produce reports. With built-in templates regulatory reporting can be automated with a click of a button.

Outcomes

  1. The new cross-functional syncing process quickly aggregates information across teams, and allows the Meter Operations & Maintenance team to sync all tests in less than 10 minutes
  2. Automated report filing, with all of the data across systems living in one, centralized platform. Staff can now focus more time on compliance, rather than report filing.
  3. Streamlined collaboration between the Operations and Maintenance team and testing companies
  4. More secure data allows the city to focus more time on improving water quality testing to ensure safe drinking water
  5. With 450,000 data metered connections across the county, other departments have access to reliable, easily sorted data to fill out their own reports

Lessons Learned

  1. Setting alerts and reminders are particularly useful to ensure the devices are being tested as needed.
  2. Tokay is scalable, so as the backflow prevention program grows with the population, the software can handle further complexities as they arise.

Who Should Consider?

Utilities and water providers with a backflow prevention program that want to streamline their processes with modern data management technology to save time and better focus attention on compliance.

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