Operating Records the Smaller Water Works Should Keep
Should Show All the Facts Relating to Operation of Plant—Value of Records to Superintendent and Operator in Case of Future Extensions
IN this paper the author emphasizes the equal necessity for small water works to keep efficient records as for those of larger cities. He points out the various advantages which accrue from systematic, efficient and carefully kept water works records.
During the past four years the writer has for one purpose or another had occasion to inquire for the operating records at a number of small water works plants in Iowa. Generally the result of these inquiries has been finding that there are very few such records. The value of operating records in large water works plants is accepted without question and the forms in which such records are kept are becoming more standardized each year. Is there any factor which depends on the size of a water works plant which determines whether or not operating records are worth keeping? It is the purpose of this paper to point out the value of operation records, to discuss the existing situation, to suggest methods of improvement and if possible to start a discussion on a subject which appears to deserve the attention of water works men.
Defining Small Water Works
It is rather difficult to define the term small water works. In a paper on “Modern Pumps for Small Water Works,” which was read before the New England Water Works Association in 1920. C. W. Fulton includes under Small Water Works those plants which have a daily capacity of three million gallons or less. (NOTE—See FIRE AND WATER ENGINEERING, p. 323, Feb. 11, 1920—EDITOR.) Such a classification may perhaps serve the purpose of this discussion although the writer feels that in the Iowa plants whose capacity is 500,000 gallons or more per day, some effort is generally made to keep records of operation. While in most cases these records can be improved—particularly in those plants which under our classification may be called small water works—it is in the smaller plants whose capacity is less than 500,000 gallons per day that the greatest improvement can be made. Definite data concerning the number of these plants is not available but from such information as could be obtained the writer estimates that out of 500 plants in Iowa 490 would be classed as small water works and of this number, 464 have a capacity of less than 500,000 gallons per day.
The records which ought to be kept at a water works plant should show all facts relating to the operation of the plant. In a broad sense the keeping of such records may be called bookkeeping or accounting. However, properly kept records will not only show costs of operation, but will also show pertinent facts in regard to the quality of the product and point to reasons for variations in quality. A successful water works plant is one which supplies water which is satisfactory from every standpoint to its customers, and also gives good service at a minimum cost. The facts in regard to the operation of such a plant should be kept in permanent form so that they may be always available. We profit by experience—the operating records should be a complete record of experience obtained in operating a water works plant. When it is too late we often find that the memory of the plant superintendent is not as trustworthy as a written record.
The operating records should include an inventory of all plant equipment, a record of the amount of water furnished to the distribution system each day, amount of power used per day, pressure maintained, occurrence of fires, labor costs, plans of the distribution system, all changes in the distribution system, installation and removal of meters, meter testing, quantities of chemicals used for treatment, data concerning treatment, and the results of the examination of all samples of water which are analyzed to determine the quality. It is probable that other items should be included—this is not a complete list by any means and is offered only for the purpose of suggesting what the writer has in mind when he uses the term operating records. It will be noted that aside from labor costs which are a factor of operating costs the financial items are not included and the reason for this omission is that such records do not always come under the province of the superintendent of water works. It is not our purpose to discuss the determination of water sales rates.
Value of Records to Operator
The operating records should be of the greatest value to the plant operator. Such records ought to enable him to operate the water works plant in the most efficient manner. The efficiency of the plant units as well as efficiency of the plant as a whole can be determined. If the plant is not operated continuously a study of the operating records should show at what times and for how long a period the plant can be most economically run. It should show him the variations in quantity of water available at the source of supply and the variation in ordinary demand together with the effect of fire demand. The record would show the effect of the seasons both on the quantity and quality of water and on the plant and distribution system. Some one will say that the old operator knows these things. In a general way this is true but such information cannot be as reliable as the written record, and the new man coming on to the job does not inherit his predecessor’s memory! Properly kept operating records should be invaluable to the man who makes them.
“The operating records should include an inventory of all plant equipment, a record of the amount of water furnished to the distribution system each day, amount of power used per day, pressure maintained, occurrence of fires, labor costs, plans of the distribution system, all changes in the distribution system, installation and removal of meters, meter testing, quantities of chemicals used for treatment, data concerning treatment, and the results of the examination of all samples of water which are analyzed to determine the quality. It is probable that other items should be included—this is not a complete list by any means.”
Facilitates State Reports
The making out of reports to state board of health and to state public utilities commission will be very much easier for the man who keeps a daily record of his plant operation. These state supervisory authorities are not unjust in their requests for information. The object of such supervision is to protect the health and the pocketbook of the citizens of the state. Speaking only from the standpoint of the water utilities we must admit that the primary function of such public utilities is first to furnish a safe and satisfactory water, and second, to supply such water to the consumer at a reasonable cost. Then the question arises as to who is to determine whether or not these requirements are being fulfilled? The consumer knows whether or not the water is satisfactory but he is a poor judge of its safety and has very little knowledge on which to base an opinion as to the cost. Safety and cost are matters to be determined by specialists and for the small water works the services of qualified experts in such matters is not feasible from an economic standpoint. When such advisory service is furnished by the state plant operators should realize its value and by hearty co-operation obtain maximum benefits from it. Operating records make such co-operation possible and not a burden.
Value In Case of Future Extension
Most small towns and cities have the laudable ambition to grow and history shows that a majority of them do increase in size. Growth means enlargement, extension and improvement of the water works plant. When these matters come up for consideration the first inquiry made by the engineer who is to make the plans is for the past records of plant operation. On the basis of such records he is able to forcast more accurately the probable future demands and plan for a plant that will furnish a safe, satisfactory and economical water supply. The degree of success which he attains will be largely measured by the data which he finds available. Operating records are valuable in planning improvements to the water works plant.
At a majority of the water works plants in Iowa where some form of purification process is used operating records are being kept. The chief of the water laboratory of the state board of health has been making a very commendable effort during the past two years to encourage the keeping of such records. If the plant operator keeps only a duplicate of the weekly reports which are required by the state board of health he will at least have a fair start on operating records.
Simple Forms Should Be Planned
Perhaps the most serious obstacles in the way of getting operating records at small water works are, first, lack of proper equipment and record forms, and second, the fact that in many cases the operation of the water works plant is only a part of the duties of the man who is city marshal and superintendent of streets. Probably not more than one-fourth of his time is devoted to the water works. With so many things to claim his attention it is not surprising that he does not keep records at the water works.
If such records are to be obtained it is essential that simple forms be planned and further that some equipment for measuring pressures and recording the amount of water furnished by the plant be installed. A recording pressure gage will be very helpful to the operator. Venturi meters or master flow meters may be used to determine the daily flow. If it is not possible to install a meter a stroke counter on the pumps at pumping plants may be used. Where the plant is not run continuously the time of starting and stopping should be recorded. In the smaller plants the furnishing of a diary or log in which daily notes can he made may serve to encourage the operator to make some records.
(Excerpts from paper read before the annual meeting of the Iowa Section of the American Water Works Association.)
“The making out of reports to state board of health and to state public utilities commission will be very much easier for the man who keeps a daily record of his plant operation.”