Keep Water Moving in the Right Direction

Specialized software helps Miami-Dade run an efficient backflow prevention program.

Keep Water Moving in the Right Direction

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Backflow prevention devices are critical to providing clean and safe drinking water. Miami-Dade County, with 2.8 million residents, has roughly 30,000 of the devices in its system.

The mechanical valves prevent the reversal of water — and potential system contamination — once it has passed through. The Safe Drinking Water Act makes backflow prevention a necessary component of every municipal water distribution system, and compliance is mandatory.

Like most utilities, 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 water customers with lawn irrigation systems. But it doesn’t stop just at installation.

“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,” says Juan Pelay, chief of meter operations and maintenance for Miami-Dade County.

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

Steamlined process

Pelay has been running the Backflow Prevention Program at Miami-Dade for almost 25 years. His technical staff uses Tokay, a compliance and data management software program from Aquatic Informatics, to manage the information gathered from 1,100 certified testers reporting on 30,000 devices annually.

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.

“What I like most is the ease of use, and having everything we need on one screen gives us a snapshot of all the cross connections, so we know where we need to focus,” Pelay says.

The county’s approach combines the power of the cloud with an on-premise database to modernize the test submission process. The utility website is the entry portal for Tokay WebTest, where utility-approved testers enter test results for a $5 fee that helps 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.

“The field-entry for test data with recurring data syncs is fantastic for us. The WebTest sync takes less than one minute per test; the old method took us three to four minutes per test with a dedicated person processing 150 tests a day. Now we can do it all in 10 minutes,” Pelay says.

Miami-Dade is in total control of who can access the tester portal. Rules can be set to disallow testers or companies with expired certifications and/or test kits. Testers that are in good standing have access to information about the site and assemblies without having to call or put in a request with county staff.

“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,” says Pelay.

Compliance and reporting

The Miami-Dade Water & Sewer Department is also required to file an annual report with the state of Florida and uses Tokay to provide quick and easy reporting by managing data with unlimited filters, giving staff the ability to 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 produce reports. The built-in templates can be populated with a click of a button to automate regulatory reporting, saving time and improving data accuracy by avoiding human error associated with manual data entry.

As most of the county is flat, its most challenging compliance issues are typically with the high-rise apartments. Setting alerts and reminders are particularly useful to ensure the devices are being tested as needed.

“With our backflow prevention data being managed so efficiently we now spend the majority of our time dealing with compliance issues,” Pelay says. “We can focus our resources on minimizing the potential for contamination from backflow and improve our water quality testing to ensure our drinking water is safe.” 

Kurt Ferrell, a territory sales executive for Aquatic Informatics, works with customers to find solutions that optimize backflow, FOG and industrial pretreatment programs using the latest data management technologies.


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