How the Great Lakes Tapping Competition Was Born

Water department teams love testing themselves during state or national conventions. Here's the story of how one regional competition got started.
How the Great Lakes Tapping Competition Was Born
Teams compete in the Hydrant Hysteria competition at ACE15 in Anaheim, California.

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Editor's Note: This article is part of an operator profile on Dave Ramsey of Westmont, Illinois. Watch for a special feature in the September 2015 issue of our sister publication, Treatment Plant Operator.

The Westmont Water Division team won the 2012 water main tapping event during WATERCON in Springfield, Illinois, earning a shot at becoming national champions at the AWWA’s ACE12 show in Dallas, Texas.

The competition involves two people drilling into a pipe, while a third member simulates completing the water connection to the house by attaching a copper pipe.

“We finished 10th, which was a great accomplishment,” says Michael Ramsey, then water superintendent. “However, our competitors were really solid teams from Alabama, Virginia and California. Westmont was the only Midwest entrant.”

Ramsey and his teammates saw the need to help Midwest operators gain hands-on experience performing in front of audiences to prepare them for national competitions. To provide such a platform, they created the Great Lakes Cup Tapping Competition.

Ramsey’s position on various water association committees enabled him to introduce the event at the 2013 AWWA Distribution Systems Symposium/Emergency Preparedness and Security Conference & Exposition in Itasca and to invite surrounding state water sections to compete. Five teams arrived, including a women's team from Lansing, Michigan, that went on to win the national tapping championship.

“The ladies told me the extra practice they had at the Great Lakes Cup gave them the winning edge,” says Ramsey. “Our goal of giving teams experience competing in front of crowds was working out great.”

A team from Arlington Heights won the men’s division that year, and a team from Troy, Michigan, won the cup in 2014 (no women competed).

“It’s been very exciting,” says Ramsey. “Five teams participated both years, but one of them was always new. We want to involve Ohio, Minnesota and other neighboring states to reach our goal of eight to 10 teams competing for the cup.”

To increase interest in the water main tapping and Meter Madness competitions, Ramsey’s teams will demonstrate them at ACE16 in Chicago. They will set up in the park across the street from Water Tower Place along with food vendors to create a festive atmosphere.

“We’re hoping to attract a thousand people or more to cheer on the contestants,” says Ramsey.

He also developed Hydrant Hysteria, a competition in which the winning two-member team assembles a fire hydrant in the fastest time.

“The whole idea is to have fun,” says Ramsey. “Everyone is outside and within sight of the historic water tower, one of the only structures to survive the 1871 Chicago fire and provide water to the ravished city. How cool is that?”


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