California water district selects data management system
West Basin Municipal Water District is a water wholesaler that provides drinking water and recycled water to nearly 1 million people. West Basin is active in conservation and education, and also is exploring seawater desalination to create more reliable, local sources of drinking water. Its main goals as an organization are to provide a reliable supply of water, excellent water quality, responsive customer services, sound financial management and environmental stewardship.
Need for Efficiency
West Basin was searching for a data management solution that not only would consolidate all of the data from its facilities and laboratories, but also optimize its internal processes as they relate to regulatory requirements. One challenge it experienced was its ever-changing reporting parameters and large amount of analytes. The level of detail required was becoming overwhelming and in need of a solution.
West Basin also wanted a tool that would help it automate its California Integrated Water Quality System (CIWQS) electronic self-monitoring report (eSMR) and discharge monitoring reports (DMR). It spent a great deal of time and resources compiling the data for quarterly reports from various sources and multiple labs for its five National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permits. From there, staff would enter the information into an Excel spreadsheet, create all of the required calculations and manually fill out DMRs. The manual nature of this process left room for error and took a lot of time, leaving little time to analyze the results and optimize performance.
Finding a Data Solution
West Basin needed to find a data consolidation solution that included a reporting module that would address its CIWQS electronic reporting needs. After reviewing its options, West Basin chose WaterTrax to help it consolidate its data and ease the reporting load. In addition to the CIWQS reporting tools, the system offers a built-in formula builder that further reduces the amount of manual data manipulation that West Basin must complete for each NPDES permit.
“Before working with WaterTrax, our data [were] spread across hundreds of spreadsheets, in various files and folders,” said Elizabeth Sala, environmental quality specialist for West Basin, who was instrumental in the implementation of the new system. “Now, we have access to all of that data in one location. We can quickly open up a lab report to investigate when WaterTrax notifies us of an issue through [its] automated e-mail alerting function.”
Sala has worked since implementation to set up her CIWQS and eSMR2.5 report templates and has found the reporting process improved. “The process for setting up the reports the first time was very detailed, but once I had these templates set up with all of the analytes, generating the reports goes quickly,” she said.
In addition to the CIWQS reporting tool, Sala also is using the DMR product. “The DMR integrates seamlessly with the CIWQS database,” she said. In California, the DMR goes to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency through the CIWQS database. “The data validation feature of the DMR highlights any missing data or other issues in yellow, making the process more effective.”
Electronic Reporting Benefits
The new system has improved efficiency in the organization by eliminating redundant and manual data consolidation and reporting processes. Sala no longer has to spend as much time entering data into spreadsheets. Having the lab results entered directly into WaterTrax by her labs has saved time. She can easily distribute the results to colleagues, generate reports as needed and have all calculations performed automatically when core data are entered.
The CIWQS reporting tools for eSMR and DMR also have been beneficial. “The formula builder tool has allowed me to take advantage of the database and data housed in WaterTrax,” Sala said. The first time she generated and validated the data for some of the less complicated quarterly CIWQS reports, it took less than an hour, when previously it would have taken more than eight hours. As she becomes more familiar with the tool, she expects this time to decrease further. This alone has saved hours of data mining, which has allowed her to spend more time doing quality assurance and control on the data results and less time entering data.
Sala also has seen benefits when it comes to ad hoc reporting requests. Previously, requests for trending or historical data could have taken two or more hours to locate and then consolidate for a report, as the data were saved quarterly in various locations on the computer network. Now, she can pull that information in about five minutes, depending on the complexity of the report.
“I really like that the data find us if there is an issue,” Sala said. “Previously, because of the volume of data, exceedances or questionable results sometimes would be hard to find unless the lab would call us, making it a challenge when reporting.” Now, the information is more readily available and easier to analyze.
“The WaterTrax support team is outstanding—the team gets back to you quickly and they are very supportive,” Sala said. “If a solution isn’t readily available, they will work with you until the best option is discovered.”