Iowa DNR’s Water Supply Listserv of March 26

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Water Supply News

Iowa Water Supply Program & Water Supply Activities during COVID-19 Pandemic

The COVID-19 Pandemic has caused significant interruptions on the way we live and do business in the water supply universe.  We are providing this guidance to be used as needed by our water professionals.  If you cannot meet the requirements, contact your Field Office to discuss.  We recognize that situations may change, and will do our best to work with you.  Public health is the most critical need right now and you are a vital part of your system in that effort. We also want to ensure the health and safety of your water system personnel and the people at the sample location. If your facility is closed and not serving water to the public, contact your Field Office.

DNR Staff Plans

DNR staff will be attempting to maintain our daily operations as best we can. Due to most staff working at home, it will be best to communicate via email. We will be checking our phone messages, but it may be sporadic. Please provide us with the best way to reach you, or your designee if you are not available. We will continue to provide assistance and communications via the U.S. Postal Service as long as we have the capabilities, and will also be providing documents as attachments to emails if we have an email address for you or your system.  


Coliform bacteria: It is imperative to keep a bacterially safe supply at this time.  Many systems use public places as sample collection sites, all of which may be closed or closed to outside entry at this time: schools, care facilities, restaurants.  A system may change its sampling plan sites as needed during this unprecedented time.  The change must be documented (list the old site and the new site, and why the change was made) and must still cover the section of the community that the previous location did. We are not asking that you permanently change your sampling plan, only to document the changes for this time period. The number of required samples remains, but the same site may be used more than once during the month provided it is sampled on different weeks.  Remember the purpose of the sampling is to ensure your entire system is bacterially safe. 

Disinfectant residual measurements: Disinfectant residuals must be maintained.  For systems that disinfect, there is no change to the disinfectant residual measurement requirements: measure it at the source/entry point and in the distribution system daily, and measure the chlorine residual at each routine bacteria sample site.  Chlorine dioxide and chlorite  measurements are also still required as usual, per your operation permit.

Disinfection Byproducts: If your water system is required to sample for disinfection byproducts (TTHM/HAA5) on a quarterly basis, access to your approved sites may be limited during this time. If your approved site is unavailable, see if you can get access to a neighboring site, collect a sample there, and provide DNR with notification of the change via email. Do not change your sampling plan at this time. 

Lead and Copper: No lead and copper samples are required to be collected until June at the earliest for those systems on 6-month sampling frequency, so hold off collection until that time.  For systems on reduced annual or triennial monitoring, samples must be collected between June 1 and September 30, so there is a lot of time available. 

If a system is required to collect water quality parameters and is having difficulty accessing the sites, contact the person you typically talk with in the Field Office to discuss. 

Under the heading of “if you are looking for something to do and you have the available time,” work on developing an inventory of the pipe material of all of your distribution system potable water service lines, including public and private sides, using your records and staff knowledge.  These are the categories: lead service line, lead gooseneck/pigtail/connector, galvanized steel, copper with lead solder, copper without lead solder, plastic, unknown but likely not lead, unknown but likely lead, and other (and list that material).  This will be a requirement of the revised Lead and Copper Rule (LCRR), although it’s only in proposed format now.

Source/entry Point Sampling: Continue to collect the source/entry point samples as usual for the acute contaminants of nitrate and nitrite, and the chronic contaminants of inorganics, organics, and radionuclides.  At this time, laboratories are still operational and accepting those samples.  Nitrate and nitrite are critical because they are acute contaminants.  If your system is controlling these and you are on monthly or quarterly sampling frequency, it’s especially important to ensure the maximum contaminant levels (MCLs) are met.


Public Notice: Look at your communications plans.  How will you communicate any water issues with your community during this time?  If there is an MCL or treatment technique (TT) violation, public notice is required.  If there is an outage/significant main break, public notice is required.  DNR will provide you with the public notice template and requirements via email if we have a valid email address for you or your water supply. Hard copies will be mailed as a follow-up when possible. All the public notice templates are on the website

Consumer Confidence Report (CCR): The draft CCRs were mailed to all community water supplies on March 17. If you would like an electronic copy of the draft, please send an email request to  We are responding to your request as soon as possible, although please be patient if you do not receive an immediate response.  


Self-monitoring and Treatment: Treatment must also continue, with self-monitoring requirements still in effect.  If you have any difficulties, contact the Field Office.  Surface water and influenced groundwater systems must meet the all turbidity and disinfection requirements. Disinfection in groundwater is also important, as well as mandatory treatment to mitigate any MCL violations.  Maintaining the disinfectant residuals is critical, as already mentioned.

Main Break/Depressurization Event:  Contact your Field Office if you need to issue a public notice for a main break/depressurization event to discuss the requirements. 

Operator Grade:  The usual requirements for operator certification are in effect.  Should you have any issues, please contact the Field Office.  The staff of all of our public water systems are essential to providing safe drinking water in our state.

Operator renewals and CEUs: The next renewal period for water and wastewater operators ends next year, March 31, 2021.  Although a couple of trainings have been cancelled, others have been postponed.  

Sanitary Survey Inspections and Well Site Surveys: All of the Field Offices are minimally staffed at present time on-site, so please call ahead as the doors may be locked.  Staff are calling ahead of time before scheduling onsite visits or sanitary survey inspections. The operator may request the onsite visit or inspection be rescheduled due to COVID-19 priority response activities. An unannounced visit would occur only if there is a significant environmental risk or human health is in danger.  

Additional Information

Websites: These are the DNR homepages for the three components of the water supply program in Iowa: 

These are the DNR websites for the various items you might need during this time, alphabetically listed:

These are some of the government agency COVID-19 websites:

Assistance Providers: In addition to the DNR staff, there are several resources available in the event a system is having difficulty.


  • Cross-train staff in essential work operations.
  • Update critical standard operating procedures so someone with little familiarity could come in and run the plant.
  • Identify experienced operators familiar with your facility and/or living nearby.  Reach out to see if they are willing and available to help in an emergency.
  • Ensure the contact information for every staff member is current, so contact is possible even if in quarantine.
  • Water operators should practice social distancing to reduce virus exposure. Restrict nonessential outside visits to the plant.
  • Suspend nonessential construction activities if contractors are in usual contact with operators or sharing common facilities (rest rooms, meeting rooms, equipment).
  • Adjust bacteria samples receiving procedures to avoid operator contact with the public such as using a drop off box or window.
  • Ensure an adequate supply of materials (treatment chemicals, lab reagents, lab standards, generator fuel, and other consumables).
  • Make sure sample site plans are up to date and accessible. Modify sample plans to avoid operator contact with certain facilities during the emergency.
  • Make sure operations staff are communicating frequently with management staff about the health status and availability of operators.
  • Provide water treatment cross training to other public works personnel who may be available if there is a shortage of water treatment plant operators.
  • Communicate with chemical suppliers on product availability. Many supply chains are being impacted by the pandemic.
  • Review community mutual aid agreements and update contacts.
  • Supply necessary provisions (showers, rest area, food, etc.) for extended shift operations if necessary.
  • Prepare communication materials for the public about virus transmission in drinking water. The COVID-19 virus has not been detected in drinking-water supplies. Based on current evidence, the risk to water supplies is low. Americans can continue to use and drink water from their tap as usual.  Both CDC and EPA have useful information on their websites.