Thursday, May 9, 2013

Guest Post: Drinking Water Education

Since 2000, the Illinois Water Resources Center has partnered with the Illinois State Water Survey to provide outreach programs for drinking water suppliers in Illinois and across the country. Today, Jennifer Wilson, an IWRC staff member and the communication coordinator for both and, describes these programs and the audiences they’ve reached. 

Small communities and rural areas face real challenges obtaining and maintaining safe water supplies. The Illinois Water Resources Center is a partner with the Illinois State Water Survey on two websites funded by the US EPA, in partnership with the Rural Community Assistance Partnership (RCAP), which address education and outreach barriers to safe water. centers on a 10-week email course (The Private Well Class) that teaches homeowners how to properly care for and maintain their water well. This includes introductory information on geology, well contamination, and water testing. The site is designed to serve the 45 million Americans who rely on a private well for their drinking water and includes a pre- and post-test quiz to test knowledge improvement.

Steve Wilson, the project manager at and a career groundwater hydrologist, has combined his own knowledge with the vast resources already available on private wells. Understanding how to prevent groundwater contamination, both on the property and via cross-connection control, is addressed in the lessons as well as during a series of three live webinars. To date, more than 2100 individuals have signed up for The Private Well Class. is a one-of-a-kind resource website on many drinking water, wastewater, and utility management topics. It aggregates information from across the web so that users can save significant time finding the documents, training events, and news they need. The site is designed to serve water operators in small communities and tribes across the United States. 

The team behind, which has included many U of I student workers over the years, has indexed more than 23,000 events and 11,000 documents to date. A biweekly newsletter reaches more than 1100 water industry professionals with the most timely and relevant information available. 

Both websites share a key mission, to distill best-available information into user-friendly content and lessons that serve small communities and rural areas across the United States.