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Lower High Falls, Talladega Forest - Bill Wilson
Area Wide Optimization Program

Since 1997, ADEM has been an active participant in the EPA Region 4 Area Wide Optimization Multi-State Pilot Program (AWOP). This program was originally designed to achieve optimized turbidity performance at surface water treatment plants by utilizing the Composite Correction Program (CCP).

The CCP is an approach to identify and address performance limitations at an individual facility and to obtain improved performance. The CCP was broken into two parts. The first being the Comprehensive Performance Evaluation (CPE) and the second being the Comprehensive Technical Assistance (CTA).

Utilizing the CCP approach, the program has expanded beyond turbidity (microbial) removal in surface water treatment plants. Currently, AWOP is assisting water systems with turbidity removal, disinfection byproduct (DBP) control, distribution management, and operator development.

CPE’s are the evaluation tool utilized by the AWOP to evaluate a water system’s performance as it relates to achieving optimized performance. This is a four or five day event at a water system where its performance is evaluated in three areas. The areas are: administration, design and special studies. The CPE Team evaluates the water system in these three areas and determines what factors are limiting the performance of the treatment plant. The factors are then presented and explained to the water system. A detailed report is also provided to the water system at a later date.

Some of the common limiting factors are: Applications of Concept and Testing to Process Control, Policies and Communication, Process Flexibility, and Lack of Operational Guidelines.

CTAs are utilized to assist water systems in achieving and sustaining optimized performance goals. Additional benefits of a CTA are improved operator capability, cost savings, improved efficiency in operations. Alabama is implementing CTAs through targeted technical assistance (TTA) and Performance Based Training (PBT).

TTA is where ADEM staff members work with a system directly by providing guidance and technical support to deal with issues the water system is having. TTAs can be as long as several weeks to several years depending on the issues being addressed.

PBT is a five or six session centralized training event involving multiple utilities. The sessions cover data collection/goal setting; priority setting/problem solving skills; assess performance/apply skills; and report on success. Each session covers topics in detail and with follow up activities for the water systems to conduct within their system. The sessions are conducted over a 10 to 18 month period depending on the topics being covered. Additional support is provided by ADEM staff who follow-up with the water system in between classes to ensure that the water system is staying on track and completing the assignments.

Optimization Program Goals

The program’s goal is to enhance (optimize) the quality of water being provided to the citizens of Alabama and provide Alabama’s water utilities with the needed training and tools to achieve the goals set by program. The goals established by this program are as follows:

Microbial (Pathogen) Goals
  • Clarified Water (Settled)
    • When the raw water turbidity (NTU) average is greater than 10 NTU the settled water should be less than or equal to 2.0 NTU 95% of the time for each clarification unit.
    • When the raw water turbidity (NTU) average is less than or equal to 10 NTU the settled water should be less than or equal to 1.0 NTU 95% of the time for each clarification unit.
  • Conventional Filtration
    • Individual filtered water turbidity should be below 0.10 NTU 95% of the time.
    • Maximum single filtered water turbidity not to exceed 0.30 NTU at any time.
    • Rewash filter until the turbidity is below 0.10 NTU before returning to service.
  • Membrane Filtration
    • Individual membrane effluent turbidity below 0.05 NTU 95% of time.
    • Maximum turbidity should not exceed 0.15 NTU at any time.
    • Pressure decay tests (PDT) should be below the test limit. Any membrane with a PDT above the limit should be immediately removed from service until repaired.
  • Chlorine residual
    • Ensure that the require contact time has been achieved at all times.
    • Maintain sufficient chlorine residual in the finished water to ensure proper disinfection.
  • Microbial goals are based upon the highest daily reading as reported on the monthly operational report.
Disinfection Byproducts
  • Short Term Goal
    • Each individual site’s LRAA is ≤ 70 ppb for TTHM and ≤ 50 ppb for HAA5.
  • Long Term Goal
    • Average of max LRAA based upon 11 quarters of data should be below 60 ppb for TTHM and 40 ppb for HAA5.
  • Plant Effluent Goal
    • TTHM RAA 20 ppb or less
    • HAA5 RAA 15 ppb or less
    • TOC RAA 1.7 mg/L or less
Distribution Management
  • Water Storage Tanks
    • Water age should be ≤ 4.0 days.
    • Mixing ration should be ≥ 1.0.
  • Chlorine Residual
    • Maintain 0.20 mg/L of free chlorine in all parts of the distribution system.
    • Total chlorine should be within ±0.2 mg/L of the free chlorine residual.
  • Distribution pH
    • The pH of the distribution should be within ± 0.3 units from the water treatment plant effluent or master meter.
  • Temperature
    • The variation of the temperature across the distribution system should be less than 5°C.


To assist water system personnel with tracking their performance in relation to the goals, several spreadsheets have been developed by ADEM and EPA. Please note that the spreadsheet utilize macros to function properly and require Microsoft Excel 2013 or higher.

  • Turbidity OAS – designed to determine if a conventional surface water treatment plant is achieving the turbidity goals.
  • Membrane OAS - designed to determine if a membrane surface water treatment plant is achieving the turbidity goals.
  • Distribution OAS – designed to track distribution water quality and facilitate the review of the large volume of data generated.
  • Storage Tank Assessment – used to determine theoretical water age and mixing within storage tanks. The spreadsheet has several limitations that are explained on the Instructions tab.
  • WTP TOC & DBP Chart – designed to track a WTP’s TOC, effluent DBPs, coagulant dosage and coagulation pH to help with identifying DBP formation issues at the WTP.

Optimization Awards

Each year ADEM’s Drinking Water Branch’s staff determine which surface water treatment plants have achieved the microbial goals for the previous year. Awards are presented to the systems at ADEM’s Annual Surface Water Meeting which is typically held in late October. The awards are to recognize the water system and operator’s hard work in achieving the goals and providing enhanced public health protection. Below is a link to previous years’ award winners. The list also shows how many sequential years in a row the water system has achieved the goals. Additional Information

For more information please contact ADEM’s Drinking Water Branch at (334) 271-7773 or your water system’s inspector.

Additional information about the National AWOP can be found on EPA’s website at: https://www.epa.gov/dwstandardsregulations/optimization-program-drinking-water-systems.

Additional Resources

Calculated Flush Time (Residential) – provides assistance in determining how long to flush a residential tap.

Hydrant Sample Procedure and Part List – This is a link to EPA’s website which contains information about the construction and use of a hydrant sampler. A hydrant sampler allows samples to be collected at fire hydrants throughout the distribution system without disturbing the water main. (https://www.epa.gov/dwstandardsregulations/hydrant-sampler-procedure-and-parts-lists)

CPE Handbook – Handbook for completing comprehensive performance evaluations at a water treatment plant.