Donald J. Tata 2023 Scholarship Winners Announced

Tata & Howard presented the Donald J. Tata Engineering Scholarship Award to two deserving high school seniors this spring: Bennett Sonneborn from Natick High School and Emma Devens from Marlborough High School. Both are pursuing engineering degrees and exhibited not only exemplary GPA and grades in their classes, but were also involved in extracurricular activites and philanthropic initiatives. We had so much fun presenting them their big checks, and we wish them all the best on their college journeys. In the fall, Bennett is attending New York University and Emma is attending the Rochester Institute of Technology. 

The Donald J. Tata Engineering Scholarship Awards are annual scholarships given in honor of Tata & Howard co-founder Don Tata to deserving seniors from Natick and Marlborough High Schools who will be pursuing engineering degrees in college. 

Identifying Non-Revenue Water — And Why It Matters

In the United States, there are approximately 170,000 public drinking water systems, with 54,000 of them collectively delivering water to more than 264 million people, more than half of the country’s population. Unfortunately, due to the state of our nation’s drinking water system, limited infrastructure funds, and climate change, we are losing approximately seven billion gallons of water a day.

So where exactly is that water going?

Non-Revenue Water Crisis

Non-revenue water (NRW) is water that has been, essentially, dined and dashed, or water that has been consumed but not paid for by way of inaccurate meter reads or theft. Additionally, leaks in the system can be a major contributor to NRW.

With NRW comes two main types of loss: apparent and real loss. Apparent losses occur when water is delivered to the consumer but is either measured or metered incorrectly. Real losses occur when water is physically lost and never makes it to the consumer. While a very small amount of NRW comes from firefighting, hydrant flushing, municipal construction, and street sweeping, this is considered to be an “unbilled metered” source of NRW and is not considered a part of the “real loss” crisis. (You can find more information on different forms of NRW here.)

So, how does this affect the general public? Well, if you use less water, your monthly bill will go down, as with any typical utility. However, if water is being lost within the plumbing in your house, and there is a higher demand, your monthly bill will be raised. In fact, the average household in the US loses approximately 10,000 gallons of water a year, meaning NRW affects, quite literally, everyone.

Hundred-Year-Old Pipes

In the United States, there are an average of 240,000 water main breaks every year, with approximately 650 to 700 happening per day. Unfortunately, this information isn’t entirely shocking given that a large amount of our nation’s pipes and mains are over a hundred years old and in need of critical replacement in order to prevent further breaks. As it turns out, 75% of drinking water investment needs are for repairing and replacing leaky pipes.

Drinking water system component parts have an average life expectancy of fifteen to ninety-five years, so while new pipes are being added to expand our current systems, other parts are continuing to degrade. Degrading leads to water main and pipe leaks, which not only disrupt service to customers, but can also cause the subsurface of our roads and public infrastructures to erode which, when untreated, can eventually lead to road collapses and deteriorating building foundations. Just as concerning, broken or leaking pipes invite the potential for toxins and disease-causing pathogens to enter the water supply, causing water quality issues that require mitigation — yet another expense.

Why Water Audits?

To fix all of our water distribution systems, it would cost the United States approximately $200 billion, and almost half of that money would be allocated for water loss control. With water audits, the most critical areas can be identified first so the (already limited) funds can be dedicated solely to repairing the infrastructure. From there, water audits can help municipalities develop strategies and courses of action for future problem areas; recapture lost water; decrease the need for new sources, treatment plants, facility upgrades and expansions; and reduce the number of entry points to disease-causing pathogens.

Water audits follow the M36 Water Audit methodology from American Water Works Association (AWWA) and are an affordable and efficient solution to increasing water availability and helping to identify the costs and causes of water loss. In the past, Tata & Howard has been retained by the Towns of Wayland and Grafton, MA, and South Central Connecticut Regional Water Authority (SCCRWA) to complete water audits to determine the volume at which NRW is occurring, potential sources of the lost water, and make recommendations on how to reduce future water loss.

For more information on water loss control and the M36 methodology, take a look at our webinar here.

Celebrating Drinking Water Week

Recognizing the Criticality of Water — and Water Professionals

Every year during the first week of May, the American Water Works Association (AWWA) and members of the water community celebrate Drinking Water Week, a week-long campaign dedicated to educating the public about the critical role clean water plays in our daily lives.

Drinking Water Week got its start in 1988 when the AWWA partnered with the League of Women Voters, the Association of State Drinking Water Administrators, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to bring their mission to the attention of the U.S. Government. The outcome? President Ronald Reagan signed a joint congressional resolution and the annual, week-long educational movement has been a staple holiday within the water community ever since.

The (In)Accessibility of Clean Drinking Water

Water is our most vital and natural resource, and one of the four essential needs we as humans require in order to survive. Unfortunately, challenges surrounding our drinking water arise every day.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), as of 2020, only 74% of the global population (5.8 billion people) had access to a safely managed drinking-water service, meaning clean drinking water was located on site, was fully accessible, and free from any contaminants.

What about the remaining 26% of people?

  • 2 billion people had basic services, meaning they had access to an improved water source that was located within a 30 minute round trip;
  • 282 million people had limited services, or an improved water source that took more than 30 minutes to collect;
  • 368 million people drank water from unprotected wells and springs; and
  • 122 million people, unfortunately, collected untreated water from lakes, ponds, rivers and streams.

By ingesting untreated water, people run the high risk of contracting deadly diseases, like cholera, dysentery, hepatitis A, typhoid, and polio (to name a few). What’s worse is that if people do not have access to clean drinking water, it also means that they do not have access to safe water for other sanitation reasons, like hand washing and cooking.

In 2010, the UN General Assembly explicitly recognized that access to clean water and sanitation was a basic human right. They ruled that every person on our planet has the right to sufficient, continuous, safe, acceptable, physically accessible and affordable water. At Tata & Howard, we stand by that.

Our Role in Drinking Water Week

In the past, Tata & Howard, along with our wonderful partners, have joined the AWWA’s mission. And this year is no different. As global citizens, we recognize the criticality of clean drinking water and the life-sustaining role it plays in our day-to-day activities. As water engineers, we also recognize the importance of the infrastructure required to distribute it among citizens, and want to highlight the crucial work of water professionals.

Here’s how you can do your part during Drinking Water Week:

  • Adopt-a-Hydrant Program: This program allows residents to “adopt” a local water hydrant of their choice and partner with their local fire department to keep fire hydrants clear of snow for the winter. This allows firefighters to swiftly access critical water supplies to be able to put out fires quickly. There are programs available for cities and towns all across Massachusetts.
  • Further educate yourself on your local water system! Visit your local water works’ website to learn about the inner workings of your community water system and see what methods of disinfection and filtration are being used.
  • Spread the word. Talk with your friends, family, coworkers, (anyone!) about their water supply concerns, educate them on how they can better use their own water supply, and teach them about the critical work of our water professionals.
  • Circulate the AWWA’s press and news releases amongst your friends and family.

“Access to clean, safe drinking water is vital to our daily health, hygiene and hydration,” said American Water Works Association CEO David LaFrance. “Professionals in the water sector work tirelessly to ensure we have affordable access to the high-quality water we need to strengthen our everyday life and broader communities today and in the future.”

We couldn’t agree more. To learn more about Drinking Water Week, visit the AWWA website here.

About Drinking Water Week

For several decades, AWWA and its members have celebrated Drinking Water Week, a unique opportunity for both water professionals and the communities they serve to join together in recognizing the vital role water plays in daily lives. Free materials for download and additional information about Drinking Water Week are available on the Drinking Water Week webpage.

Capital Efficiency Plan for the Win

Providing a Roadmap to Successful, Affordable Infrastructure Improvement

It seems that every day there is an exciting new product on the market to make every task that much easier and faster. A new tip on how one can achieve maximum productivity in their career, workouts, cooking, and how to achieve maximum energy saving capabilities in your homes — you name it, if there’s a will to optimize productivity, there’s a way for efficiency.

The same goes for your local water, wastewater and stormwater system.

The Tata & Howard Capital Efficiency Plan (CEP) helps you do just that. Our CEP method is an accelerated and progressive approach to asset management. Our program allows municipalities, with the assistance and guidance of expert field staff and project managers, to do the following: (1) identify areas of their water, stormwater, and wastewater systems that are in need of repair, replacement, and/or rehabilitation; and (2) create a prioritized plan of action that is easily justified. In addition, the entire plan is conducted and completed in a way that makes the most bang out of municipalities’ limited infrastructure bucks.

What’s the Plan?

Our CEP uses a three-circle, Venn diagram method. The three circles each represent a set of evaluation criteria for each water main segment: hydraulic modeling, asset management, and critical components. Each set comes with its own set of weaknesses. As with a typical Venn diagram, there is some overlap between the three circles, and the overlaps highlight the problem areas in the system. If a weakness appears to fall into more than one criteria set, they are given a higher priority than the others. By using this visual approach, our CEP easily and concisely identifies areas of criticality that allows systems to then create an action plan.

Once the plan is completed, systems receive their CEP report, complete with Geographic Information System (GIS) representation for each pipe segment within their individual underground piping system, along with a database. Each report will detail what issues are critical and should be prioritized, and includes estimated costs for the repairs, replacements, or rehabilitations that need to be made, so critical and less-critical projects alike can be part of the conversation when preparing annual budgets.

Road Blocks

In their 2021 Report Card, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) gave wastewater an embarrassing “D+” grade due to the existing infrastructure being in desperate need of repair and replacement and drinking water a “C-“. Stormwater came in with the lowest grade of “D”.

It has been no secret that federal and state funding has been on a steady decline for several decades now, starting in the mid-1970s. With already limited funding, state and local governments are unable to meet full capital expenditures and to prioritize projects, and are frankly falling behind, leaving their residents to bear the burden of crumbling infrastructure.

Our plan allows systems to implement clear, concise, and systematic plans of action, have more detailed agendas for each project, and to better allocate their already limited funding while providing critical repair, replacement, and/or rehabilitation of their water, wastewater, or stormwater system. CEP’s also provide a roadmap for a better plan for future work, resulting in tackling more capital improvement projects, all while using fewer funds. It is a win across the board, as evidenced by the following systems:

Asset management planning is absolutely critical to the current and future health and maintenance of our water supplies. This highly structured, three-circle approach to capital planning is one of the most effective ways for systems to conclusively prioritize those that are in most need of repair, replacement, or rehabilitation. Each CEP approach is specifically tailored to each project, as each system and project have varying needs.

By participating in our Capital Efficiency Plan and actively working towards better capital planning, systems can achieve better capital efficiency. Our plan will give its participants the security knowing that their annual budgets are better allocated to the most critical projects, and provide a sigh of relief knowing that their repair-to-do lists are getting shorter. And, most importantly, systems can rest assured knowing that their residents have access to safe, clean drinking water via updated water distribution systems.

It truly is a win-win for all.

Get the Lead Out!

Funding Programs for Lead Service Line Replacement

In our line of work, we take pride in working to improve our drinking water and provide cost-effective, informative, and innovative project solutions when it comes to water. This pride and passion runs especially deep when it comes to lead exposure.

For example, in an effort to help remove lead pipes from Massachusetts turf, in the past we have partnered with the city of Marlborough, MA and replaced lead pipes with copper ones in approximately 250 homes, and have helped with the replacement of 427 services for the city of Newton, MA, among other cities and towns as well.

Like we said, this passion runs deep. And it is from this passion that we want to take a moment to discuss the Massachusetts Clean Water Trust (also known as “the Trust”) and the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) joining forces to drive municipal participation in the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Lead and Copper Rule Revision (LCRR) to determine if public or private lead service lines (LSLs) contain lead. Their efforts have resulted in a $20 million grant for public water suppliers to complete their LSL inventory plan or design a LSL replacement program.

This is great news. But what makes it so great?

For starters, let’s start with why lead is bad for us. Exposing one to lead, whether by contaminated drinking water or ingestion, can lead to severe brain and nervous system damage, kidney damage, can drastically affect children and those who are pregnant, and can cause death.

Prior to 1944, lead was commonly used in service lines, home pipes and paints, coins, and even dishes and cosmetics (yikes!). And in 1978, lead-based paints were banned for residential use; but it wasn’t until 1986 that Congress amended the Safe Drinking Water Act, prohibiting the use of pipes, solder, or flux that were not lead-free. Even so, it is reported that even today, 29.4% of all US homes contain lead hazards.

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that every year, one million people die of lead poisoning. What’s worse is that the EPA estimates that there are between six and ten million lead service lines in this country. And of course, we can’t bring up drinking water pollution without bringing up Flint, MI, a city that went without safe drinking water from April 2014 to 2019, exposing between 6,000-12,000 children to severe lead poisoning and killing twelve people.

The gist is that lead is not our friend.

T&H assisted the City of Newton, MA on their city-wide lead service line replacement project

Now, what exactly is LSL replacement? It’s exactly how it sounds: it is a service line replacement for lead pipes where they are replaced with copper ones. All in all, LSL replacement is the only long-term solution to protecting the public from lead pipes.

Back to the main message: The Massachusetts Clean Water Trust (the Trust) and the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) are offering $20 million in grants for assisting public water suppliers with completing planning projects for lead service line inventories and replacement programs.

Need help constructing your LSL inventory plan? Our Vice President, Justine Carroll, shared a brief planning structure you can use when creating your application. Want more assistance? You can reach out at to us via phone or email. We are happy to help!

The deadline for the LSL inventory plans is October 16, 2024. MassDEP requires a submission of every municipality Public Water System’s (PWS) plan of action on prioritizing, funding, and fully removing any LSLs that are connected to their distribution system. In addition, municipalities that serve 50,000+ people must post their inventories on their website, allowing full transparency for both residents and businesses to access this information.

An excellent alternative if your PWS serves a population with less than 10,000 people is that MassDEP will “use $1.3 million of the set-asides from the DWSRF Lead Service Line Grant to contract with a qualified technical assistance provider to work with the PWS,” according to Mass.Gov. This means that small communities will be able to have access to a free consultant, paid for by MassDEP to help with the LSL planning.

You can read more about the LSL planning grant agreement here. And again, if you have any questions on this program or need help with applying for this funding, reach out to us today. We are just a phone call or email away.

The PFAS Problem

Perfluorinated alkyl substances, also known as PFAS, are a group of manufactured compounds that include perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS), perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), perffluorohexane sulfonate (PFHxS), perfluorononanoic acid (PFNA), perflouroheptanoic acid (PFHpA), and perfluorobutane sulfonate (PFBS). (Talk about a mouthful.)

PFAS have been on the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) radar for quite some time now. The question is, why is the EPA so focused on these compounds? Well, for starters, they are human-made, widely used, and nearly impossible to dissolve and break down, which means that over time they start to spread and grow, more and more, both within the human body and in our environment. These compounds are also resistant to heat, oil, grease, and water, and —what’s worse — is that the EPA has found traces of all the Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule 3 (UCMR 3) (i.e., the long p-words mentioned earlier) in our country’s water supply in recent years.

Even with a history of use dating back to the 1940s, these manufactured toxins are still considered emerging contaminants, meaning that there aren’t any already established regulatory limits for how much of these compounds can legally be in our drinking water. These seemingly forever-lasting compounds can in turn have adverse side effects and cause complications in our planet’s ecology and within the human body.

Today, PFAS can be found in the following:

  • PFAS-grown agricultural products result in contaminated soil, water, and/or handled with PFAS-containing equipment and materials.
  • Drinking water contaminated from polluted groundwater from stormwater runoff near landfills, wastewater treatment plants, and firefighter training facilities.
  • Household products, including nonstick products (e.g., Teflon), polishes, waxes, paints, cleaning products, and stain and water-repellent fabrics.
  • Firefighting foams, which is a major source of groundwater contamination at airports and military bases where firefighting training occurs.
  • Industrial facilities that utilize PFAS when manufacturing chrome plating, electronics, and oil recovery.

When looking at the bigger picture, it is clear there is an immense need and opportunity for further research to see how PFAS can affect humans, as most of the research so far has been in animals. While PFAS aren’t even manufactured in the country anymore (thankfully), they are just as present across the globe and are still shipped in products and food from overseas.

All of this is to show that PFAS are…definitely not something we want near our food, water, and goods. So what has the EPA been doing to help?

Well, in 2016, the EPA set Health Advisory (HA) levels of how many micrograms per liter (µg/L) for the combined concentrations of two PFAS compounds, PFOS and PFOA. The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) also took action and established drinking water guidelines that were required to follow the EPA’s HA levels, but applied them to all five PFAS chemicals (PFOS, PFOA, PFNA, PFHXS, and PFHpA). If the level of risk was then raised due to potential health risks, the Public Water Systems (PWS) must take action in order to restore safe HA levels.

During the summer of 2022, the EPA announced four new drinking water health advisories for PFAS as part of President Biden’s action plan to deliver clean drinking water to the American people. In addition, a $1 billion grant (the first of $5 billion) has been offered to territories and states across the country to pay for quality water testing, technical assistance, contractor training, and more.

MassDEP, EPA, and other federal agencies have been continuing their testing and research on PFAS both in the lab and in the field, PWS have been running tests on local water, and partnerships have been made between MassDEP and PWS in order to identify areas where our environment has been affected by PFAS.

All seemingly good things.

So let’s repeat the question: what has the EPA been doing to help?

All of these efforts are necessary in order to begin to identify the presence and consequences of PFAS, restore clean drinking water, help those affected, and more. That said, we also must get to the root of the problem: we need corporations to end the manufacturing of man-made toxins and compounds.

At the end of the day, our planet’s drinking water has been affected on a national and global level thanks to the work of PFAS manufacturers. People, animals, and our entire ecosystem have been tainted. Now, water utilities are tasked with cleaning up the mess (literally). Grants are helpful but they’re not guaranteed and, frankly, $1-5 billion isn’t nearly enough for testing on a national scale, which is necessary due to the almost 100 years of damage PFAS have caused.

Water utilities are already at a disadvantage when it comes to limited capital resources and are not adequately equipped to fix contaminated waterways. The responsibility should fall on the corporations who created PFAS to help clean up our land and water. After all, they profited off the manufacturing of these compounds for years, while PWS are now left holding the bill.

Vice President Steven J. Landry Retires

We are pleased (and a bit sad!) to announce that Vice President Steven J. Landry, P.E., has retired of January 13, 2023. Steve has over 40 years of engineering experience and has led the firm’s wastewater group for the past six years.

Over his career, Steve has completed projects for prominent New England water and wastewater agencies including the Narragansett Bay Commission, the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority, and Providence Water as well as numerous cities and towns throughout New England including the City of Gardner who he has maintained a client relationship with for over twenty years.

Steve is a member of both the New England Water Environment Association and the New England Water Works Association, having presented papers at conferences for both organizations. He served on the Board of Directors of the Rhode Island Professional Engineers Society for many years.

Steve received his Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering and Master of Science in Water Resources from Clarkson University. In his retirement, Steve is looking forward to traveling and spending time with family. All of us at Tata & Howard wish Steve the very best in retirement!

Celebrating Paul Howard’s Retirement

Friends, family, and colleagues came together to celebrate Paul Howard’s retirement at the Eastern Shores Club in Shrewsbury, MA on the evening of January 4, 2023. Co-Presidents Karen Gracey and Jenna Rzasa gave a fond farewell speech to Paul while recognizing his myriad accomplishments. After presenting him with some very special gifts, Paul took to the podium to say a few words. There were many tears along with the laughter, and everyone agreed that it was a night to remember.

Jenna Rzasa and Karen Gracey
Jenna Rzasa, Paul Howard, Karen Gracey, and Ken Fischer
Paul Howard said a few words after the presentation

The Value of Unidirectional Flushing

In layman’s terms, unidirectional flushing is water flowing in one direction: a one way traffic lane for your local water distribution system. And the process is, for the most part, as simple as that.

To elaborate a bit more, unidirectional flushing, otherwise known as UDF, is an annual process used to aid and maintain water distribution systems like the one in your local area that provides your drinking water. We at Tata & Howard designed UDF programs specifically to remove unwanted tastes, odors, and discoloration in a water supply, to flush out bacteria and tuberculation that has built up, prolong the life of pipes and hydrants, allow for technicians to locate broken valves and hydrants, and to further pinpoint other water quality and supply issues.

Bye, Bye, Bacteria

What does flushing water in one direction have anything to do with preventing water-borne disease? For starters, let’s examine the diagram below of a water distribution system that utilizes conventional flushing.

As shown in the diagram, clean water is flowing from the tank into the water distribution system but is met with the free-flowing sediment and rust-mixed water from every direction. The direction in which the water flushes is crucial because the one-way water flow keeps the tainted water separate from the clean water, unlike the conventional flushing pictured above. With this method, sediment, microbial bacteria, corrosion, etc. are not circulated in the clean water, therefore preventing it from making into your next glass of water.

Since tainted water isn’t being fully flushed out in conventional flushing, sediment, rust, and microbial bacteria are building up within some of the pipe’s walls. This build up, or tuberculation, can negatively affect how much water can be distributed.

Under Pressure (Washing)

A great component of UDF is that the water is flushed throughout the distribution system at a higher velocity. If the water rushing down these pipes is at a higher velocity, that means tuberculation that has built up in the pipe’s walls will wash away, too. Picture it like your water distribution system’s very own water pressure system, blasting away microbial and rust buildup, and tossing it out with the rest of the bath water.

In Municipal and Sewer and Water Magazine, Shrewsbury, MA water and sewer superintendent — and Tata & Howard client — Dan Rowley states that when fire hydrants are opened to increase the water velocity, it “increases to 5 to 10 feet per second, compared to 1 to 3 feet per second in conventional flushing.” With that kind of power, tuberculation doesn’t stand a chance.

Now, when some people think of ramping up the speed dial on something, they think more power equals more resources, but that’s not the case here. UDF uses upwards of 40% less water than conventional flushing. A higher population to serve brings a higher water demand, which leads to a lower supply due to demand and climate change. All of this then results in a crucial need to seek out the most cost-effective and sustainable methods in order to maintain, improve, and prolong our planet’s natural resources. And UDF does just that.

Improve System Performance

During the unidirectional flushing process, valves are opened and closed to maintain a unidirectional flow.  In the process, broken and closed valves as well as nonfunctioning hydrants are identified. Not only are you cleaning the water pipes during the UDF process, you are also identifying critical system components such as valves and hydrants that need replacement or maintainance.

Regardless, any water distribution system needs flushing. So why not perform it in such a way that you can simultaneously flush our tuberculation and bacteria from your pipes’ walls, prolong the quality of your valves, hydrants and pipes, use less water, and also improve overall water quality and quantity issues? This is one of those win-win situations!

At Tata & Howard, our UDF programs are implemented all over Massachusetts, ranging from Shrewsbury to Wayland, and Melrose to Haverhill, and down to parts of Connecticut. By adopting one of our UDF programs, a water distribution system can maintain efficiency and cleanliness longer between flushes, save money, and ultimately use less of our earth’s natural resources.

T&H Nominated Sponsor of the Year from NEWWA

Tata & Howard Honored by the New England Water Works Association

Karen L. Gracey accepts Sponsor of the year award from NEWWA.HOLLISTON, Mass. – Tata & Howard recently received the 2022 Sponsor of the Year Award from the New England Water Works Association (NEWWA), the region’s largest and oldest not-for-profit organization of water works professionals.

The Sponsor of the Year Award was established in 1995 to recognize the outstanding efforts of service provider members who support NEWWA through financial contributions, in-kind materials, and volunteer resources.

Tata & Howard has been a NEWWA member since 2004 and is a NEWWA Gold Sponsor. They are Recycle Sponsors at the Spring Conference, consistently sponsor the Annual Golf Tournament, supported the 2021 Virtual Technology Campaign, and have participated as an advertiser in the Source newsletter.

Tata & Howard supports the involvement of their staff in NEWWA as volunteers, including Co-President Karen Gracey, who has been involved with the Program Committee as a campaign manager and moderator for the Spring and Annual Conferences for the last six years.

Tata & Howard was recognized with this award on September 18, 2022, during NEWWA’s 141st Annual Conference in Newport, RI.