After spending two years teaching English to students in Shenzhen, China, and seeing the environmental conditions the children dealt with, Deanna Ringenberg knew she wanted to improve access to clean drinking water. When she returned to Nebraska, Deanna enrolled in the environmental engineering program and focused her studies on drinking water systems.
Deanna’s thesis was the basis for her paper “State Barriers to Approval of Drinking Water Technologies for Small Systems”. The paper, co-authored by University of Nebraska civil engineering professor Bruce Dvorak and University of Illinois groundwater hydrologist Steve Wilson, earned the 2018 American Water Works Association (AWWA) Small Systems Division Best Paper Award. Deanna will be awarded a plaque during the AWWA conference in Las Vegas this summer.
The AWWA defines small systems as those that serve less than 10,000 people. However, small systems make up 97% of all water systems.
“Even though the majority of water systems are small systems, there’s not as much focus on them because they only serve about a quarter of the population,” said Deanna. “They tend to have different needs than other systems because of their reliance on groundwater.”
Deanna said the most interesting finding of her paper was the lack of communication between states regarding the implementation of water technologies. Water technologies are not shared between states, meaning each state needs their own pilot data to approve new technologies.
“The independent systems are by design,” said Deanna. “Each state has their own environmental and contamination issues, so they have autonomy to make their own decisions about water technologies. The water issues in New Mexico are much different than the water issues in Florida, for instance.”
Deanna currently works for the Department of Natural Resources helping to determine what areas of Nebraska are at risk in the event of a flood.
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