Rural Community Assistance Partnership

Practical solutions for improving rural communities

How do we get clean, safe water?

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Despite using and benefitting from drinking water and wastewater systems multiple times every day, most of us don't even think about or know how these systems work. It takes a lot, in terms of natural, human, financial and other resources, as well as physical, chemical and biological processes, to bring clean, safe drinking water to your home and to deal with the waste you produce from a toilet or washing machine.

These interactive experiences explain some of what is required in treating water.



These sections of the RCAP website explain the treatment processes through the means of animated diagrams and short videos. Each of the two sets of videos is hosted by a member of RCAP’s field staff who provides an overview of the treatment process as well as special considerations or concerns that a system’s operator has in each step. The videos are meant to make non-operators more comfortable with the vocabulary and terms that a plant’s operator uses and to help a utility’s decision makers understand what is required to operate a dependable and sustainable water utility in terms of natural, human, financial and other resources.

Note: These diagrams and videos do not explain the treatment processes in a comprehensive manner and should not be used for training of operators.

Sample a video from the interactive sites

Want to know more? Get the guides

These interactive experiences are based on two print publications on the same subjects:

A Drop of Knowledge
The Non-operator’s Guide to Drinking Water Systems

A Drop of Knowledge
The Non-operator's Guide to Wastewater System

These publications, also for lay audiences, are meant to help non-operators understand the technical aspects of treating drinking water and wastewaster and are the more detailed and more authoritative primer that RCAP has produced on the treatment processes. The guides are designed to explain in everyday language to a water utility’s board members or other decision makers some of what happens in the technical operations of their community’s facilities so that they can make more informed management and financial decisions about their system.


Operations - technical operations of facilities and infrastructure
Board/council member
Mayor/town manager/elected official (local)
Financial manager/accountant/bookkeeper
State/federal decision-maker