Groundhog Day

By Megan Sekhar and Alison Dugan – EPA

What do you think about when you hear the term “groundhog presentation?”  Do you think of the “classic” Bill Murray film?  Do you think about how much you love winter, or look forward to spring?  Or do you think about your last Regional AWOP meeting and how much you enjoyed hearing the host state kick-off the meeting with a beloved presentation?!?  The focus of this article is on how you might enhance your groundhog presentation and really “WOW” your fellow AWOPers and management the next time your state hosts its regional AWOP meeting.

The Area Wide Optimization Program has been around since the late 1990s and many states have participated in their regional AWOP for over 10 years!  In the beginning, quarterly AWOP meetings were actually conducted four times per year, and the agenda of each meeting always included an opening presentation by the host state AWOP team members to their managers.  The purpose of this presentation was to provide a general understanding of the program for each set of state managers.  The presentation would include information on the AWOP goals, targeted performance improvement activities, status component rankings, maintenance activities, and performance impacts.  The initial presentation was developed by the NOLT and provided to each state’s AWOP team.  In the early days, there was very little modification of the initial presentation, so that the regular AWOP participants heard the same presentation over and over as it was used by different states.  That is when one clever AWOPer from the early days applied the phrase “Groundhog Day presentation” to this opening act, and the name stuck.  [Hint:  that clever AWOPer lives in New Orleans and serves up a mean Crawfish Boil, Cajun style]

Eventually the opening presentation by the host state became outdated and redundant even for management as some of the managers had already sat through the original a few times.  The groundhog presentation did not adequately describe how AWOP had evolved since the early days, and expanded to include disinfection by-product (DBP) optimization and the development of groundwater and distribution system optimization programs.  The groundhog presentation may not have to lose its popular name, but should be changing to keep current with the changes in AWOP so that our managers (and each of us) are well informed and can accurately describe the elements of the program.  This article will provide some suggestions for revamping those worn-out “groundhog” presentations and infusing new energy into the opening act of our AWOP quarterly meetings!

The host state’s presentation is typically held immediately before all of the state report-outs.  If the host agency managers are unfamiliar with AWOP, the presentation should include a healthy dose of AWOP basics, but if the managers are familiar with AWOP, the presentation might go easy on the AWOP basics and instead showcase AWOP activities and long-term performance impacts.  It is suggested that states separate the introductory presentation from the report out of recent specific activities; which typically follows immediately after the groundhog presentation.   The opening presentation can be anything you want it to be, this is an opportunity to gain support for the program and showcase the great work that you do!

Potential Outline of a “Robust” Groundhog Presentation

  • AWOP 101 (background, why optimize, program components, etc): The first part of the presentation might include a description of AWOP, objectives of optimization (especially  public health impacts), the benefits of AWOP, and the AWOP components (Status, Targeted Performance Improvements (TPI), and Maintenance).  This description could also include a map of the AWOP network and brief description of the history of your state program. All of these resources are available on the ASDWA website’s “AWOP: Background Information” page [] and “AWOP States Only: Available Resource Documents” page [].
  • Your State’s [INSERT STATE NAME] AWOP: Under this section, consider discussing the technical areas of focus and water quality goals that your state has adopted.  Your status component criteria and system rankings could be discussed, as well as the TPI activities your AWOP implements, and maintenance activities (in-staff training, integration, etc) that you do.  Remember to include all technical areas (e.g., DBPs, distribution system, membrane, slow sand optimization), not just turbidity – and include as much – or as little – of this information (as appropriate for the audience).  A summary of all of the optimization goals are in the “AWOP States Only: Available Resource Documents” section of the ASDWA website [].
  • State’s AWOP Impacts: The third part of the presentation should be focused on AWOP impacts.  AWOP impacts can be documented in many forms, including “population served by optimized water” graphs, graphs of system-specific performance improvements, testimonials, cost savings examples, number of plants in your awards program, or pictures of your optimization team in action.  Be creative – and for inspiration you can refer to the AWOP Impacts presentations from the 2009 National AWOP meeting in the “AWOP States Only: Available Resource Documents” section of the website [].
  • Regional and National AWOP: The fourth part of the presentation is an opportunity to highlight your state’s role as part of the regional and national AWOP network.  This can be a great opportunity to discuss the regional activities that your state has participated in and what is going on at the national level.  Examples might include multi-state technical training activities, training activities that were conducted during regional planning meetings, the biennial national AWOP meeting, etc.  You could mention the DBP optimization program, distribution system optimization program, groundwater optimization program, or integration project, especially if your state AWOP is expanding to include these activities.  This material can be extracted from NOLT reports included in past Regional planning meeting notes packages, available on the AWOP States Only Regional pages of the website [Regional pages are accessed through the AWOP States Only page at  NOLT facilitators could also provide current information on these activities.
  • State’s AWOP Vision and Goals: The final part of the presentation should focus on program goals and needs.  You might discuss a planned TPI activity (e.g., starting up PBT) and what support is needed to achieve this goal.  You could discuss the areas of the Self Assessment that you want to improve on and how you plan on doing this.  You can refer to the State AWOP Self Assessment and/or the NOLT’s vision, mission, and values statements in the “AWOP States Only: Available Resource Documents” section of the website.  Ultimately, this is your opportunity to show your vision for the program and hopefully, how your manager could assist you in achieving that vision.

Now that you are motivated to update your groundhog presentation, you might refer to some example presentations from the AWOP network.  Several examples of state groundhog presentations are included on the ASDWA website under the “AWOP States Only: Available Resource Documents” section of the website.  If you would like to request a username and password to access the AWOP States Only pages, or need assistance locating the referenced materials, please contact Anthony DeRosa of ASDWA at

We look forward to seeing a new generation of groundhog presentations!

About Anthony R. DeRosa
Proverbial box burner and unofficial tech guy for the drinking water community.

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