In the City of Maquoketa, Iowa, none of the water and wastewater staff have bothered to write down reporting figures for the past few years. That\'s because workers record all reporting information on handheld personal digital assistants (PDAs). Recorded figures go straight into a spreadsheet on the device and are uploaded daily to a desktop computer. The program, developed by Jeff Bodenhofer, operator and maintenance mechanic for the Alliance Water Resources division there, has saved time and headaches for the entire crew.

The biggest advantage of the paperless program is time savings. Ten years ago, the work of recording figures and producing the monthly report for DNR would take an entire day. Bodenhofer remembers his supervisor would “literally lock the office door, and you did not disturb him.” A self-described “techno geek,” Bodenhofer knew there had to be a better way. He developed a spreadsheet to automatically convert data for reporting years ago. Then, when hand-held units became portable, affordable and powerful enough, he produced the current program.

A second big advantage to the program is the ability to review data on a daily basis and compare past-week and past-year data to spot trends and predict costs. Local manager Roger Kirby tracks equipment meters, chlorine levels, fluoride usage and lab results as a monitoring method for both water and wastewater system functions.

The City has used several versions of Palm-compatible hand held units, but Bodenhofer likes the current model, Palm Zire 72, for its ability to take daily wear and tear. He recommends shopping for a unit with an expansion slot for on-the-go backup. The City purchases the units for around $200 per unit for Alliance use.

Introducing the new reports to DNR was easier than expected. Bodenhofer designed the automated report to look exactly like DNR\'s original. The first time the new report was submitted, he prepared both versions of the report and included a letter explaining the automated program to get the go-ahead from DNR.

Future plans for the paperless reporting program will include linking to the SCADA system soon to be installed. Eventually Kirby would like to see programming that recognizes out-of-sync data entered in the field and creates a pop-up message on the spot. Even without those advances, both the City and the team at Alliance are very happy with the increased recording speed and reporting accuracy with paperless data recording.