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TOP Goals and Recognition

Defines the TOP's goals and recognition that may be received from successful participation.

What Are the TOP Goals?

The optimization goals were set by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) when the program was established in 1994. These are the goals that a plant should strive for to minimize the possible passage of pathogens through the plant. The goals are:

  • a settled water turbidity of 2.0 NTU or less on a continuous basis;
  • a turbidity of 0.10 NTU or less at the discharge of each filter;
  • a maximum turbidity spike of 0.3 NTU following the filter backwash; and
  • reestablishing a filtered water turbidity of 0.10 NTU within 15 minutes after returning the clean filter to service.

TOP Recognition

The TCEQ wanted to recognize the efforts that public water systems were making to optimize the performance of their surface water treatment plants. As a result, when the TOP program was begun, the TCEQ met with a group of stakeholders to develop a TOP Recognition Program. The TCEQ worked with the utilities and developed recognition criteria that are based on the national optimization goals.

Each time that a plant meets the extremely stringent recognition criteria continuously for six consecutive months, the TCEQ presents the water system with a TOP Recognition Award. When the plant meets the recognition criteria for 12 consecutive months the TCEQ's TOP Recognition Program Coordinator will come to the water system and present the plant staff with a Recognition Award, a TOP flag that can be displayed at the plant and present each of the plant operators with a Recognition Patch. This program has proven to be popular and effective since its inception in January 1998.

What Are the TOP Recognition Criteria?

The performance criteria for the TOP Recognition Program were set by the stakeholders in Texas, including utilities and regulators, and were updated in August 2002. To receive a TOP Recognition Award, a plant must continuously meet all of the following criteria for 12 consecutive months:

  • none of the filtered water turbidity readings from any of the filters can be above 0.5 NTU;
  • at least 99% of the filtered water turbidity readings from each individual filter (i.e., the total number of readings from each individual filter) must have a turbidity of 0.3 NTU or less;
  • at least 90% of the filtered water turbidity readings from each individual filter must have a turbidity of 0.1 NTU or less;
  • at least 95% of the total number of filtered water turbidity readings (i.e, the total number of readings from all of the individual filters) must have a turbidity of 0.1 NTU or less;
  • the filtered water turbidity must not exceed 0.3 NTU during post-backwash turbidity spikes; and
  • the filtered water turbidity level must drop to 0.1 NTU or lower within 30 minutes of returning a filter to service after it is backwashed.

To Learn More

For more information on the Texas Optimization Program, Contact Mason T. Miller by e-mail at  or call Mr. Miller at 254-761-3037 and mention the Texas Optimization Program.

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