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Goals of the Recognition Program

The recognition program is a voluntary, non-regulatory program that can help you improve the performance and efficiency of your existing surface water treatment plant without major capital improvements. This page describes goals and recognition that may be received from the Texas Optimization Program (TOP).

What are the 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.


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 Texas Optimization Program (TOP) program began, the TCEQ met with a group of stakeholders to develop a recognition award. 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 12 consecutive months, the TCEQ presents the water system with an award. When the plant receives its first award, one of the TCEQ's TOP staff members will come to the water system and present the plant staff with a recognition award and a TOP flag that can be displayed at the plant. During the ceremony, the water system administrators will also be presented with a copy of the recognition award. If the plant meets the criteria for another 12 consecutive months, the plant and the system administrators will receive another award.

This recognition program has proven to be popular and effective since its inception in January 1998. Twelve plants have been recognized at least once, seven plants have met the criteria continuously for five years, and two have met the criteria continuously for ten years.

What are the Criteria?

The performance criteria for the recognition program were set by the stakeholders in Texas, including utilities and regulators, and were updated in August 2002. To receive a 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 Recognition Program, Contact Mason T. Miller by e-mail at  or call Mr. Miller at 254-761-3037 and mention the Texas Optimization Program (TOP).