During the highly anticipated National Pipe Tapping Contest, drinking water crews get a chance to put their equipment and skills to the test against the clock—and each other.

The battle takes place during the American Water Works Association's 2007 Annual Conference and Exhibition June 24–28 in Toronto. Teams that came out on top in previous regional events meet on the show floor, working in a timed competition to open a cement-lined, pressurized, ductile-iron pipe and install a tap. The contest uses tapping machines, corporation and curb stops, meter yokes, connectors, and tools from Mueller Co.; and wrenches and hammers from Reed Manufacturing Co. Teams consist of no more than four people (three workers and a coach), and each water agency can only enter one men's and one women's team.

During last year's competition, a foursome from Happy Valley, Ore.'s Sunrise Water Authority (SWA) came out on top in the women's contest; their team, who call themselves the SWA “Nitro Bits,” beat out three other groups with a time of 2:06:90. Amazingly, none of the SWA competitors—except for coach Larry Gillette—works in the field on a daily basis. However, their practice runs and participation in the competition help the team do their jobs better.

“The contest has given each of us immeasurable experience and knowledge of how our organization works,” says team member Gay Fletcher, SWA's human resources coordinator. “We have a better understanding of what goes on in the field, and how hard our crews have to work to keep our system in top condition. It has enabled us to better communicate with each other, and with everyone in our organization.”

The SWA Nitro Bits will return to defend their title against two other women's teams. On the men's side, 17 teams, including the returning champions from the Birmingham (Ala.) Water Works Board, will be competing.

In addition to the tapping contest, water workers can show off their knowledge in Top Ops, the “College Bowl” of the water industry. Teams of up to three compete in a test of their water-operation smarts; the winners take home a trophy.

For more information about how you can watch this year's National Pipe Tapping Contest and Top Ops challenges, or throw your hat into the ring for future competitions, visit www.awwa.org.

Bubble diffuser

The Ultra-Fine bubble diffuser features a panel disc that produces bubbles with diameters of 0.2 to 0.4 mm. The device uses a reinforced, thin, EPDM membrane with a low surface energy and fouling-resistant coating, which keeps the pressure drop across the membrane reasonable. Stamford Scientific International Inc. www.stamfordscientific.com..

Non-clog slurry pumps

Forceline NCS pumps efficiently handle sludge, unscreened sewage, and trashy fluids. The various models offer discharges from 3 to 12 inches; capacities from 150 to 12,000 gallons per minute, and heads exceed 250 feet. The NCSVF is vertically mounted and directly coupled through a flexible coupling. The vertically mounted NCSVI is remotely coupled through an extended drive shaft. The NCSH is horizontally mounted and coupled directly with a flexible coupling. Patterson Pump Co. www.pattersonpumps.com..

Meter-reading encoder

The E-Coder R900i combines the company's R900 radio-frequency meter interface unit with a solid-state encoder. It provides accurate readings, and leak and reverse flow detection. In addition, the wireless design reduces installation time and keeps material and labor costs down. Neptune. www.neptunetg.com..

Predictive flow meter

The company's brass, variable-area flow meter can monitor pressures up to 3500 psi, in high temperatures and other stressful conditions. The linear movement of the unit's indicator ring offers a quick, direct reading against the vertically graduated flow scale. The easy visual indication of changes in flow rate alerts system managers to potential pump problems, so they can fix a problem before it causes costly damage. Racine Federated Inc. www.racinefed.com..