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AMWA Honors: Water Utilities for Outstanding Achievement.

In October, the Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies (www.amwa.net, Washington, D.C.) announced the latest winners of its AMWA Gold Awards for Competitiveness Achievement. The utilities honored face challenges such as service population growth, aging infrastructure, expanding regulation, constrained revenues, and increased expectation of customers and local government officials. Here is a selection of the utilities honored and their achievements.

ANCHORAGE WATER AND WASTEWATER utility

Mark Premo, General Manager

Since a devastating depression in Alaska in 1987, AWWU has steadily worked to stabilize expenses and to increase revenues, efficiency, customer service, and quality. These efforts culminated in the utility's Excellence Adventure, a competitiveness process designed and driven by employees to make AWWU a world-class utility. As a result, customers per employee increased 56 percent from 242 to 377, and the amount of plant per employee increased 144 percent from $1.3 million to $3.25 million. The last AWWU rate increase was in 1992 and since then net income increased from $203,000 to $10.5 million.

The engine behind many of these improvements is employee involvement on teams chartered with specific goals and deadlines. Participation on teams for strategic planning and competitiveness efforts grew steadily from 48 employees in 1998 to an estimated 106 (40 percent of total employees) in 2001, creating a tremendous synergy. The number of grievances and accidents are at an historical low while employee ideas/suggestions and employee morale are high. AWWU is on its way to attaining a lasting culture of employee involvement and continuous improvement.

CITY OF ATLANTA DEPARTMENT OF WATER

Remedios K. Del Rosario, Commissioner

From the early 1990s, the Atlanta Water Department has made significant efforts to improve operating efficiency and reduce costs, while providing excellent service to customers. Staff positions were reduced from 863 in 1993 to 480 at the end of 1998. A one-stop call center, initiated in 1997, has vastly improved customer service.

Aging steam-powered pump stations are being replaced with new electric-powered facilities, and a new $42-million, 200-mgd pump station for the downtown area will be on line by the end of 2001. Energy incentives with the electrical utility and new operating patterns have saved over $1 million annually in energy costs. Back-up electric power generation projects, totaling $22 million, will be completed by the end of 2001 for the two major treatment plants and all the most critical pump stations, ensuring operational reliability. Atlanta is also promoting water conservation education by providing a summer xeriscape program to customers.

In 1999, Atlanta entered a 20-year contract with a private firm to manage water system O&M. The agreement will save the city $20 million annually and $400 million over the contract term. The Atlanta Water Department continues to maintain a small staff to oversee and manage the firm's performance and to manage the capital improvements program, an aggressive five-year plan with over $502 million in facility and distribution improvements.

CITY OF CHICAGO DEPARTMENT OF WATER

Richard A. Rice, Commissioner

The Chicago Department of Water (CDOW) owns and operates the world's two largest purification plants, 12 pumping stations, 4,323 miles of mains, 47 miles of finished water tunnels, and over 47,000 hydrants. CDOW purifies and distributes more than one billion gallons of water daily to over five million people.

CDOW has earned an AA+ bond rating while maintaining the third lowest water rates in the nation. The department shortened its water main replacement cycle by 16 years and implemented a SCADA system for six pumping stations, reducing costs by $30 million. In addition, electricity costs are being lowered through a cooperative bulk purchase; a new billing and collection system was implemented to improve collections management; response time to water quality inquiries was reduced by almost 70 percent; and over 23,000 engineering drawings were computer-archived.

CDOW is embarking on a department-wide review starting with a thorough analysis of water treatment, billing and collection, and procurement processes. The department will compare these with other utilities to maximize operational efficiencies without negative impact to employee morale. With a five-year, $620-million infrastructure investment, including 50 miles of annual main replacement, CDOW will continue to be competitive and maintain the high level of service its customers expect.

GREATER CINCINNATI WATER WORKS

David E. Rager, Director

The Greater Cincinnati Water Works (GCWW) is a 162-year-old municipally owned utility serving over 950,000 people in a 400-sq mi area. In 2000, the utility supplied an average day demand of 133 MG of water through both surface water and groundwater treatment plants using 2,800 miles of transmission and distribution mains. In addition, as the billing agent for the primary sewer and stormwater utilities in Hamilton County, GCWW operates a multi-utility billing operation of approximately 225,000 accounts.

In 1995, a five-year Strategic Business Plan (SBP) was implemented to lead GCWW closer to its vision of being a utility that will serve as a standard for excellence in the water utility industry and will remain extremely competitive. Various strategies in the SBP were designed to allow GCWW to assist the southwest Ohio region grow economically by providing a reliable supply of high-quality water and outstanding services in a financially responsible manner.

Results of the most successful strategies include: surveys demonstrating that GCWW customers are extremely pleased with the service received; a review of chemical treatment processes that saved $100,000 annually; utilization of real-time electric pricing that saved over $290,000; reduction of 70 employee positions; and participation in an award-winning groundwater protection program.

DES MOINES WATER WORKS

L.D. McMullen, Ph.D., CEO and General Manager

For over 100 years, the independently operated Des Moines Water Works (DMWW) has supplied a safe and sufficient supply of drinking water to the residents of central Iowa. The largest drinking water utility in the state, DMWW currently serves approximately 350,000 people. Through the years, changes have been implemented to improve water quality, increase water production, enhance and beautify the properties' landscape, and provide educational opportunities for all ages.

Programs and projects include: a 1,400-acre park system used for watershed protection, picnics, walking, jogging, bike trails, flower beds, and fishing; the Arie den Boer Arboretum; 200-acre Maffitt Reservoir; educational initiatives including a Water Wisdom newsletter for teachers; a DMWW Museum; an Urban Environmental Partnership to educate the public on the importance of water quality protection; a Volunteer Monitoring Project in the Raccoon River watershed; development of the Lime Sludge De-watering Facility; and Project H20 (Help-2-Others), a program to assist low-income households with the payment of water bills.

EL PASO WATER UTILITIES

Edmund G. Archuleta, General Manager

Continuous process improvement by a workforce focused on quality and customer service is the mainstay at El Paso Water Utilities. In four years, costs have been reduced by re-engineering the organization and enhancing technology. Staff was reduced more than six percent while the customer per employee ratio improved by 14 percent because of rapid growth in the customer base. In addition, human resources were improved with enhanced training efforts, greater employee empowerment, and better safety training. Workman's compensation claims were reduced 30 percent.

While the utility is rapidly expanding its infrastructure, it has not neglected renovation needs. About $12 million per year is dedicated to renovation projects. The renovation program, combined with an expanded leak detection program, helped reduce unbilled water from 14 percent to 11 percent over the past few years. Because it serves an arid, water-short region, the agency established an aggressive water conservation program that resulted in a 20 percent reduction in per capita water use since 1990.

GREEN BAY WATER UTILITY

William F. Nabak, General Manager

Since the 1970s, the Green Bay Water Utility has been committed to improving the efficiency and effectiveness of its service through teamwork and participation, a cultural change that impacted all areas--from purchasing through design teams. The utility met increases in customers supplied, customer services offered, and mandated programs without the need for an expanded workforce.

Water quality was upgraded with the addition of ozonation to the utility's treatment train, main rehabilitation proceeded without the need for rate increases, and GIS will bring real-time information to repair crews and customer service personnel. An upgrade of the utility's SCADA system will allow one person to control the entire operation from pumping stations to pressure control vaults. Billing and record-keeping software are also being upgraded to allow more efficient data handling and a more timely response to customer inquiries.

CITY OF RALEIGH PUBLIC UTILITIES DEPARTMENT

H. Dale Crisp, Public Utilities Director

In Raleigh, North Carolina, the Department of Public Utilities provides water to a service population of approximately 315,000 customers. While experiencing a period of large growth, Raleigh remains committed to providing quality services at an affordable cost to its citizens. With only two rate increases during the past 12 years, current utility rates are the second lowest in the state and among the lowest in the region.

Two new two-MG elevated storage tanks, a new five-MG clear well, and a new ozone generator top the list of recent improvements to the system. A proposed new water treatment plant is in the design phase to accommodate additional growth.

CITY OF ST. LOUIS WATER DIVISION

David A. Visintainer, Director of Public Utilities

For the St. Louis Water Division, competitiveness improvements begin and continue with staffing levels. The improvement process started in 1996 when each section manager was charged with evaluating the number of positions needed to perform critical functions. The resulting reduction of 8.7 percent of staff was realized through rethinking work processes and utilizing technology advances, without any layoffs.

Completion of a touch-read meter reading system, with an ongoing migration to an automated meter reading system (AMR), more than doubled the productivity of meter readers. With the final installation of the AMR system, the meter reading force will be reduced to one individual.

As a water utility in a city with fixed boundaries, the Water Division decided to use its excess capacity to become a regional water supplier. Using its Howard Bend Plant on the Missouri River as the source, it successfully negotiated to supply three wholesale customers in neighboring St. Charles County.

An aggressive capital improvement program was initiated. A completely new reservoir (two tanks) was built within the historic exterior of the previous reservoir, retaining the character of the neighborhood. Also, a new pre-sedimentation and softening basin was added at the Chain of Rocks Plant on the Mississippi River to ensure compliance with future quality regulations. Conventional and innovative technologies are being utilized to upgrade the distribution infrastructure.

SALT LAKE CITY DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC UTILITIES

LeRoy W. Hooton, Jr., Director

The Salt Lake City Department of Public Utilities began its efforts to achieve continuous improvement and gain competitive advantage in 1992 when it embraced the philosophy and tools of total quality management. Since then, through extensive employee involvement, many processes have been improved and newer, more efficient and effective ones implemented.

The department invested in SCADA technology to control a complex water distribution system, with only two employees monitoring the system. Water treatment plants combined operation and maintenance functions, and by using SCADA and particle counters, operators consistently maintain a 0.1 ntu finished water quality.

Recognizing the need to continuously learn, the department implemented a leadership development program, which is open to any interested employee. A recently empowered Education Advisory Committee makes recommendations for technology, equipment, water industry, and cross-training opportunities to improve employee communication, teamwork, and job knowledge skills.

The department partners with other government agencies, organizations, and citizens to maintain superior source water quality while managing a watershed within the most-used national forest in the U.S.A proactive watershed protection program helps keep the cost of water treatment down and reduces health risks by controlling pollution at the water supply source.

TAMPA WATER DEPARTMENT

David L. Tippin, Director

The Tampa Water Department serves a customer population of almost 500,000 through 120,000 connections in a 211-sq mi service area. Its primary water resource is the Hillsborough River Reservoir Basin located adjacent to the historic Hillsborough River Water Treatment Plant and Dam. Tampa Water is proud of the department's tradition of innovation and continuous improvement with the simultaneous objectives of delivering unquestionable water quality, sound financial performance, and customer satisfaction that is considered "best in class" for the industry.

Beginning in 1996 with a comprehensive competitive assessment and a strategic re-evaluation of the objectives of the department's Water Quality Master Plan, Tampa Water launched its Water Quality 2000 initiative in the Production Operations Division. This initiative included re-engineering O&M processes and a series of facility upgrades to ensure superior water quality, cost containment, and process flexibility and reliability into the 21st century. Workforce reductions (achieved without layoffs) with simultaneous improvement in productivity and job satisfaction were achieved through training, skills-based compensation, and automation projects. Water quality initiatives include rehabilitation of the existing filter galleries with new under-drains, the addition of air scour, activated carbon filter media, and a 20-mgd production augmentation facility employing Actiflo and ozone disinfection technologies.

TUALATIN VALLEY WATER DISTRICT

Gregory E. DiLoreto, General Manager

Located in the Portland, Oregon, metropolitan area, Tualatin Valley Water District provides full water service to parts of three cities and unincorporated Washington County. The district is recognized for its competitive service and uses that competitive edge to obtain contracts to provide service to other agencies.

In 2000, Sherwood, the fastest growing city in Oregon during the 1990s, selected the district to be its water operator and manager. In 2001, the Valley View Water District also selected the district for its O&M. Through a competitive bidding process in 2000 the city of Beaverton, Oregon, chose the district to provide meter reading service. Meter reading services were reengineered, and a productivity meter reading pay program was established.

Merit-based pay for performance is applied to all district employees, who are not rewarded for longevity but for contributions they make to the organization each year. This resulted in a highly skilled workforce with a turnover rate just over four percent, with half of that due to retirements.
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Title Annotation:Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies
Publication:Public Works
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Dec 1, 2001
Words:2342
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