2015 Sustainable Water Utility Management Award

Winners of the 2015 AMWA Sustainable Water Utility Management Award were:

  • Austin Water
  • City of Bellevue Utilities
  • Water Works Board of the City of Birmingham
  • Central Arkansas Water
  • Charlotte Water
  • Chesterfield County Utilities Department
  • Contra Costa Water District
  • Miami-Dade Water and Sewer Department
  • Prince William County Service Authority
  • Riverside Public Utilities
  • Santa Rosa Water
  • Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission

In the face of historic drought, Austin Water strengthened its conservation programs and drought management plan, and by FY 2014 per capita water use was the lowest in decades.The utility has structured rates and fees to incentivize conservation and address affordability. It has moved to cover more fixed costs; created drought surcharges and a revenue stability reserve fund and surcharge; and instituted operational efficiencies to cut costs. The utility partners with stakeholders to develop policies reflective of community values, and community engagement has never been higher.

Bellevue Utilities meets its mission using tools including audits, surveys, benchmarking and continuous improvement programs. Performance measures are tracked to gauge effectiveness, efficiency and workload.  A financially self-supporting enterprise, it is comprised of four lines of business: drinking water, wastewater, storm and surface water, and solid waste.  Each is a stand-alone business that must be financially sustainable.  Bellevue Utilities’ long-term commitment to sustainability and environmental protection is demonstrated through successful public education and outreach programs.

The Water Works Board of the City of Birmingham plans for future growth in the region to ensure the system is viable for future generations. To provide for long-term viability, the utility’s capital improvement plan averages $59 million each year, which supports system-wide infrastructure improvement and growth.  A Rate Stabilization and Equalization approach helps ensure financial and economic stability with adequate operating, capital, debt service and reserve funds. A watershed protection policy, developed with stakeholder involvement, provides guidelines for development near its key water source.

Sustainable utility water management is integral to Central Arkansas Water. The utility has assured rate stability and established dedicated funds for watershed protection.  Implementation of a comprehensive watershed management plan involved close collaboration with private property owners and governmental partners and assures a high-quality drinking water supply. The utility also quantified its pipeline replacement needs, increased energy efficiency, implemented recycling programs and removed hazardous materials from sensitive areas.

An early managed competition leader, Charlotte Water transitioned into continuous improvement through benchmarking, re-engineering and embracing quality programs.The utility holds corporate ISO environmental and quality certifications, participates in Partnership for Safe Water and has strong, active stakeholder partnerships. Triple A bond ratings by the three major rating agencies underscore the utility’s strength.Revenue stability and predictability, fairness to customers and full cost recovery are the focus of a 10-year financial planning horizon, and increases in the fixed portion of rates improve sustainability.

Chesterfield County Utilities Department’s annual performance plan tracks over 100 annual and historic performance measures from virtually every work center.  The Department improves its strong financial position through competitive rates that adequately recover costs, while providing for reserves and future needs, thereby maintaining a Triple AAA bond rating and ensuring future stability. Striving to be efficient and environmentally conscious in all aspects of operations, the Department has implemented process improvement initiatives including reducing natural gas consumption, potable water usage and energy/chemical consumption.

Contra Costa Water District keeps local watersheds ecologically healthy, which ensures access to untreated water of high quality to process through its state-of-the-art water treatment plants, optimizing chemical and energy use.  Significant investments in water use efficiency projects have helped reduce total water use by over 30 percent. The District is balancing operating expenditures, revenues and debt service, investing in infrastructure assets, controlling operations and maintenance expenditures and increasing water quality and customer service levels.

Miami-Dade Water and Sewer Department’s Water Use Efficiency Program improves management of traditional water supplies, encourages development of alternative water supplies and improves water use efficiency.  The Department has an aggressive supply-side management water loss reduction program, including improvements in the distribution system, an aggressive leak detection program and advanced meter infrastructure. Its methane sequestration project increases self-generated electricity.  An asset management system minimizes the total life cycle cost of its capital assets and a Capital Improvement Plan provides long-term funding to complete improvements.  Its employee recognition program has produced more than $38 million in savings.

Sustainability is reflected in Prince William County Service Authority’s strategic planning, business practices and educational outreach efforts. From pricing models and fee structures to customer engagement platforms, the Authority promotes wise use of water while securing its financial future with sound fiscal management. With environmentally friendly technologies and proactive maintenance, the Authority meets stringent regulatory requirements. It protects source waters and public health through meticulous planning, an exemplary workforce and agile responsiveness to its customers.

Guided by a utility roadmap to the future, Riverside Public Utilities Department (RPU) has developed projects, such as its Solar Well Project, that help decrease its reliance on non-renewable resources. Other projects, like the North Riverside Aquifer Storage and Recovery Project, protect and improve local groundwater supplies. RPU serves as an integral part of its community through active participation in conservation, outreach and sustainable practices that engender community and stakeholder engagement and socially responsible initiatives.

Santa Rosa Water uses an integrated approach to manage the community’s water resources, enhance customer service and raise awareness about water-related issues. It helps customers conserve water, manages an extensive storm drain system and enhances the health of its watershed. The utility conducts in-depth rate setting processes, leads innovative efforts to conserve water and energy, consistently budgets capital improvements and reserve funds, beneficially reuses recycled water, and provides outreach, education and technical assistance to its customers.

Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission (WSSC) replaces its water mains at a rate of 55-plus miles per year and mitigates the potential damage of large-diameter pre-stressed, concrete cylinder pipe by using breakthrough acoustic fiber optics technology. The utility obtains 28 percent of its electric power needs from wind power and has solar power projects at two wastewater treatment plants. Its budget includes a ratepayer-supported Customer Assistance Program. A restructured debt program and transformed supply chain management saves WSSC tens of millions of dollars.