2003 Gold Award for Competitiveness Achievement

AWMA's 2003 Gold Awards for Competitiveness Achievement were presented to:

  • City of Bellevue Utilities
  • The Water Works and Sewer Board of the City of Birmingham
  • Clarksville Gas and Water Department
  • Milwaukee Water Works
  • New York City Department of Environmental Protection
  • City of Oceanside Water Utilities Department
  • Tampa Bay Water

Each year, as part of its mission to provide exceptional public service to its more than 34,000 customers, the City of Bellevue Utilities conducts a Performance Measures Survey to gauge residents' satisfaction with city services. The findings contribute to budgetary performance measures and comparable cities measures identified by the International City/County Management Association. Bellevue also tracks annual performance measures to compare effectiveness, efficiency and workload. In 2002, Bellevue Utilities began a project to complete a self-assessment, request an independent audit and achieve accreditation by the American Public Works Association. The self-assessment has been completed and the audit will take place in early 2004. Bellevue Utilities has adopted strong financial policies for the long term, building and maintaining a first rate, reliable system with very little debt. Funds are set aside for future renewal and replacement of the system without the use of any debt financing and with only small incremental rate increases. Even though no use of debt is anticipated, Bellevue maintains a high bond rating.

The Water Worksa nd Sewer Board of the City of Birmingham has proactively conducted a series of programs designed to enhance its ability to achieve its mission, including forward-looking utility planning, competitive assessment, the AWWA QualServe Program and strategic planning. The Board's Effectiveness and Efficiency Master Plan includes prioritized action plans, developed by departmental managers with input from staff, aligned with capital improvement and O&M programs and including activities designed to strengthen performance. The action plans also reflect collaborative thinking in areas such as communications, training and staff development, performance measures and interdepartmental relations. The Board recognizes that it takes motivated and highly skilled employees to achieve its mission. Its employees take pride in the organization and individual efforts often carry over to departmental team building for the benefit of the organization. Through its Employee Association, Organizational Developer Team, Ambassador's Program and periodic "Town Hall Meetings," the Board acknowledges the staff's efforts, provides a forum for discussion of job-related issues and offers opportunities to obtain internal and external feedback on performance. The staff's participation in these programs and planning processes has increased awareness of the need to constantly improve performance.

Clarksville is the fifth largest city in Tennessee and its Clarksville Gas and Water Department serves a population of more than 100,000. To deal with the challenge of ever-changing mandates, competition from privatization, substitute technologies, heightened security and higher customer expectations, the Department follows a path of self-assessment, process improvement, integrating operations and commitment to product and service innovation. Achievements include a $30 million upgrade of the Wastewater Treatment Plant; upgrading to modernize and optimize the Water Treatment Plant and design of a second plant to provide needed capacity within the distribution system. The Department operates under a "Team Concept" through working teams including Employee Relations, Beautification, Safety, Emergency Planning and Training Teams. It also developed a "Utility University" where employees can expand their knowledge of all areas of the department. It is the first utility in the state to bring a water conservation program to customers through its mobile water conservation center and is the only Tennessee utility whose employees have established a non-profit organization, The 4-S Foundation, to provide scholarships to employee dependants.

District of Columbia Water and Sewer Authority

The achievements of the District of Columbia Water and Sewer Authority (WASA) are nationally and internationally recognized in areas including successful financial reform - garnering an A+ rating from an unrated status and receiving consistent unqualified audits and financial reporting awards. WASA also developed independent internal systems to support the its operations and surpasses EPA standards for drinking water quality. It is developing and implementing an ambitious 10-year, $1.6 billion capital improvement program to rebuild and modernize Washington's water and sewer infrastructure. Advanced technology is used to provide superior customer service and best practices are followed to enhance operations, maintenance and capital program implementation. WASA also developed progressive partnerships with national and international organizations, universities and the federal government in applied research, drinking water quality improvement methods and advancements in operations and management.

Major competitive improvements at Milwaukee Water Works (MWW) resulted from utilizing organization and technology strategies. The utility substantially "flattened" its organization in recent years; consolidating work units and related job duties has streamline workflow, reduced the number of job titles and allowed staff reductions at all levels without compromising effectiveness. Skill-based compensation was introduced into the plant maintenance work unit. The work force is more cross-trained with considerable broadening of skill areas allowing more flexible scheduling of work assignments and increased productivity. Automation has been implemented in many areas. A single entry of accounting information, for example, now produces financial reports in both Public Service Commission and City of Milwaukee reporting formats, an enormous improvement over manually keeping two sets of books. All 20,000 fire hydrants in the city have been bar-coded, and field personnel carry databases, which contain information about the hydrant, recently requested and/or completed maintenance and water quality data measured in the field after flushing activities. Chemical doses are automatically changed and flow-paced using continuous monitoring data, not manually set on the basis of individual grab sample results. It takes one individual 20 workdays each calendar quarter to drive by and read all 154,000 automated residential meters, a significant improvement over the 1,380 workdays it previously took for 23 meter readers to walk routes and manually read meters.

The New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has a wide-ranging mission to protect the environmental health of the city through operation of its water supply and wastewater treatment systems, HazMat and asbestos remediation, air and noise pollution control and billing services. DEP is dedicated to improving these operations and is engaged in a continuing process to improve competitiveness, efficiency and quality of service. Through an ongoing strategic planning process, DEP has created planning teams focused on key areas of the agency's operations: capital planning, community outreach, metrics, human resources and customer services. These teams are developing strategies to improve efficiency and productivity throughout DEP, and are examining relationships between its distinct functions in an effort to better integrate and coordinate resources. DEP also engages in a number of innovative, cost-saving measures which apply existing resources, technological advances and engineering ingenuity to address large-scale environmental concerns, including a comprehensive filtration avoidance program for two major watersheds, a nitrogen reduction program for a wastewater treatment plants, and an ecologically preservative stormwater management system. Through comprehensive strategic planning and innovation, DEP continually improves its ability to deliver services to its nine million consumers.

The City of Oceanside Water Utilities Department, California recognizes that careful planning and execution today will mean enough water for its residents in the future. Achieving this goal in light of changing technologies, stricter regulations, quickening growth and financial constraints is a challenge taken seriously. Recognizing that a small group of managers cannot undertake all of these tasks without support, the department challenged its entire staff when it undertook a recent competitive assessment. Suddenly empowered, the staff responded enthusiastically to the challenge and vigorously reviewed hundreds of procedures in an effort to increase productivity and effectiveness. The project took on a life of its own, resulting in procedural changes with a new emphasis on, and appreciation of, the department's core services. During the study, it became apparent that technological advances would make the most difference in the processes under study. Senior management responded by unveiling its long-term plans to improve SCADA, its computer monitoring program, make the GIS system available to all field workers and improve the communications systems with a new 800-megahertz radio system.

With only 118 staff, Tampa Bay Water has committed more than $1 billion in drinking water supply infrastructure over a five-year period. The effort, which includes the nation's first large-scale desalination plant, a 15-billion-gallon reservoir and a state-of-the art 66 million-gallon-per-day surface water treatment plant, was implemented cost effectively through the creative use of business partnerships. The utility also applies the partnership approach as its model for increasing the efficiency in operations, through use of outsourcing, investments in technology and investments in personnel training. Tampa Bay Water has minimized rate increases through employment of a variety of competitive practices including financing, benchmarking, employee training, outsourcing, customer communications, public involvement and use of technology. With more than 80 percent of its costs defined by contracts for various services, the agency's Board is assured that drinking water is delivered from expensive new sources at the minimum possible cost. This assurance is especially important in considering the variable annual demand for drinking water in the Tampa Bay region.