2004 Gold Award for Competitiveness Achievement

AWMA's 2004 Gold Awards for Competitiveness Achievement were presented to:

  • City of Fort Worth Water Department
  • City of San Diego Water Department

In recent years, the City of Fort Worth Water Department has undertaken several benchmarking assessments that have translated into goals and changes for the department. One was the Water Treatment Plant Optimization Study, which resulted in better efficiency and cost savings, and a second was QualServe, a program that provides tools to help utilities improve service. This year, the department placed fifth nationally in the AWWA Top Ops Competition. As part of a city-wide initiative, the Water Production Division developed a competitiveness strategy and business plan that identifies strategic goals and objectives. Employee groups meet regularly to address issues and determine solutions, and the PAY$ program provides financial rewards to employees for suggestions leading to improved processes and customer service and/or a reduction in operational costs. For example, a committee of employees suggested a cross training program for operators and mechanics, which will phase out these two positions and create a single position capable of handling both responsibilities. To obtain customer feedback, the city conducts an annual survey, and the results regularly indicate that most residents are pleased with the level of service they receive.

The City of San Diego Water Department launched a Bid-to-Goal effort in 2002, and the City Council approved its implementation in 2004. Bid-to-Goal departs from conventional thinking to focus on the development of a public employee labor/management collaboration aimed at achieving the best possible service delivery at competitive costs. The two-year development process was dependent upon labor/management cooperation. The city's two unions, AFSCME Local 127, representing frontline workers, and the San Diego Municipal Employees Association, representing supervisors and professionals, were involved from the beginning of the process. At least 20 percent of the Water Operation's workforce had direct input into the process. The Steering Committee that guided the entire process included employees from all functional areas of Water Operations as well as union and management representatives. The San Diego Water Department is the first water utility in the country to combine ISO 14001 certification for environmental management practices with a Bid-to-Goal program, and a symbiotic relationship has been found between the two programs. Where Bid-to-Goal has cost goals and IS0 14001 has environmental goals, they both involve employee empowerment, improved teamwork and improved public image. The five-year Employee Bid, which began in 2004, will result in $1.2 million of savings compared to five-year budget projections.