2011 Platinum Award for Utility Excellence

Winners of the 2011 AMWA Platinum Awards for Utility Excellence were:

  • Beaufort-Jasper Water & Sewer Authority
  • Greater Cincinnati Water Works
  • Jordan Valley Water Conservancy District
  • Minneapolis Water Works
  • City of North Las Vegas Utilities Department
  • Orange Water and Sewer Authority
  • City of Riverside Public Utilities
  • City of Tempe Water Utilities Department
  • Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission

Beaufort-Jasper Water and Sewer Authority (BJWSA) shifted its capital program from one driven by growth to one focused on renewal and replacement, accomplished major debt restructuring for significant savings, reduced staff by attrition, and restructured operations and consolidated major facilities for significant savings. The utility acquired the assets and a fifty-year franchise for utility service on the four military bases in its service area. BJWSA’s integrated water resources plan focuses the utility on an ambitious demand management program, major efforts in source water protection and significant increases in the reclamation and reuse of its wastewater effluent.

Greater Cincinnati Water Works (GCWW) began construction in 2010 on a 240-mgd ultraviolet treatment facility. When the facility becomes operational, GCWW will be the largest water utility in North America to use UV disinfection following sand filtration and granular activated carbon adsorption. In 2009, Standard & Poor’s upgraded the utility’s bond rating to AAA, and in 2010, Moody’s elevated its rating to Aaa, placing GCWW among the elite water utilities in America holding twin AAA ratings. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency selected the utility to partner in its Water Security Initiative, which allows GCWW to proactively detect and respond to potential water contamination events.

Jordan Valley Water Conservancy District implemented sound financial management practices that yielded improved bond credit ratings and successful funding of an aggressive capital improvements program. Broad stakeholder involvement brought extensive community support in creating the Conservation Garden Park and Education Center and development of one of the nation’s largest groundwater remediation and potable water supply projects. Water demand management programs resulted in an 18 percent reduction in per capita water use. Safety incident rates were improved, and aggressive water quality goals are consistently reached. Asset management and best management practices provide efficient maintenance of infrastructure capacity and service levels.

Minneapolis Water Works (MWW) has improved its product quality, customer service, product cost and staff development. An ambitious project to optimize the lime softening process, along with a laboratory opened to reassess methods, allowed MWW to significantly improve its water quality. Its centralized call center can track, interpret and give results providing information needed to improve customer service. For financial viability, expenses were reduced to match the loss in revenue due to decreased sales caused by water conservation. An improved forecasting tool was developed that allows prediction of future revenues, and an expended capital program will provide additional infrastructure stability.

City of North Las Vegas Utilities Department improvements include an automated payment system for increased customer convenience, infrastructure improvements based upon planning projections, and capacity analyses and maintenance surveys. Recent completion of a Membrane Bio-Reactor Water Reclamation Facility eliminates reliance on other agencies, provides a more stable rate structure for customers and enhances local water supply stewardship through higher levels of treatment. To optimize efficiency, an automated meter reading system was implemented, infrastructure models were updated and the GIS and asset management systems were enhanced. The Utilities Department is increasing citizen knowledge via outreach programs and is participating in an aquifer recovery program.

While Orange Water and Sewer Authority’s (OWASA) customer base grew 3.6 percent in the last five years, water demand dropped 18 percent. Conservation initiatives included increasing block water rates, public information, mandatory year-round conservation standards, and a reclaimed water system that will meet about 12 percent of the community’s overall water demand. OWASA reduced its workforce by 15 percent without affecting service quality through reorganization, greater use of technology, and a more highly trained and flexible workforce. Financial reserves grew to over $20 million and the debt service coverage ratio improved to over 2.0.

Riverside Public Utilities’ (RPU) strong local partnerships create new opportunities in water supply, conservation and watershed management while maximizing regional efficiencies. Open communication fosters stakeholder support and builds collaborative relationships to help ensure a safe and reliable water supply for future generations. The utility’s proactive approach to groundwater management through the development of an integrated water management plan is consistent with its reputation as an innovator. Prudent fiscal management can be credited for RPU’s Water Division upgrade to an AAA credit rating by Standard and Poor’s. This strong financial position is in line with both the utility’s short and long-term goals of protecting its financial health.

City of Tempe Water Utilities Division (WUD) piloted an organization-wide management initiative elevating its strategic planning efforts to new levels. The 4D operating system became the foundation of a participatory and collaborative learning and improvement environment and empowered WUD to effectively execute top-priority business and process improvements. Continuous strategic planning became an integral part of the utility culture and positively impacted various utility operations in providing clean, safe drinking water; collecting and safely treating wastewater; creating and maintaining a sustainable environment; maintaining competitive user rates; and providing a superior level of customer service. Emphasis was placed on efficiency, cost-effectiveness and energy conservation.

The Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission (WSSC) plans to replace 41 miles of water pipe in FY2012, and formed a Bi-County Working Group to assess funding alternatives. The utility established five asset management plans and uses acoustic fiber optics to monitor large prestressed concrete cylinder pipe transmission lines for signs of weakness. Sustainability is clearly demonstrated in issues related to water supply, green and efficient acquisition of energy, reduction of greenhouse gas and community outreach and education. Its Potomac Water Filtration Plant has the largest active UV disinfection system in the country. And, WSSC was one of the first utilities to have its own smart phone “app.”