2012 Platinum Award for Utility Excellence

Winners of the 2012 AMWA Platinum Awards for Utility Excellence were:

  • Water Works Board of the City of Birmingham
  • Central Arkansas Water
  • Charlotte-Mecklenburg Utility Department
  • Fairfax Water
  • JEA
  • New York City Department of Environmental Protection
  • Palm Beach County Water Utilities Department
  • Prince William County Service Authority
  • Saint Paul Regional Water Services
  • City of San Diego Public Utilities Department

Water Works Board of the City of Birmingham updated its strategic plan in the fall of 2011, crafted a comprehensive set of action items and identified performance measures for each strategic goal, all with a commitment toward continual improvement. The agency measures progress and performance by participation in QualServe benchmarking in 2004, 2006 and 2009; award-winning participation in the U.S. EPA Partnership for Safe Water (PSW) for seven years; recognition for four treatment plants meeting the Alabama Department of Environment Management’s Area Wide Optimization Program in 2012; and recognition for three of four plants that received PSW Level 3 Five-Year Directors Awards.

Central Arkansas Water’s strategic plans developed in 2008 and 2012, adoption of the Effective Utility Management framework and a renewed focus on performance measures have guided the authority’s operations and management decisions in recent years. Major accomplishments include the adoption of a new Mission Statement and Values PICTURE; the execution of numerous watershed protection initiatives; development of a watershed management plan, utility master plan, succession plan and forest management plan; a complete overhaul of major utility information systems; an increase in maximum capacity at the Wilson Plant from 100 MGD to 133 MGD; and discontinued use of gaseous chlorine.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Utility Department (CMUD) has shifted from a rapid-growth to maintenance focus, with a new emphasis on continuous improvement. Refusing to compromise essential services, CMUD earned a third AAA bond rating, continued building cash reserves, improved its debt service coverage ratio and maintained competitive rates. Customer trust was established through collaborative development of a 40-point action plan. Transparent stakeholder communications included a rate study involving public input, resulting in rate structure changes that provide more stable revenue while maintaining affordability and conservation incentives. As a founding leader in the Catawba-Wateree Water Management Group, CMUD reaffirms its commitment to protecting shared natural resources.

Fairfax Water, the largest drinking water utility in Virginia, has treatment plants capable of producing 345 MGD. Through the use of ozonation and activated carbon filters, as well as other treatment best practices, water quality consistently surpasses all federal standards. The utility’s strategic plan, which identifies strategies and action steps for key business areas (water quality, infrastructure, financial, staffing, customer service and technology), is an active working document for the organization. The strategic planning process guarantees the utility will leave a legacy of adequate water resources, financial soundness and environmental stability for the next generation.

JEA of Jacksonville, Fla., has a constant focus on operational improvement through ongoing analysis via its TargetSmart program based on the Six Sigma methodology for significant process improvements and cost-savings across the organization. JEA has made tremendous production and infrastructure system investments and is now refining and streamlining its systems to ensure optimum performance. The utility continuously balances financial decisions that affect its ability to fund capital investments, thus reducing debt and managing costs that ultimately impact its rates. It consistently evaluates and aligns its performance to ensure that it stays competitive.

New York City Department of Environmental Protection’s strategic plan sets the stage for agency-wide improvement and metrics-driven performance to meet four strategic goals: operations, customer service, capital investment and sustainability. Its expansive watershed protection program guarantees the safety and quality of the water supply while promoting recreation and sustainable economic development. The utility is working to optimize operations by improving the function and maintenance of its linear infrastructure and installing automated meter-reading technology. Over the next ten years, it plans to invest $14 billion in capital projects to meet regulatory requirements and ensure long-term system sustainability, and will invest $1.5 billion in green infrastructure by 2030.

Palm Beach County Water Utilities Department incorporates the goals of its performance management plan into individual employee work plans and strives to improve its human capital through hands-on training, site visits and expert in-house seminars. In 2009, the utility’s AAA bond rating was reaffirmed due in part to its strategic long-range planning and asset management program. Financial planning allows for better implementation of necessary infrastructure improvements, particularly through automatic annual indexing of customer rates. Environmental stewardship is reflected through total water management, and its environmental footprint is reduced through conservation, energy efficiency and green house gas emissions reduction.

Prince William County Service Authority (PWCSA) significantly upgraded its strategic plan by expanding and realigning its goals, strategies and practices. Operating savings overcame unit demand reductions to maintain financial strength while allowing for continued competitive, highly affordable rates. The utility produces best-in-class customer service metrics through training and process improvements. It created the Northern Virginia Learning Center of Excellence for Water and Wastewater Utilities, enabling 14 member utilities to share training costs. Every asset is located in GIS and linked to a comprehensive maintenance management system, and a fully funded replacement reserve can accommodate needs identified by a robust condition assessment program.

Saint Paul Regional Water Services (SPRWS) takes seriously its mission to provide reliable, quality water and services at a reasonable cost and implements the mission daily in matters both large and small. Investment has been made in infrastructure and treatment process to improve the taste of the drinking water. SPRWS has provided its customers with greater access to their accounts and to pay bills, via the Web and a 24-hour phone line. The utility’s capital expenditures increased steadily through the past several years to fund an annual pipe replacement schedule of 10 to 11 miles per year. In addition, SPRWS has been fiscally prudent through all its investments in the future, increasing its Standard and Poor’s financial rating from AA+ to AAA.

City of San Diego Public Utilities Department prides itself in continual improvement and challenges employees to be optimally efficient. Initiatives regarding bond refinancing and State Revolving Fund loans generated savings of $107.8 million over 30 years. Through award-winning projects, like the Water Purification Demonstration Project, it pursues innovative ways of creating new local water supplies to address the increasing demands. The utility explores revenue-producing initiatives that help alleviate the rates citizens pay, such as a digester gas project for production of a renewable energy source. Operational optimization is assured through regularly updated facility master plans, an asset management program, and a condition assessment and rehabilitation program.