Drinking Water Utilities Honored For Excellence

October 28, 2013

St. Petersburg, Fla. – The Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies (AMWA) will honor 11 public drinking water systems with its top utility management awards on October 28 in ceremonies at its 2013 Annual Meeting in St. Petersburg, Fla. Six systems will receive Platinum Awards for Utility Excellence and five systems will be presented Gold Awards for Exceptional Utility Performance. The awards recognize outstanding achievement in implementing the nationally recognized Attributes of Effective Utility Management.

Winners of the 2013 AMWA Platinum Awards for Utility Excellence are:

  • City of Columbus Department of Public Utilities (Ohio)
  • Louisville Water Company (Kentucky)
  • Onondaga County Water Authority (New York)
  • City of Palm Bay Utilities Department (Florida)
  • San Diego County Water Authority (California)
  • Western Virginia Water Authority (Virginia)

AMWA’s 2013 Gold Awards for Exceptional Utility Performance will be presented to:

  • Beaver Water District (Arkansas)
  • City of Dayton Water Department (Ohio)
  • City of Mesa Water Resources Department (Arizona)
  • City of Raleigh Public Utilities Department (North Carolina)
  • City of Virginia Beach Department of Public Utilities (Virginia)

“AMWA awards recognize the extraordinary performance of water agencies where management vision and employee commitment create a sustainable utility producing ample supplies of clean, safe drinking water,” said AMWA President Pat Mulroy, General Manager, Las Vegas Valley Water District. “The communities served by these award winners should be proud of the accomplishments of their forward-thinking, exceptionally well-managed public utilities.”

The Attributes of Effective Utility Management are industry standards and cover utility performance in areas of product quality, customer satisfaction, employee and leadership development, operational optimization, financial viability, infrastructure stability, operational resiliency, community sustainability, water resource adequacy, and stakeholder understanding and support.

Platinum Award Winners

The Division of Water in the City of Columbus Department of Public Utilities has implemented effective utility management processes, including strategic planning, asset management, benchmarking, environmental management and employee training. Successes were also realized in updating water treatment processes, achieving fiscal responsibility, enhancing community outreach and improving customer service. A $700 million dollar capital improvement program is addressing aging infrastructure, the latest regulations, population growth and the Division’s vision to provide the best quality drinking water. Other important facets of its operations include innovations in water treatment, reduction in chemical use, implementation of business case evaluations and reliability-centered maintenance.

Louisville Water Company has a rich history of dedication to quality and continuous improvement. Recent honors include the Partnership for Safe Water Phase IV “Excellence in Water Treatment” Award, the “Outstanding Civil Engineering Achievement Award” for riverbank filtration and tunnel technology, and the “Excellence in Distribution System Operation Award.” In addition to its 2013 S&P AAA rating, in 2012 Louisville Water achieved its highest customer satisfaction rating from the “Customer Service Index.” Employees volunteered over 5,700 hours to 117 organizations throughout the community and contributed more than $200,000 to Fund for the Arts, Metro United Way and Water for People.

To address its workforce needs, Onondaga County Water Authority (OCWA) developed an in-house succession planning program to enhance skills of management and supervisory personnel as well as staff members interested in advancing within the organization. To improve efficiencies and address both customer needs and system needs, OCWA invested heavily in automated and enhanced systems for billing, accounting, asset management, work management, GIS, SCADA and the employee training to see these systems operate successfully through one unified database. A comprehensive budgeting process that includes annual and long-term O&M budgets, coupled with annual and long-range capital budgets, has been developed and implemented throughout the organization.

The City of Palm Bay Utilities Department (PBUD) incorporates the Effective Utility Management Attributes into its daily operational procedures and processes through its Environmental Management System known as GreenWay. By tracking and measuring operational performance throughout the organization, PBUD has made continual improvements to optimize efficiencies and services. The Department continues to see a reduction in energy use due to its plant optimization programs and continues to champion the City’s Sustainability Master Plan. Some of PBUD’s continuous improvement initiatives include: a revised distribution sampling plan, a uni-directional flushing program, EGIS mapping applications, expanded asset tracking and enhanced customer service processes and communication.

The San Diego County Water Authority staff has scrutinized each element of the agency to squeeze out inefficiencies and promote good government. The Business Plan was updated to reflect current market realities. Its facilities plan is undergoing a major upgrade as is the multi-agency Integrated Regional Water Management Plan. Profound improvements were made to the Asset Management Program so it provides detailed risk data in a visual format for better decision-making. An Online Water Ordering System was adopted and a high-low rate forecasting tool was developed to improve customer service. Outreach to stakeholders was greatly expanded through enhanced online offerings, community forums and other tools.

The Western Virginia Water Authority uses technology and innovative water management practices to enhance the quality of life for its regional community. In 2011, the Authority entered into a guaranteed energy performance-based contract with upgrades that will help the Authority save more than $1 million in annual electrical and operational costs and add approximately $1.5 million in revenue through increased water meter accuracy. The Authority’s rate methodology of setting competitive and sustainable rates supports infrastructure maintenance and improvements, operational expenses and creation of reserve funds while placing the Authority in a better position to provide citizens with reliable long-term and reasonably priced water service.

Gold Award Winners

Beaver Water District’s focus on performance measures has improved its bottom line, making operations more efficient and sustainable while engaging employees. Operations and cost savings were improved through programs such as oil analysis and electrical load shedding. Refinancing long-term indebtedness reduced annual debt payments by more than $2 million per year. Creation of a stakeholder group, and the resulting Beaver Watershed Alliance, focused regional efforts on protecting Beaver Lake, the District’s only raw water source. The District also built a LEED Gold Administration Center that includes a Water Education Center for educational efforts on drinking water, source water protection and sustainable practices.

Since 1955 the City of Dayton has received national recognition as a Groundwater Guardian Community. The City of Dayton Water Department works to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and has implemented numerous projects for recycling and to reduce energy usage. The City reclaims 800,000 gallons of water softening residuals daily and converts these to calcium oxide for water softening. The Water Department has established a successful Leadership Development program for employees and is developing a Water University Program. In 2011, the Water Department completed an assessment of its baseline conditions. Critical deficiencies were corrected, optimization projects were scheduled and a $180 million infrastructure improvement project was launched.

The services provided by the City of Mesa Water Resources Department underlie the functioning of the local economy, enable public health and safety, protect the environment and provide for quality of life. Achievements include the development of a strategic plan emphasizing the use of performance measures that lead toward effective utility management. The organization focuses on water quality, superior customer service, asset management, sustainability projects that protect the environment and insistence on operational efficiency. Mesa Water highlights reduction of electrical usage for treatment facilities and reduction of O&M costs per capita compared to the national median.

In 2010 the Raleigh City Council created a Water Utility Transition Advisory Task Force to shape the City of Raleigh Public Utilities Department’s business model to reflect a sustainable strategic plan. Key to the Task Force’s recommendations was the requirement that the Public Utilities Department develop and implement a strategic plan based on the Effective Utility Management principles. Areas of improvement were organized with assigned champions. Management has been realigned to facilitate plan implementation and to provide new perspectives on workflow efficiencies. Major initiatives include employee leadership and development, operational optimization, infrastructure stability, regulatory compliance and planning for growth.

The City of Virginia Beach Department of Public Utilities (DPU) has implemented a robust Asset Management Program with a formal CIP planning process, and cross-divisional teams lead the program’s implementation. All asset data is managed centrally within the GIS and CMMS; asset condition and criticality assessment has been implemented for all water assets, and O&M Best Management Practices are in place. DPU leveraged existing technology to continuously track and report performance measures; monitor, collect, and test water samples for water quality compliance; and actively engage customers through its website and newsletters – all while maintaining its AAA bond ratings.

The Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies is an organization of the largest publicly owned drinking water suppliers in the United States.

Carolyn Peterson