March 2001 Gold Award for Competitiveness Achievement
AWMA's March 2001 Gold Awards for Competitiveness Achievement were presented to:
- Portland Bureau of Water Works
- Boston Water and Sewer Commission
- Kansas City Water Services Department
- Broward County Office of Env.Services
- Chesterfield County Utilities Department
- City of Columbus Division of Water
- Columbus Water Works
- Contra Costa Water District
- Las Vegas Valley Water District
- Little Rock Municipal Water Works
- Massachusetts Water Resources Authority
- Memphis Light, Gas and Water Division
- Onondaga County Water Authority
- Palm Beach County Water Utilities Dept.
- Philadelphia Water Department
- City of Phoenix Water Services Department
- Portland Water District
- Seattle Public Utilities
- Spartanburg Water System
- Topeka Water
Portland Bureau of Water Works, Oregon
- Provides water to nearly 800,000 (450,000 of whom are Portland residents; the balance of 350,000 are served via wholesale contractors).
- Two water sources---a surface system and a groundwater system.
- 545 employees and an annual fund budget of $145 million.
The agency has focused on developing a culture of continuous improvement since the early '90s, including:
Strategic labor-management leadership approach with extensive employee involvement in systematic business process reengineering.
Redesign of system operation (implementation of a SCADA system), fountain maintenance, grounds maintenance, customer service, mains flushing, emergency response, payroll and purchasing, stores operation and inventory management, concrete delivery and placement and laboratory management.
Flattening of the organization with increased span of control and reduced mid-management ranks.
Results have been evidenced by a revenue bond rating of Aa1 and a general obligation bond rating of Aaa; customer satisfaction ratings above 90%; rate increases below inflation, even as the capital improvement plan has been nearly doubled; and extremely competitive bills for customers based on local and national data.
Boston Water and Sewer Commission
- 550 employees.
- Serves a daily population of approximately 1 million.
- Maintains a 1,096-mile water distribution system.
- Total annual budget is approximately $211 million.
Continually searching for ways to maintain its competitiveness in the industry through the implementation of competitive strategies, including those to improve its financial status, customer satisfaction, labor management, system management and information technology.
The Commission was the first water utility in the United States to implement the concept of downsizing meters. In addition, the current manual meter reading system will be replaced with a Fixed Radio Meter Reading System.
Knowledge and understanding of funding resources resulted in subsidized loans and grants that greatly reduced the financial impact to rate-payers and assisted the Commission in maintaining stable water and sewer rates for seven years.
The Commission's 2001 bond ratings are as follows:
- Moody's Investor Services: AA3
- Standard and Poor's: AA-
- Fitch: AA-
A new facility at one location will increase operating efficiency and improve service delivered to customers.
Commission has a strong program to encourage employees to obtain certifications, cross train and enhance their education.
By the year 2010, all water mains in the city over 100 years old will be replaced or rehabilitated.
To maintain its Management Information System the Commission has implemented a Geographic Information System (GIS), coupled with a new Work Order Management System, to facilitate the sharing of data and ultimately improve communication, efficiency, and eliminate work redundancy.
Kansas City, Missouri Water Services Department (WSD)
- 240 mgd water supply capacity with 2,300 miles of water mains.
- Service population is over 600,000 within the Kansas City metropolitan area.
- Annual budget is $166 million.
- Employment of 970 associates.
In 1994, the WSD began its competitiveness strategy with a total quality management program entitled Associates Creating Excellence (ACE), which:
Provided the means by which associates were empowered to make process improvements, which resulted in cost savings of $1.4 million.
Chartered 38 process improvement teams.
Created a culture change that served as a fundamental building block to the organizational development and change that resulted from the subsequent Competitive 2001 Program and the current competitive and efficiency improvements underway through the Kansas City Government Optimization (KC-GO) Initiative.
In 1997, the Competitive 2001 Program (C2P) was launched as a result of competitiveness assessments of WSD's Water Supply, Wastewater Treatment and Line Maintenance Divisions which revealed a 19 percent competitive gap.
Goals were to transition from reactive to proactive maintenance, decrease maintenance costs and increase reliability of equipment, realize greater customer and associate satisfaction while becoming competitive with all public and private operations.
Six self-directed work teams (SDWTs) in the Water Supply Division improved productivity and efficiency in the treatment process, communications, and cross-training among operations and maintenance associates. Empowerment of the labor work force through SDWTs improved water quality, reduced overtime and improved working relations between labor and management.
Through the pilot of an O & M high performance work team (HPWT), the Wastewater Treatment Division reorganized its workforce into a HPWT structure, eliminating three reporting layers.
As of July 2000, the WSD's competitive efforts were integrated into the City's KC-GO Initiative, a strategy for becoming more competitive and efficient in the delivery of government services across all City departments. WSD was selected as the "first" major operating Department to undergo competitive review and business plan development because of its organizational readiness. The utility is currently involved in a large-scale competitive business planning process with 51 workgroups consisting of both labor and management working within 11 functional areas to identify continuous improvements that will result in additional cost savings, revenue enhancements and best business practices.
Broward County Office of Environmental Services (OES)
- Service area includes 58,000 accounts and serves a population of 263,000.
- Combined treatment capacity of 53mgd.
- Staffed with 380 full-time employees.
- Current operating budget excluding debt service is $59,785,820.
Broward County OES in 1996 initiated a program to evaluate its competitive stature, develop and implement an aggressive program for change which was to include an over-all reduction in annual operating costs of no less than $6 million dollars annually by the year 2000. By the end of FY 2000, the annual operating budget had been reduced by nearly $10 million dollars. Some of the more significant savings programs were:
- Fiscal Operations "revenue enhancement program"..............................................$ 900,000
- Chemical cost savings......................................................................................................135,000
- Electrical savings................................................................................................................800,000
- New bill printing system..................................................................................................... 54,000
- In house LAB services...................................................................................................... 300,000
- Grants for capital projects................................................................................................ 750,000
- 100 positions eliminated through attrition..................................................................4,500,000
Chesterfield Utilities, Virginia
- Service population of 260,321.
- Budget for fiscal year 2001 was $53,382,900.
- Employs 250 people.
- Controls 20 water storage tanks and 30 pump stations, and manages more than 2,900 miles of water and wastewater lines.
- Operates a 12 mgd water treatment plant and purchases water from the City of Richmond and the Appomattox River Water Authority.
Chesterfield Utilities is guided by the principles of Chesterfield County's Total Quality Initiative (TQI) which was formally implemented in 1992. TQI employs strategic planning, a team approach to problem solving, staff training, process management, performance-based measurement, and rewards and recognition to achieve continuous improvement in efficiency and customer service.
The department has developed an annual performance plan based on metric benchmarking. An annual report, which evaluates performance relative to the plan, is developed and provided to all employees.
To improve process efficiency and customer service through employee input, staff members are provided training to give them the knowledge to seek out improvements and make recommendations. Employees are rewarded based on their efforts and the results of their recommendations.
Chesterfield Utilities has established an excellent bond rating and a reputation for low rates. A rate setting model incorporates the operating and capital improvement budgets over a ten-year period as well as a debt coverage ratio and cash surplus to be maintained. The department's bond rating has risen from A in 1985 to a AA rating.
A rate stabilization reserve fund was established in 1995 for replacement of water and wastewater infrastructure and an anticipated 10% increase in user charges over four years to provide the funding. This fund will allow replacement with no additional impact on user charges.
City of Columbus Division of Water, Ohio
Aware of the growing competitive challenge within the water utility environment, the Division followed a proactive course to ascertain its competitive position:
Eighty-four employees representing all sections of the Division participated in a two-day "Thinking, Getting & Staying Competitive" workshop which resulted in a total of 245 individual recommendations to increase competitiveness.
Employees concluded that existing practices placed the Division at a competitive disadvantage of approximately $15 million per year.
To close the gap, the Division eliminated all uneconomical take-home vehicles; began work on several classification merge projects; combined similar work sections, monitored electrical usage through bill review and demand monitoring equipment; and reviewed and amended the purchasing process.
Future goals include a thorough study of and reduction in overtime, and continued progress in organizational restructuring and process improvement.
Columbus Water Works (CWW), Georgia
- Provides water and wastewater treatment services to a population of about 250,000 in the 221 square mile Columbus service area and via wholesale accounts.
- 205 full-time employees.
- Source of water is the Chattahoochee River.
- Operates a water treatment facility rated at 90 mgd.
- Annual budget is $34.7 million of which $20 million is for operation and improvement of the system and $14 million is to retire debt.
CWW has developed a plan for continuous improvement, which increased automation throughout the organization, and implemented an effective information acquisition, storage and retrieval system.
The total staff was reduced over a four-year period from 250 to 205 with an annual operating budget reduction of $1 million. Automation of all treatment plants is complete with only two staff needed to monitor four plants and 39 pump stations. The ratio of 1.5 employees per 1000 customers for full water and wastewater service is among the lowest in the industry. These results have been achieved while receiving over 40 local, state, regional and national awards and maintaining water and sewer rates below most other systems in the regions.
A Data Warehouse has been created to connect to a Human Resource System (OPTIMUM), Laboratory Information System (LIMS), Computerized Managed Maintenance System (CMMS), Customer Information system (CIS), Geographic Information System (GIS) and Financial System (ORCOM) so that information is readily available to all employees. An Interactive Voice Response System (IVR) has been installed to facilitate customers accessing their billing records. All of these have allowed the staff to provide more service with less time.
A centralized maintenance management system was established to maximize equipment and line reliability and longevity, minimize failure and downtime, increase equipment efficiency, and replace/rehabilitate equipment and lines when it is cost effective.
An atmosphere where innovation and creativity has flourished. Open discussion and examination of all work processes is encouraged. The results -- which have produced significant cost savings and increased customer service — speak for themselves.
Contra Costa Water District, California
- Provides water to approximately 430,000 people in Contra Costa County.
- Over $1.05 billion in assets, including a 100,000 acre foot reservoir, two regional water treatment facilities with a combined capacity of 115 mgd and a 1,000 miles of distribution piping and facilities.
- 320 employees.
- Annual budget of $169.9 million.
In Contra Costa Water District's efforts to continuously strive for improvement and stay competitive, the District has developed a Mission Statement and a set of goals to be achieved through over 300 annual milestones such as:
The Engineering Department benchmarking practices include: decreased turn-around time for Engineering Support requests; increased accuracy of project cost estimates; and reduced number of change orders due to reduction in design errors. Engineering administrative costs for capital projects were reduced from 45 percent of total project cost to less than 40 percent.
A Supervisors Academy was established to provide District supervisors with the tools and training they require to serve as excellent supervisors. A Skills Training Program was also established for clerical /maintenance employees. The new Multi-Skilled Equipment Operator classification was recently created to allow employees the ability to operate a wide rage of equipment which provides for increased effectiveness, efficiency, the development of enhanced job skills, while it provides a cost savings to the District.
The Finance Department has implemented a customer survey program, demonstrating a customer service approval rating of 83 percent, and a procurement card program has reduced the cost of processing transactions under $500 by 65 percent.
A new Financial & Customer Service System is being implemented and has the potential to provide customer service programs and customer billing service for other agencies.
The Finance Department is researching point of use and customer specific devises as well as bottled water and service line maintenance to provide consumers with total customer care.
Little Rock Municipal Water Works
- Service population of approximately 360,000, and approximately 80,000 metered customers, including three other municipalities as master-metered customers.
- 203 employees.
- $22.2-million annual budget.
- Current treatment capacity of 124 mgd.
- System includes two water supplies, Lake Winona and Lake Maumelle; two treatment facilities; Jackson Reservoir, which serves as a regulating and emergency supply; 12 booster pumping stations; 15 water storage tanks; and 1,363 miles of pipeline.
In 1998, a competitiveness assessment was conducted that included a benchmarking comparison of the drinking water utility to "world-class" utilities, as well as other private utilities. Following a staff analysis of the recommendations, the utility underwent significant organizational and operational changes that included:
The transition to a team-based employment environment to reduce the overall supervisor-employee ratio; create a more flexible workforce; utilize the benefits of cross-training; foster a greater understanding of respective functions; and promote the professional and personal development of employees through increased skills and knowledge. Toward these goals, employee task groups are looking at job functions that can be performed by multiple job classifications and the re-engineering of many work processes has been accomplished through employee teams, both intradepartmental and interdepartmental.
The implementation of transitional cost-of-service rates to more accurately reflect revenue requirements and to bring rates more in line with the actual cost of providing service to different classes of customers. Even with a rate adjustment in the year 2000, rates remain among the lowest in the United States and both operational practices and water quality have been recognized four times with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Region 6 Public Water Supply Environmental Excellence Award.
A reorganization of the utility into three departments (formerly there were four departments) and the re-assignment of various sections to departments that allow for more efficient work processes, better communication, and more responsive service to customers.
Development of a plan to automate to the extent possible all facilities to further achieve cost efficiencies in staffing and other operating costs. The plan includes going to unmanned operations at the Ozark Point Water Treatment Plant, one of two treatment facilities, within the next six months.
Initiation of a $31-million capital improvements program to optimize treatment plant operations, ensure continued compliance with the federal Safe Drinking Water Act, and provide for a needed increase in treatment capacity.
Las Vegas Valley Water District (LVVWD)
- Largest municipal water purveyor in the state of Nevada serving over 890,000 individuals, plus over 30 million tourists per year.
- 919 employees.
- Annual operating budget exceeding $261 million.
- LVVWD manages a local water system comprised of 35 reservoirs, 44 pumping stations, 2,771 miles of pipeline with a maximum capacity of 600 mgd.
To meet the demands created by an expanding population, the LVVWD has committed itself to a rigorous and comprehensive program of continuous improvement.
LVVWD's team environment fosters creative and innovative solutions, which are reinforced through employee recognition activities such as the General Manager's Five-Star Award, Leader of the Pack Award, Spotlight on Excellence Program, and other tools. Intra-divisional teams, such as the Maintenance Improvement Team, use technology, flexible work schedules, new processes and organizational strategy as tools to solve preventative and predictive maintenance issues. They are also used to find creative solutions to increase efficiency and enhance service levels.
Cross-functional teams make use of neutral facilitators to guide the team through the process and ensure all participants have an opportunity to contribute. To date, eight American Productivity Quality Center process improvement led teams have implemented recommendations, providing the District with over $5.3 million in net program savings.
The LVVWD also leverages technological advancements to foster improvements in efficiency and customer service. For instance, Meter Services has an Automated Meter Reading (AMR) strategy to improve service to our large Las Vegas strip hotel and casino customers while the Production Division is refining a Computerized Maintenance Management System to centralize coordination between shops, customers and support groups.
The LVVWD engages in benchmarking and simulated competitive exercises to assess competitiveness, set minimum performance and proficiency standards and set stretch goals.
Internal benchmarking for activities unique to LVVWD make use of recent innovations in reliability-centered maintenance, failure mode analysis and continuous time-in-motion studies.
Local residents participate through a variety of mechanisms, including citizen advisory committees, customer surveys, workshops and public events.
Customer satisfaction is continuous monitored through the use of customer contact cards, web-based comments, customer surveys and public outreach events. Our goal in seeking community participation is threefold: to increase community awareness; discover innovative, mutually beneficial solutions; and become a more open and transparent stakeholder in water resource issues.
Massachusetts Water Resources Authority
- MWRA is the wholesale water provider to 60 communities and 2.5 million people in metropolitan Boston and central Massachusetts.
- MWRA provides about 250 mgd.
- In FY01 MWRA has 1576 employees and an annual current expense budget of $498 million.
MWRA has successfully completed many competitiveness improvement initiatives over the past several years.
Performance of the MWRA's drinking water quality has risen dramatically due a series of interim projects to improve watershed protection, source water quality, primary and residual disinfection, corrosion control and removal of open distribution storage.
MWRA has met the tough federal and state rules for unfiltered water systems, successfully sought approval from the state and a federal judge that filtration was not needed and is now constructing a centralized treatment system using ozone disinfection.
MWRA has also implemented pump station upgrades and automation, an accelerated pipeline rehabilitation program for the MWRA distribution system (280 miles, 80 percent unlined cast iron mains) and a no-interest loan for community systems (5600 miles, 47 percent unlined), and an aggressive multi-year program to improve valve operability through exercising and replacement. Included in this ten year, $1.7 billion capital improvement program is a 17.6-mile deep rock tunnel to insure continued reliable delivery of water.
MWRA has recently realigned its management organization to streamline operations and promote cross-functionality between the water and sewerage systems that were run separately for many decades. A Chief Operating Officer position was created and filled and a consolidated water/sewer operations building is under construction.
Major investments have also been made in technical and professional development training programs for staff and managers.
Internal communication is supported by a weekly newsletter, an intranet system and Labor-Management committees on topics such as the competitiveness and staffing study.
Memphis Light Gas & Water Division (MLGW)
- Serves over 900,000 people.
- Ten water treatment plants and a 3,400-mile distribution system.
Initiated a full-scale assessment and benchmarking study.
Developed benchmarks compiled in a Benchmarking Equivalency Number Index.
Employee-driven process teams measured performance and made recommendations.
O&M costs per water customer dropped by $3 since 1998.
Preventable instances such as main breaks and complaints have been significantly reduced since the mid-1990s.
Customer satisfaction is at an all-time high; rated the top utility in the Southeast for Customer Satisfaction by JD Power and Associates.
In spite of expanding service areas and rate reductions, no new employees were hired and overhead is spread across more customers.
Improvements at MLGW are driven by employee-led Quality Circles.
Employees take part in a corporate gain-sharing program with payouts of $500 to $1,500 per employee on an annual basis based on corporate performance.
Onondaga County Water Authority (OCWA), N.Y.
- Serves more than 350,000 people in four Central New York counties.
- 110 employees operate and maintain 1,438 miles of water main.
- Operates a 20-mgd water filtration plant and monitors delivery of water from City of Syracuse and the Metropolitan Water Board.
- Annual operation and maintenance budget for 2000 was $14,169,690 and the capital budget totaled an additional $8.9 million.
Much of the Authority's success ties into reinventing itself over the past ten years:
Downsizing, through attrition, from 132 employees in the early '90s to its present level of 110.
Through an aggressive consolidation effort, the Authority's system grew more than 36 percent in total services, mains and hydrants.
The reinvestment program saw more than $23 million worth of infrastructure improvements completed while maintaining stable water rates and avoiding the need to issue water revenue bonds.
Increased maintenance of its system and improved services to its customer base through automation in areas of customer service, distribution operations and water treatment.
Adopted an aggressive policy of outsourcing non-core related business functions.
Provided staff more opportunities for training and professional enhancement.
Water treatment plant received Phase III certification from the USEPA Partnership for Safe Water and the water quality group is currently working on Phase IV certification.
Joined the QualServe Benchmarking Clearinghouse in 2000 upon the completion of both the QualServe self-assessment and peer review processes.
Adopted a progressive approach to dealing with safety and insurance matters that has resulted in significant savings on all lines of insurance over the past seven years with annual savings in the range of $250,000.
Palm Beach County Water Utilities Department (PBCWUD), Florida
- Provides water services to 400,000 residents.
- Also provides retail and wholesale services to several cities and towns.
- Operates four state-of-the-art water treatment plants (72 mgd total), two wastewater treatment plants (54 mgd total), 1500 miles of pipelines, 650 wastewater pump stations and 8 wellfields.
- Has 416 employees, an annual operating budget of $57,000,000 and a $240,000,000/seven-year capital improvement program.
Realizing the need to become more competitive, and thus minimize the threat of privatization, PBCWUD developed and implemented a "Productivity Assessment and Enhancement Program" beginning in 1995. As a result, the following gains have been achieved:
Individual worker productivity has increased 60 percent, with each employee now serving an average of 425 customers, up from 265 customers in the past.
The number of PBCWUD budgeted employees declined over the past ten years while at the same time the population served increased by 140,000.
Employee morale is up, and employee turnover is down.
Cumulative savings from decreased manpower needs alone have exceeded $20 million.
PBCWUD's ongoing $240 million capital improvement program is now fully funded from internally generated funds, and existing bonded indebtedness has been reduced from $1,100 per dwelling unit to less than $800 per dwelling unit.
On an inflation-adjusted basis, PBCWUD utility rates have decreased 30 percent over the past 15 years.
PBCWUD now has one of the most productive and quality work forces in the industry and has eliminated the competitive threat.
Philadelphia Water Department (PWD)
- Approximately 2,100 employees.
- Operates three water plants treating an average of approximately 300 million gallons of river water each day and maintains approximately 3,300 miles of water mains.
- Supplies drinking water to 1.5 million retail customers in the City of Philadelphia and another 150,000 residents of Lower Bucks County.
- Annual operating budget of approximately $427,527,000.
Since 1992, PWD went from a period of double-digit rate increases to no increases for the past five years as the utility implemented a competitiveness strategy within its strategic plan.
Below are examples of the PWD's success in implementing those strategies:
Moved from quarterly to monthly billing for significant collection rate increases.
Launched the largest automatic meter reading (AMR) project of any United States water utility, public or private. AMR is projected to achieve cumulative financial benefits over the 20-year useful life of the system estimated at $30 million, in net present value.
Minimized the cost of debt service by refinancing debt in favorable market conditions, saving over $61 million in debt payment, in net present value, since 1995.
Began assigning and monitoring service-level goals, on a monthly basis, for units.
Expanded safety programs to reduce employee injuries and help employees who are injured return to work more quickly. As a result of such efforts, the number of PWD workdays lost because of injuries has declined steadily from a peak of 4,821 in FY 93 to only 1,432 in FY 2000.
Moved to obtain more feedback from customers by performing "point-of-service" customer satisfaction surveys.
Following the completion of extensive wastewater plant expansion and upgrades, PWD is now shifting more of its capital resources to water main and sewer replacement and rehabilitation.
Implemented a Capital Facilities Assessment Program that inspects the condition of major facilities in order to minimize the cost of repairs and significant operational and service disruptions.
Phoenix Water Services Department
- Serves 345,000 water accounts and 1.3 million people.
- Operates five water treatment plants with a combined capacity of about 630 mgd.
- Annual operating budget of about $205 million and a five-year capital improvement budget of about $1.5 billion.
Five years ago, the Phoenix Water Services Department embarked upon a reengineering program designed to achieve eight goals related to achieving excellence in customer service, environmental stewardship, cost effectiveness, safety, optimal staff size, expanded and upgraded facilities and limiting rate increases. The department's management and labor formed a coalition to mutually pursue these goals and their efforts resulted in:
An overhaul of work practices and staffing structure at all plants and a reorganization of all plant and facility maintenance support groups.
A new Multi-Skill Worker Program that calls for workers to expand their capabilities to include both operations and maintenance skills and provides a new pay scale to reward those bringing greater skills to the job.
A highly planned and coordinated maintenance program; minimized off-shift staffing; expansion of first-line workers' roles to include simple and basic journey-level tasks; increased applications of technology to leverage worker productivity; and realignment of internal work groups.
A recent independent audit showed annual cost savings achieved by the reengineering program are greater than $12 million. Customers benefit from the effort through improved service levels and the fact that charges for water and sewer service are among the lowest in the country.
Portland Water District, Maine
- Provides water, wastewater and environmental services to 10 communities.
- Serves approximately 46,000 customer accounts, or 171,000 people, with its 190 employees.
- Manages $215 million in assets operating over approximately 140 square miles.
- Has an annual operating budget of $28.9 million and a $10 million capital improvement budget.
In 1997, the Portland Water District's governing board adopted a three-year competitiveness strategy to close the gap identified in a comprehensive review of all organizational work processes. Among the goals identified were to reduce the O&M budget, invest in technology, encourage employees to become multi-skilled, and accomplish all objectives without employee layoffs.
By late-2000, all the above initiatives had been achieved:
Staffing was reduced by 13 percent through attrition and voluntary, early retirements.
A Technology Master Plan was prepared, which has guided the investment in SCADA, GIS, data warehousing, etc.
Several areas were reorganized to promote cross-training, optimal performance, and communication, including such areas as maintenance, laboratories and field operations.
Not only have costs been contained, but two water rates decreases also have been implemented - a 9.5 percent decrease in 1999 and a 2.2 percent decrease in 2000. Further, a direct dividend equivalent to one month's typical water bill was distributed as a billing credit to all customers in 2000.
PWD has employed multi-disciplinary teams to reengineer work processes, implemented pay for performance measures, established corporate and departmental goals that are measured annually, and increased its communication efforts with employees and its customers.
Employee and customer satisfaction surveys are used to assess progress towards strategic goals and to direct changes.
Seattle Public Utilities (SPU)
- Serves a population of 1.3 million people in the greater Seattle metropolitan area.
- 1,300 employees and a budget of $462 million for 2001.
- Water system includes the Tolt and Cedar River watersheds and a small aquifer, as well as approximately 176 miles of supply mains and 460 millions gallons of storage capacity in transmission and distribution reservoirs, supporting nearly 150 mgd average water use.
An aggressive water conservation program reduced per capita use by more than 20 percent over the past two decades.
To meet a new set of challenges at the dawn of the next century, the Seattle Water Department was directed by the mayor to develop pathways to become more competitive and efficient, and at the same time to enhance customer service levels and environmental protection.
Seattle Public Utilities was created in 1997 as one of the primary means of achieving these objectives through the merger of the water, wastewater, drainage and solid waste utilities.
All SPU services now have performance measures based on desired end results, and performance results are reported to the utility director quarterly and discussed with management leaders to assure feedback and performance results are synchronized.
An integrated Utility Call Center was created to provide seamless customer service related to any customer inquiries related to water, solid waste, drainage, wastewater and electrical services.
Innovative approaches to facility development and alternative approaches to drinking water treatment saved SPU $70 million on the Tolt Treatment Plant by using design-build-operate (DBO), a estimated $150 million on the Cedar Treatment facility by moving to ozonation and ultra-violet technologies and a DBO approach, and approximately $100 million through more strategic approaches to reservoir covering and replacement.
Though the integration of financial and administrative functions -- such as human resources, safety, information systems, finance, accounting, rates and communications services -- of three previously separate utilities, SPU achieved a cost saving of more than 10 percent without a reduction in service levels.
An enhanced Capital Improvement Program (CIP) included redesigned support systems, development of standards and new processes, and increased annual capital completion from around 55 percent to 100 percent. This capital completion rate was accomplished for three years in a row, while the size of the CIP doubled from roughly $50 million in the early 1990s to more than $100 million in recent years. In addition, SPU has maintained Aa2 and AA bond ratings.
Spartanburg Water System
- Provides direct service to a population of approximately 110,000, and supplies water to nine wholesale customers serving a secondary population of approximately 73,000.
- Operates three surface water reservoirs and two treatment facilities with a combined capacity of 79 mgd.
- 188 employees and an annual budget of approximately $22 million.
Spartanburg Water System has developed and is implementing a program it calls Pursuing Excellence, which encompasses initiatives designed to ensure high levels of employee and public safety, regulatory compliance, resource conservation, customer service and competitiveness.
Maintenance and construction activities have been consolidated, multi-functional work teams established and the number of management levels and positions significantly decreased through attrition.
Laboratory services have been consolidated and a state-of-the-art laboratory is currently under construction.
More efficient analytical technologies and automation are being implemented where available, and extensive training and cross-training is underway.
Customer satisfaction is measured and evaluated on a periodic basis in order to determine satisfaction.
A Management, Operation and Maintenance Program consistent with EPA and Primacy Agency CMOM program guidance has been implemented to identify potential problems and schedule preventive maintenance.
A systematic inspection of treatment facilities and water storage tanks was undertaken to assess current physical integrity, projected life, and needed modifications or upgrades to meet future growth in the community and anticipated regulatory requirements.
- System includes a 63 mgd treatment plant, an 800-mile distribution system, 10 towers and reservoirs and nine pump stations.
- Service population is 51,000 connections serving approximately 165,000 customers.
- Employees number 108 and the annual budget is $18 million.
Topeka Water, like many other water utilities, has operated an aging infrastructure that needs significant capital investment. At the same time, revenue growth was flat, operating costs were rising and customers were becoming vocal against significant rate increases. The following strategies were adopted:
Phased capital projects consider financial restraints and better meet customer needs.
Revenue enhancement opportunities were explored. Customer base growth became a key to better returns on existing investments. Completion of an aggressive meter change out program and negotiating wholesale water contracts achieved early revenue growth success.
Operations and maintenance costs had to be controlled with the need to be competitive with private utilities. An aggressive staffing and process optimization program saved more than one million dollars in the first year. Many activities that were historically performed by in-house resources have been outsourced. Other changes include supervisor leadership skills, standard operating procedures, computerized mapping systems, computerized maintenance work orders, labor / management meetings, employee teams, training programs, and an enhanced safety program.
Customer service has improved significantly with the adoption of new customer payment options and a charitable program that collects donations to help less fortunate customers with their utility payments. Customer complaints about red water and yard cleanups have dramatically reduced even though the work in customer yards has gone up over seven-fold.