Newport, R.I. – The Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies (AMWA) honored 19 public drinking water systems with its top utility management awards on October 21 in ceremonies at its 2019 Executive Management Conference in Newport, R.I. Fifteen systems received the Sustainable Water Utility Management Award, two received the Platinum Award for Utility Excellence and two were presented the Gold Award for Exceptional Utility Performance.
The Sustainable Water Utility Management Award recognizes water utilities that have made a commitment to management that achieves a balance of innovative and successful efforts in areas of economic, social and environmental endeavors. The Platinum and Gold Awards recognize outstanding achievement in implementing the nationally recognized Attributes of Effective Utility Management.
The 2019 AMWA Sustainable Water Utility Management Award winners are:
- Aurora Water (Colorado)
- Beaufort-Jasper Water & Sewer Authority (South Carolina)
- Birmingham Water Works Board (Alabama)
- City of Boca Raton Utility Services Department (Florida)
- Chesterfield County Department of Public Utilities (Virginia)
- Columbus Water Works (Georgia)
- Fort Wayne City Utilities (Indiana)
- Newport News Waterworks (Virginia)
- Phoenix Water (Arizona)
- Raleigh Water (North Carolina)
- San Antonio Water System (Texas)
- Spartanburg Water (South Carolina)
- Suffolk County Water Authority (New York)
- Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission (Maryland)
- WaterOne (Kansas)
Winners of the 2019 AMWA Platinum Award for Utility Excellence are:
- Coachella Valley Water District (California)
- City of Fort Worth Water Utility (Texas)
AMWA’s 2019 Gold Award for Exceptional Utility Performance was presented to:
- DuPage Water Commission (Illinois)
- Orange County Water District (California)
“AMWA awards spotlight the exceptional advances of public drinking water utilities that lead the nation toward sustainability through innovative management practices, executive leadership and employee commitment,” said AMWA President Steve Schneider, General Manager of Saint Paul Regional Water Services. “Communities that rely on AMWA’s 2019 award winning utilities for safe, clean drinking water can also take pride in their outstanding utility management performance.”
Sustainable Water Utility Management Award Winners
Aurora Water relies on a complex and cohesive system of conservation, reuse, and storage to ensure the community has the water it needs today and tomorrow. The utility has the highest reuse rate in Colorado due to its pioneering Prairie Waters system, which provides up to 10 million gallons per day, and returning high-quality water to the homes from which it came. Aurora Water is also actively acquiring additional water in a sustainable way, including working with agriculture on mutually beneficial methods to continue farming while meeting municipal needs, and innovative water purchases from industries such as gold mining, providing additional environmental benefits.
The Beaufort-Jasper Water & Sewer Authority accelerated its galvanized/cast iron service line replacement program with a commitment of $8 million to fund full replacement. Other initiatives include enhanced call center metrics, new metering and bill-paying initiatives, increased workforce investment, as well as enhanced predictive maintenance and asset management strategies. The new $30 million Hardeeville Water Reclamation Facility expansion produces highly treated reclaimed water quality effluent. And, in 2018, the utility achieved more than one million safe work hours without an injury resulting in a lost workday as a result of compliance with its robust safety program. It previously won the Sustainable Water Utility Management Award in 2014.
The Birmingham Water Works Board’s Historically Underutilized Business (HUB) program is designed to encourage participation of HUB firms on construction projects and the acquisition of goods and services, with a goal of 30 percent participation. The utility uses drones to perform aerial inspections of tanks and property and monitor hydraulic flow and routes of the utility’s source waters. Solar-powered mixing systems in Lake Purdy and in drinking water storage tanks help minimize rate increases and the system’s carbon footprint. Its A World Without Water school program targets area fifth grade students to engage and excite them about the importance of water. The utility won its first AMWA sustainability award in 2015.
At the City of Boca Raton Utility Services Department, reclaimed water is a sustainable resource that reduces use of the ocean outfall, recharges the aquifer, prevents salt water intrusion, and provides a cost-effective water source for irrigation. Over the past 10 years, public outreach and increased reclaimed water use led to a decrease in the per capita use of nearly 20 percent. The utility has a goal of reducing the use rate an additional five percent by 2025 through public outreach, particularly on landscape irrigation. It currently has 31 capital improvement projects for maintaining a high level of service and ensuring continued safe and sustainable infrastructure. The utility also won a sustainability award from AMWA in 2014.
The Chesterfield County Department of Utilities’ annual performance plan tracks over 100 annual and historic performance measures from every center within the department to align its goals and objectives. Competitive rates that adequately recover costs, provide for reserves, and prepare for future needs have put the department in a strong financial position, maintaining a triple AAA bond rating and ensuring financial stability. Its environmental management system has expanded to incorporate a health and safety component, and it strives to meet the needs of its growing community through innovative approaches to demand management, waste reduction, and overall process improvements. The utility won its initial sustainability award from AMWA in 2014.
Columbus Water Works addresses impacts to its major drinking water source, the Chattahoochee River, through source water assessment, water quality monitoring with real-time notification, a watershed protection plan, and a Creek Walker program to ensure proper functioning of sanitary sewer infrastructure. The utility’s water conservation and efficiency plan addresses water loss auditing and reporting, water loss control, water metering, and rate-making policies. Its new environmental lab building features LED lighting and motion sensors detection, water-saving plumbing fixtures, and reflective roofing. Its fats, oil and grease recycling program provides an alternative energy source through two methane-fueled generators at its wastewater plant. The utility was also awarded an AMWA sustainability award in 2014.
Fort Wayne City Utilities is committed to the efficient, cost effective, and environmentally responsible use of energy. Its combined heat and power system at the wastewater treatment plant takes methane produced during the treatment process to power the plant, reducing electricity purchased. On-going interaction with customers helps ensure its products, service levels, operations, and financial plans reflect a balance between the desires of customers, the utilities’ obligation to fulfill regulatory requirements, and the responsibility for stewardship. Partnering with Riverfront Fort Wayne, the utilities promote plant tours so customers can understand the human-made water cycle.
Newport News Waterworks has owned significant portions of its watersheds since its founding in 1889. This ownership, supplemented with regulatory controls, structural improvements, inspections, water quality monitoring, and forest management, provides robust source water protection. Waterworks has adopted a solid and cohesive asset management program framework using mobile devices for asset condition assessment, procuring best-in-class asset management software, and prioritizing risk-based capital planning. The utility’s sustainability mission rests on providing high quality drinking water, preserving grandfathered water rights and watershed sovereignty, embracing new technology, capitalizing on data-rich analytics, supporting a talented workforce, and providing strong executive transformational leadership.
Phoenix Water’s successes include acquisition of water resources to meet demand 100 years into the future. Energy consumption has been reduced by adoption of electronic processes such as electronic work order systems, automated meter reading, and an automatic vehicle locator system, which have increased efficiency, reduced miles driven, and improved customer service. Extensive community outreach and education efforts surrounding conservation and pollution prevention have resulted in a 27 percent decrease in water usage over the last 20 years. Some 140 million gallons of wastewater per day is reused to irrigate crops, rehabilitate wetlands, produce electricity, and recharge groundwater.
Raleigh Water addresses sustainable environmental management by taking a multi-faceted approach to long-term water resource requirements, including demand management, long-range planning, source water protection, and a hydrologic-based water shortage response system. The utility also provides services to increase energy efficiency, conservation, and alternative energy sources through initiatives like the Anaerobic Digestion Bioenergy Recovery Project. Its customer assistance program supports customers in need of financial assistance, and its watershed protection program directly engages stakeholders through sponsorship of community groups and regional planning organizations. Significant financial management progress was made by implementing a departmental multi-year business plan and utility management system.
San Antonio Water System’s (SAWS) diversified water portfolio consists of 16 water projects from eight different sources, including its brackish groundwater desalination plant. Its strong credit rating provides flexibility to plan for its community’s future in a fiscally responsible way. Robust conservation efforts proactively engage customers, and since 1993 the gallons per capita per day for its service area has declined 28 percent while still absorbing new customers. SAWS was among the first water systems in the nation to provide bill payment assistance to vulnerable customers, and its Affordability Discount Program offers direct financial assistance to more than 30,000 households.
Spartanburg Water’s sustainable business model utilizes long-term planning for future needs and a five-year financial plan to assure that daily operational needs and required debt service are met, assets are properly managed and maintained, and infrastructure replacement needs are considered. The utility cooperates with federal and state agencies and a local university to find environmentally safe solutions for annual algae problems in its lakes and reservoirs. Energy efficiency is achieved with hydroelectric generators to offset power costs and implementation of small-scale solar installations at water tanks to power SCADA instrumentation. Community programs include an employee day of service and Pontoon Classroom. The utility earned its first AMWA sustainability award in 2014.
Suffolk County Water Authority instituted a new tiered-rate structure that incentivizes customers to use water judiciously. Water Wise programs offer free one-on-one consultations to develop customized conservation plans and financial incentives for the purchase of water-saving devices. The Authority’s education center has hosted hundreds of visitors since opening in 2017, its schools program has reached tens of thousands of young students, and its WaterTalk program brings water professionals into local town halls and libraries across the region. Strong partnerships with local environmental and planning groups allow the Authority to offer substantive sustainability programs and sustainability messaging all over Long Island.
Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission (WSSC) boasts zero water quality violations throughout its 101-year history and fulfills its sustainability mission in new and impactful ways. The utility is developing a $262 million bioenergy project, which will convert sewage from its water resource recovery facilities to renewable energy that can power the facility. This cutting-edge green technology will save customers more than $3 million per year by reducing operating costs. A committed neighbor and member of the community, WSSC holds and attends hundreds of community meetings and classroom events. The utility also won AMWA’s sustainability award in 2015.
Waterone’s strong financial performance is exemplified by its AAA bond rating and stabilizing conservative fiscal practices, policies, and planning. This includes a 40-year master plan, robust operating and rate stabilization reserves, and smoothed rate adjustments reflecting both affordability and the true cost of water. The utility is driving water policy and resource management as a leader behind efforts like the Kansas 50-year Vision for Water Sustainability. WaterOne invests in forward-looking facilities, including its state-of-the-art water quality laboratory and Wolcott Treatment Plant as well as its ozone treatment facility (under construction), advanced metering infrastructure, and a future hydropower plant.
Platinum Award for Utility Excellence Winners
Coachella Valley Water District focuses on water quality protection through its community-available, state-certified laboratory. And water system consolidation helps ensure delivery of safe drinking water. The utility’s infrastructure reliability exceeds industry standards through an aggressive preventative maintenance program, and a new asset management program is improving capital management. Financial viability and security remain exceptional through prudent rate setting, consideration of water affordability, and maintaining capital assets. The utility addresses community sustainability through watershed protection, energy efficiency programs, and a focus on disadvantaged community infrastructure. Water resource sustainability is carefully managed through a diverse water supply portfolio and water supply projects.
The City of Fort Worth Water Utility meets customer expectations and operates efficiently because of its reorganized management structure and emphasis on organizational development. Future work force challenges are addressed through programs with local universities, the community college and school district. The utility uses data to guide capital planning and development processes. Strong financial management policies allow it to keep the cost of debt low, while balancing new debt issuance with the impact to rates. Customer survey data is used to determine the focus of customer engagement activities, and operational improvements allow for enhanced customer service from field staff.
Gold Award for Exceptional Utility Performance Winners
DuPage Water Commission has paid off all debt and has fully funded its pension obligations in the period since its founding in 1992. The utility’s assets are in the early stages of their useful life and are proactively maintained. The Commission earned a AAA bond rating, fully funded its five-year capital plan with a budgeted CIP of $30M and established a long-term capital reserve. It created a water conservation and protection program and has participated in over 75 events promoting water sustainability. A three-year operator trainee program was initiated for trades along with a college engineer internship program for engineering students.
Orange County Water District is an international leader in water reuse and groundwater management and is home to the Groundwater Replenishment System – the world’s largest advanced water purification project for potable reuse. The District was the first to use reverse osmosis to purify wastewater to drinking water quality. It created the largest constructed wetlands in the West to help purify Santa Ana River waters and for greater water yield while protecting endangered species. Sound planning and investment, high standards for water reliability, exceptional water quality, environmental stewardship, strong financial management, and transparency are the District’s hallmarks and standards.
The Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies is an organization of the largest publicly owned drinking water suppliers in the United States.
# # #