2014 Sustainable Water Utility Management Award

Winners of the 2014 AMWA Sustainable Water Utility Management Award were:

  • Beaufort Jasper Water and Sewer Authority
  • City of Boca Raton Utility Services Department
  • Columbus Water Works
  • El Paso Water Utilities
  • City of Henderson Department of Utility Services
  • Minneapolis Water Treatment and Distribution Services
  • Orange Water and Sewer Authority
  • Spartanburg Water
  • Tualatin Valley Water District

Beaufort Jasper Water and Sewer Authority’s commitment to sustainable practices includes financial conservatism to safeguard customers’ trust and to protect its strong rating in the borrowing community.  Its asset management program allows funds for needed upgrades as system demands increase, technology changes or regulatory requirements change.  The utility consistently produces high quality drinking water, its staff works to protect source water quality and available quantity, and an extensive reclaimed water system allows reduced use of potable water as an irrigation source.  The Authority plays a key role in promoting community economic development and, through local alliances and block grants, leverages funds to ensure critical water services are available to all areas of the community.

The City of Boca Raton Utility Services Department uses a comprehensive water sustainability plan that expands beyond water operations and includes wastewater plus other alternative water sources to sustain its natural water source.  Highlights include an ocean outfall program to save and recycle groundwater and a reclaimed water program that recharges the aquifer, prevents salt-water intrusion and provides a cost-effective water source for irrigation.  A water conservation public education program contributed to a 25 percent reduction in water use.  The utility’s reliability centered maintenance program has been critical to maintaining assets, and a proactive capital improvement program allows for long-term financial viability.

The Columbus Water Works has coordinated numerous planning cycles (facilities master plan, asset management, strategic planning, IT master planning, energy management planning and financial planning) to provide a comprehensive financial plan. The utility employs active water resource management planning with other stakeholder interests in its basin, tight operational controls, performance measures and a community-wide sewer system to yield a high rate of returned flow, allowing for limited consumptive use. It closely manages its power grid demands, shedding load and saving money by timely ramping up on-site power generation at water resource facilities.

El Paso Water Utilities shares water resources with three states and two countries, which dictates a proactive water management strategy focused on policy, planning and technology.  Sustainability for the utility means protecting public health by producing clean, safe water from renewable resources while meeting applicable regulatory standards. Guided by its strategic plan and with input from key constituents and stakeholders, the water system has aggressively implemented its strategic goals and objectives. It participates in national benchmarking surveys and receives high marks for performance in all areas.  Average residential bills are among the lowest in the Southwest, largely due to gains in operational efficiency and a commitment to continuous process improvement principles. 

The assets of the City of Henderson Department of Utility Services are managed through a comprehensive asset management program that focuses on long-term planned maintenance. The utility is actively planning for increased investment in the maintenance, rehabilitation and replacement of its aging infrastructure. Through aggressive conservation, the city currently uses roughly the same amount of water it did nearly seven years ago despite adding more than 30,000 new residents.  The utility also maximizes the use of water resources through an extensive reclaimed system. To meet challenges associated with increased growth and climate change, it works cooperatively with regional agencies and stakeholders to define and implement a coordinated watershed management and protection effort.

In its strategic business plan, Minneapolis Water Treatment and Distribution Services leverages applicable tenets of the city’s plan for sustainable growth. It has incorporated finance procedures that allow for long-term financial viability and added a fixed rate to help stabilize revenues from fluctuations in water sales due to weather and declining trends in customer usage.  The utility implements environmental stewardship initiatives including sustainable design in capital projects, optimized energy use, promotion of water conservation and facilitating service line repairs, fuel efficient vehicles, collaboration on source water protection, supporting urban farms and community gardens, promoting the value of drinking water and reducing the demand for disposable bottles.

Orange Water and Sewer Authority’s aggressive water conservation program and implementation of a reclaimed water system have reduced the community’s risk of droughts, enabled the utility to defer expensive capacity expansion projects, improved its water supply resiliency and redundancy, and reduced its energy use and carbon footprint. Efficiency improvements have been implemented throughout the organization following treatment process optimization studies, business process reviews and deployment of information technology solutions. A comprehensive asset management program provides timely, accurate information on which to base important investment decisions, and comprehensive watershed management plans protect the quality of water supplies. 

Spartanburg Water operates as an enterprise fund, financed and operated in a manner similar to private business enterprises, where the intent of the governing body is that the cost (expenses, including depreciation) of providing goods or services to the general public on a continuing basis be financed or recovered primarily through user charges.  This highly sustainable business model utilizes both 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 growth/replacement needs are considered.

At Tualatin Valley Water District, triple bottom line thinking permeates everything from procurement of office products to development of a new regional water supply system.  This stewardship ethic is embodied in the Ridgewood View Reservoir and Pump Station and the Willamette Water Supply Program where the District uses the Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure’s Envision™ Sustainability Rating System to guide staff, consultants and partners in integrating social, environmental and economic considerations into the design and achievement of the projects. In addition, solar production at the utility’s headquarters facility has resulted in roughly 510,000 kWh of renewable energy production, about 19 percent of energy used at the site.