Who Looks Out For You?

It takes more than just water professionals to run an efficient, customer-focused water system. Remember your allies in other city departments.

I like to say I’ve never met a top-flight water (or wastewater) operator who wants all the credit for him/herself. Teamwork is in the DNA of the water industry and of the professionals who make the systems work.

But it’s easy to forget that teamwork extends beyond department boundaries. Professional associations like AWWA and its state sections exist in part because utilities can gain from helping each other solve common problems. And within utilities (at least the municipal variety), teamwork between departments is essential.

For instance? Well, the fire department depends on the water department to keep water pressure up and fire hydrants flowing. The water department relies on the police to prevent vandalism, on public works to care for the streets under which the lines run (and often to service the distribution system), on the city council to approve essential equipment purchases and facility upgrades, and so forth.

Outside the lines

So it’s fitting that this issue of WSO highlights an outstanding “operator” who isn’t even in the water department, yet has major positive impact on his community’s water system and (though they surely never notice) on the people the utility serves.

Doug Strempek is IT (information technology) coordinator for the village of Norridge, Ill. He may not know a pressure relief valve from a high-service pump, but he knows his business and how it can help the water system team. Thanks to him, the water department has a more efficient billing system, better inventory tracking, a paperless information system, better monitoring of customers’ water usage and much more.

And even though he is not a water operator, the Illinois Section American Water Works Association (ISAWWA) saw fit to present him with its 2013 Young Professional Excellence Award, recognizing his service to the group’s technology committee. 

You have friends

Who in your community is helping you? If they’re in “back office” roles like IT, they might be lending you a hand without you even knowing. Maybe it’s the GIS people who help you locate and label infrastructure so it’s easy to find assets when you need to. Maybe it’s the street workers who call and let you know when a valve box cover is sinking too far below the pavement surface.

It could be the mayor, city manager or council member who make it a point to stay up to date on what your department is doing and share your achievements with other decision-makers. It could even be the community resident/customer who is knowledgeable enough, concerned enough and vigilant enough to call in and report a suspected main break, or a problem around a reservoir intake, or some other issue, so you can take action before something serious occurs.

It takes all departments and all kinds of people to make a water system work at its best. In a word, it takes a community.

Who are the allies of your water system? Tell us their stories by sending a note to editor@wsomag.com. I promise to respond, and we’ll share your accounts in a future issue of WSO.


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