AMWA Honors Drinking Water Utilities for Management Excellence

The Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies honored 15 public drinking water systems with its top utility management awards on Oct. 20 at its 2014 Executive Management Conference in Newport Beach, Calif. Nine systems received the Sustainable Water Utility Management Award, four received the Platinum Award for Utility Excellence and two were presented the Gold Award for Exceptional Utility Performance.

The Sustainable Water Utility Management Award is being presented for the first time this year. The new 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 2014 AMWA Sustainable Water Utility Management Award were presented to:

  • Beaufort Jasper Water and Sewer Authority (South Carolina)
  • City of Boca Raton Utility Services Department (Florida)
  • Columbus Water Works (Georgia)
  • El Paso Water Utilities (Texas)
  • City of Henderson Department of Utility Services (Nevada)
  • Minneapolis Water Treatment and Distribution Services (Minnesota)
  • Orange Water and Sewer Authority (North Carolina)
  • Spartanburg Water (South Carolina)
  • Tualatin Valley Water District (Oregon)

Winners of the 2014 AMWA Platinum Award for Utility Excellence are:

  • Chicago Department of Water Management (Illinois)
  • Orange County Utilities (Florida)
  • Tucson Water (Arizona)
  • WaterOne (Kansas)

AMWA's 2014 Gold Award for Exceptional Utility Performance was presented to:

  • Greenville Water (South Carolina)
  • Peace River Manasota Regional Water Supply Authority (Florida)

"AMWA awards recognize the serious commitment and significant progress these award-winning drinking water agencies are making toward long-term viability through innovative management practices, executive leadership and employee engagement," says AMWA President Chuck M. Murray, general manager, Fairfax Water. "Sustainable communities cannot exist without sustainable water systems, and these award winners are invaluable assets to their communities and their customers."

Sustainability Award Winners

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 uses 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 uses 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.

Platinum Award Winners

The Chicago Department of Water Management's 10-year capital program includes 880 miles of water main replacement, converting three of its four pump stations from steam to electric and more than 200,000 meter installations. To continue to be resilient, resourceful and reliable, the department is incorporating facility and security assessments, changing work rules, executing competitive contracts, and coordinating with other agencies, utilities and departments. It continually trains employees to ensure workplace safety, implementing creative and traditional funding to avoid overburdening future generations, and incorporating and optimizing timely, cost-effective, reliable and sustainable performance improvements in all aspects of its operations.

Orange County Utilities' mission is to provide water resources and solid waste recovery services to protect and enrich the lives of the Florida county's citizens and millions of annual guests. Strategies implemented over the past five years have yielded benefits for county residents that have been modeled throughout the state. These include the use of technology and the untapped talents of employees, who have embraced the need for change, the need for operational improvements and the need for their own skills to be enhanced. The utility's contributions to the well-being of the area are helping make Orange County a "Water Smart" community.

Tucson Water's proactive investments in supply availability and infrastructure development are demonstrated in the Clearwater Program, an innovative recharge and recovery project that delivers the majority of Tucson's water supply, and its recycled water master plan. Reliability-centered maintenance led to a high ratio of planned vs. reactive infrastructure maintenance, and an acoustic fiber-optic monitoring system protects the system's pipeline. Community relations are defined by transparency, as demonstrated by work with the Citizens' Water Advisory Committee on financial and rate-setting decisions, and the water reliability program, which communicates the utility's focus on water supply, water quality, customer service, infrastructure and operations, and efficiency.

WaterOne's strategic business planning allowed the utility to grow from a capacity of 5 mgd in 1957 to more than 210 mgd in 2014, making it the largest public water utility in Kansas. The utility focuses on enhancing communications, customer service, safety and security, fleet and emergency preparedness. It optimizes its production and distribution processes, including a state-of-the-art water quality laboratory. WaterOne has been recognized for its self-initiated water quality standards, which are more stringent than state and federal requirements. It earns exceptionally high bond ratings while offering some of the most affordable water rates in its area and consistently scores in the top percentiles for customer satisfaction.

Gold Award Winners

Greenville Water has completed the first formal Natural Resources Management Plan for two of its watersheds and obtained a permitted water resource portfolio from three separate watersheds that can sustain its service area with water for more than 56 years. The utility actively engages its stakeholders through its economic development, community giving and public outreach programs and implemented the Greenville Water Leadership Academy to provide in-house leadership training to supervisory employees. It maintains AAA bond ratings with all three major bond-rating agencies, developed a formal asset management system to more accurately prioritize and budget water main replacements and updated its security and emergency response plan and training.

The Peace River Manasota Regional Water Supply Authority, a wholesale water supplier to four county members in southwest Florida, has secured a reliable, sustainable and affordable water supply for the residents of the region and provides the infrastructure for business development, economic recovery and prosperity.  Through the creation of public and private partnerships, the authority successfully completed an extensive expansion program over the past decade, using alternative water supply in lieu of groundwater pumping. The authority has been a model in the state in development of alternative water supply through surface water storage by off-stream reservoir and aquifer storage and recovery systems.


Comments on this site are submitted by users and are not endorsed by nor do they reflect the views or opinions of COLE Publishing, Inc. Comments are moderated before being posted.