AMWA Honors Drinking Water Systems for Management Excellence

The Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies recently honored eight public drinking water systems with its top utility management awards at its 2022 Executive Management Conference in Savannah, Georgia.

Four systems received the Sustainable Water Utility Management Award, two received the Platinum Award for Utility Excellence and AMWA presented two systems with 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 2022 AMWA Sustainable Water Utility Management Award winners are:

• Coachella Valley (California) Water District
• Fort Wayne (Indiana) City Utilities
• Fort Worth (Texas) Water
• San Antonio (Texas) Water System

The winners of the 2022 AMWA Platinum Award for Utility Excellence are:

• Orange County (California) Water District
• Seattle Public Utilities

The winners of the 2022 Gold Award for Exceptional Utility Performance are:

• Cape Fear (North Carolina) Public Utility Authority
• City of Irving (Texas) Water Utilities

"An AMWA award epitomizes the highest achievement in drinking water utility management and operations," says AMWA CEO Tom Dobbins. "Congratulations to this year's winners, who have demonstrated a commitment to serving their communities by supplying high-quality and safe drinking water while keeping service affordable and supporting the environment through sustainable efforts." 

Sustainable Water Utility Management Award Winners 

Coachella Valley Water District is a first-time sustainable award winner. The district demonstrates its commitment to sustainability in water supply, operations, disadvantaged communities and customer programs. CVWD has invested in and implemented large water importation projects to replenish extracted groundwater. The utility also uses recycled water for landscape irrigation. CVWD also founded a Disadvantaged Communities Infrastructure Task Force, which plans, coordinates and identifies opportunities for water and sewer infrastructure projects in disadvantaged communities; identifies funding opportunities; reports on progress; and discusses potential barriers to help disadvantaged communities receive grant funding for infrastructure projects.

Fort Wayne City Utilities is a second-time sustainable award winner. Since receiving its first award in 2019, the utility has continued to demonstrate an immense commitment to protecting and responsibly using natural, financial and human resources. Fort Wayne City Utilities is currently designing a state-of-the-art Microgrid Solutions to help the utility better utilize existing generation assets, improve electrical demand profile, increase resiliency to utility outages, and allow for easy implementation of renewable generation resources. By 2023, the utility will have installed a 5 megawatts solar array that will float on its wet weather ponds, energy storage batteries and an additional 4.5 megawatts of natural gas driven generation.

Fort Worth Water demonstrates its commitment to effective utility management and sustainability in several areas. Of note, the utility established a career pipeline, P-TECH, with a local school district and college to enable high school students to graduate with water and trade certifications and associate's degrees. The utility also revamped its leak detection efforts to reduce actual loss, avoided rate increases in three of the past four years because of customer growth and more accurate metering, and eliminated all known city-side lead service lines from the system. A new biosolids facility replaces belt presses with a drum dryer to create a pelletized product having 90% of the water content removed, with an anticipated 40% reduction in operating costs and savings of almost $2 million annually.

San Antonio Water System has continued to make strides in fiscal management, environmental stewardship and social responsibility since winning its first sustainable award in 2019. In April 2020, SAWS started receiving 50,000 acre-feet per year of water from the Vista Ridge Project. The benefits include decreased reliance on the Edwards Aquifer from 66% in 2019 to 51% of total water supply in 2022; improved Edwards Aquifer spring flows and endangered species habitats; and increased resilience to any climate-related adverse impacts to water sources. SAWS also kept rates affordable for its constituents during the pandemic and in response to 2021 Winter Storm Uri and led a drive raising over $1.1 million dollars to help provide repairs to over 1,100 low-income households.

Platinum Award for Utility Excellence Winner

Orange County Water District is an international leader in water reuse and groundwater management and home to the Groundwater Replenishment System (GWRS) — the world's largest advanced water purification project for potable reuse. OCWD recently broke ground on the GWRS final expansion. Upon completion in 2023, the GWRS final expansion will recycle 100% of available wastewater flows, add 34,000 acre-feet per year of recycled water into the basin and provide 130 mgd, enough to serve 1 million people. OCWD addressed PFAS in the basin by launching the nation's largest pilot project to test 14 types of treatment media and identify cost-effective treatment technologies. Sound planning and investment, exceptional water quality, environmental stewardship, sound fiscal management and transparency are hallmarks of the system.

Seattle Public Utilities is committed to operational excellence, leverages technology and ensures its investment decisions are informed by financial, environmental and social impact life-cycle costs and benefits. SPU's Strategic Business Plan charts the utility's investments, operations and service quality. Operational response, customer satisfaction, system performance and equity and inclusion are among the performance metrics tracked by the utility. Workforce efforts focus on racial equity resulting in high numbers of hires and promotions for diverse populations. SPU also engages the community in robust outreach by offering financial assistance programs and investing to achieve community priorities.

Gold Award for Exceptional Utility Performance Winner

Cape Fear Public Utility Authority is a regional leader in water treatment to remove PFAS. This year, CFPUA will bring a new deep-bed Granular Activated Carbon filter technology online at its primary water treatment plant — a $46 million investment to ensure the quality of the water provided to customers. Through CFPUA's 10-year capital improvement plan totaling $511 million, the utility has a consistent focus on rehabilitation and replacement of aging infrastructure, resulting in significant decreases in sewer and water line breaks. Providing strong customer service is also central to CFPUA initiatives. Between 2017 and 2021, CFPUA implemented an Enterprise Resource Planning solution that improved customers' ease of doing business, from an online self-service portal to more accurate and efficient meter reading.

The City of Irving Water Utilities Department is a regional water leader that tackles water supply issues and expands supply resources. Employing a customer-centric ethic, the utility meets the needs of a growing and diverse community, from improving procedures in water quality sampling to implementing a new customer portal to increase communication. The system has among the lowest rates in the region without compromising infrastructure maintenance and renewal, using advanced metering infrastructure, large meter testing and a thorough meter replacement plan to ensure accurate billing and asset management. The utility also strengthens the skills of its workforce by facilitating the licensing of water professionals.


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