AMWA honors water systems nationwide for management excellence

The Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies will present its 2006 awards for excellence in utility management on Oct. 17 at its Annual Meeting in Charleston, SC. Sixteen large public drinking water systems, located from Orlando to San Jose, will be recognized for their accomplishments in applying competitive business strategies to meet the expectations of consumers and municipal leaders...

CHARLESTON, SC, Oct. 16, 2006 -- Sixteen public drinking water utilities were honored today with the top management achievement awards of the Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies (AMWA). Seven systems earned Gold Awards for Competitiveness Achievement, recognizing their accomplishments in applying competitive business strategies to meet the expectations of drinking water consumers and municipal leaders. Nine systems received Platinum Awards for Sustained Competitiveness Achievement, recognizing their long-term excellence in utility management.

• Winners of the AMWA 2006 Gold Awards for Competitiveness Achievement are:
-- Aurora Water (Colo.)
-- Clearwater Public Utilities (Fla.)
-- City of Glendale Utilities Department (Ariz.)
-- Long Beach Water Department (Calif.)
-- Orange Water and Sewer Authority (N.C.)
-- Orlando Utilities Commission (Fla.)
-- City of Santa Rosa Utilities Department (Calif.)

• Winners of the AMWA 2006 Platinum Awards for Sustained Competitiveness Achievement are:
-- Birmingham Water Works and Sewer Board (Ala.)
-- Chicago Department of Water Management (Ill.)
-- District of Columbia Water and Sewer Authority
-- Green Bay Water Utility (Wisc.)
-- JEA (Jacksonville, Fla.)
-- Palm Beach County Water Utilities Department (Fla.)
-- City of Raleigh Public Utilities Department (N.C.)
-- Saint Paul Regional Water Services (Minn.)
-- Santa Clara Valley Water District (Calif.)

"Meeting competitive goals for efficiency, cost of operations and quality of service are hallmarks of AMWA's Gold Award-winning water systems," said AMWA President Mark Premo, General Manager of Anchorage Water & Wastewater Utility. "They are forward looking in their plans to maintain their infrastructure and ensure future water supplies," he said.

"The Platinum Award winners have established a track record of management excellence, continuously applying best management practices to meet the public's requirements for safe water and low-cost service," Premo noted. "Improvement gains from effectiveness and efficiency have been reinvested to enhance quality, increase customer satisfaction and control rates," he said.

Gold Award Winners
Aurora Water uses benchmarking, cross-training, leadership development and reorganization for improved efficiency to ensure high-quality water. Reorganization of its operations division resulted in a Design Build Award for renovation of one of its water treatment plants and a Land Stewardship Award for the other. Last year, both plants earned Partnership for Safe Water Director's Awards.

Clearwater Public Utilities promotes excellence in its employees by rewarding their efforts and encouraging continuing education. The utility built a 3-mgd reverse osmosis water treatment plant, rehabilitated numerous groundwater production wells, continues expansion of its reclaimed water system for alternative irrigation sources, and continues replacement of undersized and old water transmission mains to improve service to its customers.

Among the achievements of the Glendale Utilities Department are expansion of current plants, an extensive water main replacement program and an aggressive meter testing and meter reading program. The Department undertakes comprehensive benchmarking, and its technological programs include an Interactive Voice Response/Interactive Web Response system for its call center and a Computerized Maintenance Management System.

Each year, Long Beach Water Department prepares a ten-year strategic plan detailing cost versus revenue and a five-year capital improvement program detailing projected spending on projects. Its asset management system is used for field operations and maintenance functions, water mains replacement prioritizing, capital improvement planning and budgeting. Benefits include increased productivity, improved decision-making capabilities and better records management.

Orange Water and Sewer Authority conducts benchmarking for continuous improvement. Plant operators collect information with hand-held computers, field personnel access GIS information with laptop computers and engineers plan rehabilitation projects with a prioritization model integrating GIS and work order management systems. Long-range planning ensures sufficient future water supplies, and rate studies confirm that charges cover the cost of providing service.

Orlando Utilities Commission recently completed a $124 million water production modernization and expansion project that resulted in eight interconnected and fully automated water treatment facilities. OUC is working with regional partners to implement a comprehensive, integrated water resources plan. Its employees are recognized for controlling expenses, reaching project milestones, providing top-notch service quality and customer satisfaction.

The Santa Rosa Utilities Department implemented a Computerized Maintenance and Management System to collect information for use by management in creating realistic goals and measuring the efficiency of its business processes. It also undertook a management and organizational change coaching process to prepare for the technological and work process changes necessary to transition to a 21st century public utility.

Platinum Awards
At the Birmingham Water Works and Sewer Board, comparative analysis using key benchmarks of performance, together with its Business Process Review Initiative, enabled the Board to improve the most important aspects of its business while restoring financial stability. Detailed departmental action plans support strategic goals, operating and business plans, and involve all staff in meeting customers' needs for safe, affordable water.

In 2003, Chicago's Departments of Water and Sewers merged to become the Chicago Department of Water Management (DWM). DWM is unifying procedures, visions and goals, including a comprehensive approach to protecting the city's water resources and incorporating performance management to focus on water quality and customer satisfaction. Utilizing people, processes and technology, DWM has developed, streamlined and reengineered its processes.

Since its inception in 1997, District of Columbia Water and Sewer Authority has implemented an internal improvement program for operational efficiencies and service enhancements. Its $2.1 billion capital improvement plan is addressing long-needed infrastructure upgrades and new regulatory mandates. WASA is also introducing technology improvements and customer service enhancements, coupled with peer review research and career development programs.

Green Bay Water Utility focused on training its people at every level and improving operations through participative management. The utility implemented cross-connection inspections on all customers, established a routine testing schedule for distribution hydrants and valves, and licenses and monitors private wells -- all without an increase in staff and with a single 4-1/2 percent rate increase over the last five years.

At JEA, the TargetSmart program, based on Six Sigma methodology, has permeated its workforce, resulting in significant process improvements and cost savings. Production and infrastructure system investments were made to prepare for the future, and JEA is refining and streamlining its systems to ensure optimum performance in production, technology, productivity, reliability and customer service.

Palm Beach County Water Utilities Department has an aggressive water reclamation program that produces up to five billion gallons of reclaimed water annually for irrigation of golf courses and residential communities. A $250 million, seven-year capital improvement program is fully funded from internally generated funds and existing bonds. Returns on leadership, asset management, customer satisfaction and efficient business operations help secure the Department's competitive edge.

While experiencing rapid growth associated with mergers with water and sewer systems of nearby towns, the City of Raleigh Public Utilities Department remains committed to providing quality, affordable water to customers. Capital improvement projects to address the growth include a new utility operations center and water treatment plant. Through its Gainsharing Program, employees are rewarded for ideas on reducing costs, improving methods and increasing service quality.

Saint Paul Regional Water Services continually updates its capital improvement program and its strategic plan for technology and IT solutions. Water quality enhancement efforts are marked by replacement of the current filtering system with granular activated carbon and continuation of a corrosion control program. The utility reduced O&M costs by $2.4 million over five years without employee layoffs, undue increases in water rates, or a decrease in services.

The Santa Clara Valley Water District organizational vision includes managing for clean water and watersheds, managing environmental impacts, implementing management practices, and measuring efforts to reduce costs and resources without sacrificing quality or reliability. The District adopted the Malcolm Baldridge National Quality Program Framework for improving organizational performance and has integrated a four-tier performance measurement dashboard, ISO 9001, ISO 14001 and Green Business certifications.

AMWA (www.amwa.net) is the organization for the nation's largest publicly owned drinking water utilities. Its members provide safe and clean drinking water to more than 120 million Americans.

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