AMWA awards honor drinking water management excellence

The Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies (AMWA) honored 14 public drinking water systems with its top utility management awards on Oct. 16 in ceremonies at its 2017 Executive Management Conference in St. Simons, Ga. Six systems received the Sustainable Water Utility Management Award, five received the Platinum Award for Utility Excellence and three were presented the Gold Award for Exceptional Utility Performance.

The Sustainable Water Utility Management Award recognizes water utilities committed 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 2017 AMWA Sustainable Water Utility Management Award winners are:

  • Atlanta Department of Watershed Management (Georgia)
  • Fairfax Water (Virginia)
  • Glendale Water Services Department (Arizona)
  • Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (California)
  • Onondaga County Water Authority (New York)
  • Orange County Utilities (Florida)

Winners of the 2017 AMWA Platinum Award for Utility Excellence are:

  • Anaheim Public Utilities (California)
  • Anne Arundel County Bureau of Utility Operations (Maryland)
  • Greenville Water (South Carolina)
  • Peace River Manasota Regional Water Supply Authority (Florida)
  • Tampa Bay Water (Florida)

AMWA’s 2017 Gold Award for Exceptional Utility Performance was presented to:

  • Baltimore City Department of Public Works (Maryland)
  • Great Lakes Water Authority (Michigan)
  • Oklahoma City Water Utilities Trust (Oklahoma)

“As people more and more recognize how vital adequate, reliable supplies of safe, clean drinking water are to public health and community sustainability, AMWA is pleased to spotlight the impressive achievements of public drinking water utilities that are leading the nation in their efforts toward sustainability through innovative management practices, executive leadership and employee engagement,” said AMWA President Scott Potter, Director of Nashville Metro Water Services.  “Our 2017 management award winners are a credit to their communities, and we salute their formidable accomplishments.”

Sustainable Water Utility Management Award Winners

The Atlanta Department of Watershed Management’s One Water Vision Strategic Plan serves as a blueprint to ensure a sustainable and modern water infrastructure through a five-year, $1.2 billion capital improvement program. Watershed Management has been recognized and awarded for sustainability efforts through upgrades to water and wastewater revenue refunding bonds. Its far-reaching green infrastructure initiatives include the largest permeable paver retrofit project in the nation.  And the agency is proactively planning to increase Atlanta’s water supply reserve.

Fairfax Water’s approach to financial management meets long-term financial obligations while providing an excellent value to its customers.  This is accomplished via careful rate setting, a capital improvement plan and a robust asset management program.  The utility puts a focus on environmental stewardship in projects like the future Vulcan Quarry Water Supply Reservoir, a cost-effective and innovative solution to meet the region’s future water supply needs. It continues its 40-year history of indirect potable reuse in the Occoquan Reservoir.  An on-going focus on social responsibility is demonstrated through creation of River Mill Park and its Water Supply Outreach Grant Program.

Glendale Water Services Department leads the city’s sustainability efforts, which include assuring a 100-year water supply, promoting energy and water conservation, protecting the watershed, mitigating air pollution and safeguarding the community from environmental hazards.  In financial sustainability, a balance is maintained between assets, expenditures and debt service, achieving performance measures set by utility managers and bond raters. The utility takes its social responsibilities seriously with initiatives including an award-winning storm water sustainability tool kit for low impact development.  It is responsible to its civic leaders through its Citizens Utilities Advisory Commission and to stakeholders through its Branding and Public Outreach Committee.

The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power reached its goal of 20 percent water savings through multiple programs, practices and technologies, in conjunction with enactment of conservation ordinances and plumbing code modifications. The US Green Building Council awarded LEED Gold status to its headquarters building for making energy efficiency improvements. Ground was broken for the Tujunga Spreading Grounds Enhancement Project, which will double the stormwater capture capacity of the facility.  The utility deployed 90 million shade balls to the Los Angeles Reservoir to help meet the bromate drinking water standard and control algae, saving money and ensuring water quality.

Onondaga County Water Authority’s 7G Green Team initiative engages employees in the pursuit of more sustainable practices, building on innovative programs to deliver continuous and measurable results. From sustainable design and construction practices, to collaborative watershed management programs, to cutting-edge unmanned aerial systems used to inspect tanks and monitor surface water quality, the Authority is taking action and tracking key performance indicators to assure it is financially, environmentally and socially sustainable. Particularly meaningful is the historic consolidation with the Metropolitan Water Board to operate, maintain and invest in the entire regional water system under the more independent authority governance structure.

Orange County Utilities’ strategic plan was updated to meet the challenges of the county’s comprehensive community-based sustainability plan called “Our Home for Life.” Two focus areas were emphasized to meet those challenges – development of sustainable alternative water supplies beyond the current ground water sources and cultivating a sustainable workforce while celebrating many well-deserved retirements.  The utility worked collaboratively with five other water systems to develop a 20 MGD alternative water source and developed a Skilled Workforce Achievement Program that was initially a utility-only initiative but evolved into a county-wide effort.

Platinum Award for Utility Excellence Winners

Anaheim Public Utilities keeps an eye toward maintaining stable rates for its customers while delivering reliable service and a high quality product.  The utility invests in its employees, water infrastructure system and community through innovative employee development initiatives, carefully planned asset replacement programs and student engagement opportunities. These efforts resulted in the utility having one of the lowest water rates in its county, while water quality continues to meet and exceed state and federal standards. Its customer service is touted by J.D. Power as being in the top 15 percent of large water agencies in the western United States.

Anne Arundel County Bureau of Utility Operations developed a ten-year capital improvement program to implement its strategic decision to end reliance on the neighboring city of Baltimore for 25 percent of the county’s drinking water production. Major expansion was made to two water treatment plants, separate transmission mains were run and a water booster station was commissioned to deliver the production from those plants. The utility’s current water purchase is down to less than two percent, resulting in $8.5 million in annual savings. These efforts will ensure the sustainability of the local system, reduce costs and control water quality.

Greenville Water’s strong financial position allows the utility to be proactive in planning for the future and preparing for emergencies while maintaining affordable rates. Employees are well trained with state-of-the-industry technology to manage its assets and protect its resources. The utility also strives to make the community an outstanding place to live by sponsoring community events and supporting economic development efforts to bring better jobs and improve quality of life. Every day – with the help of talented employees, a connected community, strong management and a committed Commission – Greenville Water works to achieve its vision of quality water and a sustainable future.

Through collaboration and cooperation, the Peace River Manasota Regional Water Supply Authority of southwest Florida has secured a reliable, affordable water supply for the region and provides the infrastructure for business development and economic growth. The Authority’s extensive expansion program, utilizing alternative water supply in lieu of further groundwater degradation, makes it a model in development of surface water storage by off-stream reservoir and aquifer storage and recovery systems.  The Authority’s goal to create a regional interconnected transmission system is a 25-year vision to provide integrated management of the region’s water resources to better protect the environment.

Tampa Bay Water, the largest wholesale water utility in the southeastern United States, planned for future regional water supply through an update of its long-term master water plan and implemented an asset management program for its infrastructure and assets. An environmental management system was created to promote compliance with international standards, and an energy management program was implemented to reduce energy costs. The agency refinanced various bond issues, saving $3 million annually, and maintained high bond ratings with all three rating agencies. Its wholesale water rate has held steady for seven consecutive years through innovative cost-saving measures across the agency.

Gold Award for Exceptional Utility Performance Winners

The Baltimore City Department of Public Works (DPW) embraces change management, sets smart, achievable goals, and plans for long-term continuous improvement and sustainable change.  By utilizing stakeholder values and beliefs, DPW created a strategic plan with measurable objectives and timeframes, built goal teams comprised of employees from all areas of the organization, introduced a performance monitoring and guiding office, and reorganized the utility’s structure to break down silos and facilitate intra-agency communication and workflow. Empowering front-line staff was essential to meeting customer expectations for clean water, a clean city and effective access to DPW services.

Since its standup in 2016, Great Lakes Water Authority (GLWA) has achieved continual provision of water of unquestionable quality and efficient sewer services; two upgrades of its bond ratings; and execution of an inaugural $1.3 billion bond sale.  GLWA also launched a program to provide qualifying households with help in paying current and past-due bills. It inaugurated an Apprenticeship Program for Electrical Instrumentation Control Technicians and created a leadership-training academy to build employees’ leadership skills.  The Authority developed an asset management governance structure and continued focus on its environmental impact with the operation of its new Biosolids Dryer Facility.

The Oklahoma City Utilities Department and Oklahoma City Water Utilities Trust strive to meet the city’s growth by securing surface water rights through a groundbreaking water rights agreement. The department develops leadership opportunities for employees across all divisions by encouraging safe workforce practices, accountability and customer service.  Its Standard and Poor’s (AAA) and Moody’s (Aaa) bond ratings were reaffirmed in 2015, and strong financial principles place it in the top 5.5 percent of water utilities nationwide. A strategic business plan helps it weigh community needs against available capital and personnel resources with 59 key strategies to continually monitor progress and make improvements.

The Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies is an organization of the largest publicly owned drinking water suppliers in the United States.

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