Leading the Charge

Becoming the best at what you do requires two things: hard work and teamwork. Even in an individual sport ? say, tennis, for example ? trainers and coaches operate in the background to help make sure the individual is prepared as well as possible, both mentally and physically.

The same thing applies to all aspects of life, business and the focus of this publication ? water and sewer infrastructure. In this realm, being the best requires hard work ? there are, of course, no shortcuts ? and the teamwork and like-minded vision of political and public works leaders. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for these two groups to have separate and divergent agendas.

The City of Pleasanton, Calif., represents an example of what can happen when the political leadership ? in this case the leadership of Mayor Jennifer Hosterman ? and the public works leadership work in concert. The result has been a shared vision of improved performance, customer service and long-term delivery of safe water to residents.

On the Path to Improved Performance

What started out some 10 years ago as an idea to improve the way Pleasanton manages its work ? including its sewer and water systems ? has blossomed into the development of a pioneering computerized management and maintenance system (CMMS) that has transformed the way the city does business.
Improved water quality, better customer service and more efficient operations are few of the benefits the city has realized following the implementation of the CMMS. To make it successful, however, careful planning and a willingness to buy in to the new operating philosophy were critical to its success.

Pleasanton built the system from the ground up, integrating data from its geographic information system (GIS) to produce a powerful tool that cuts across all of the activities of the Operations Services Department, including streets, fleet, buildings and parks as well as water and sewer lines. Additional modules of the CMMS were phased in as the city became adept at using the new tool.

?We have leveraged technology to optimize our operations,? said Daniel Smith, Director of Pleasanton?s Operations Services Department. ?It has been fantastic in reducing costs to manage infrastructure and provide better service.?

The Pleasanton Experience

Pleasanton is a city of about 68,000 people located in Alameda County about 40 miles southeast of downtown San Francisco. The city is a mix of old and new that boasts a quaint, yet vibrant, downtown that coexists with modern business parks and shopping centers.

The Operations Services Department maintains the city?s water distribution and sewage collection systems. Pleasanton receives water from the Zone 7 Water Agency, a regional water wholesaler, and sends its wastewater to the Dublin San Ramon Services District for treatment. The sewer system comprises 10 lift stations and 239 miles of pipe ranging in diameter from 6 to 33 inches. The water system consists of 22 storage reservoirs, 16 pump stations and 320 miles of pipe.

The city receives treated water from Zone 7, adding only fluoride when it enters the system. To augment supplies, the city owns and operates groundwater pumping stations. Groundwater pumped by the city is disinfected with chlorine and fluoride is added before entering the distribution system.

In 2001, the city purchased a CMMS system from MaintStar. ?We looked at a lot of alternatives,? Smith said, ?but the thing we liked about MaintStar was that it was easily customizable by the user and it was user-friendly.?

Smith said that one of the biggest challenges that needed to be overcome to maximize the benefits of the CMMS was getting the buy-in of city staff. ?There is always going to be a reluctance to change,? he said. ?And in this case, there was a fear that we were trying to get rid of their jobs. But what we were trying to do was come up with a way to make our process more efficient so it cost us less, which will allow us to keep employees. It actually benefits everybody.?

Another important part of the CMMS implementation was the integration with the existing ESRI ArcView GIS.? ?One of our big goals was to tie the CMMS into the GIS,? Smith said. ?We had a strong GIS shop, and it took us about two years of working with the CMMS vendor to fully integrate the GIS and CMMS ? and now we may have the only fully integrated CMMS/GIS in the country. You may find some that have water or sewer or parks, but we have them all integrated together. It?s been a really powerful tool for us.?

Since the implementation, Pleasanton officials have seen an improvement in the condition of the water and sewer systems as a result of the increased efficiency. The city?s preventative maintenance program has improved in terms of scheduling, tracking and reducing emergency repairs, in addition to prolonging asset life cycles. Officials are also able to more accurately assess the true condition of the assets, allowing them to target those assets in need of replacement and making more efficient use of CIP funds. The reduced costs allow officials to allocate more capital ? and time ? to spend on replacing and maintaining the system.

Leveraging Technology

While not directly related to water and sewer infrastructure, Smith points to streetlights as a visible example of how the CMMS helps streamline maintenance procedures. ?Previously, when a resident called to say a streetlight was out, we would create a work order to have maintenance staff go out to investigate and identify the pole number, then create a work order for our contractors to fix the light,? he said. ?Now, when the resident calls in, we can see on our GIS layer exactly which light it is, we can impose the orthophotography to ensure we are identifying visually the correct pole. Now we simply click an icon and a work order is automatically produced for that asset and location. We click a second icon and that work order is e-mailed directly to our streetlight contractor while our representative is on the phone. What used to take a week to 10 days takes 15 minutes.?

On the water and sewer side, the GIS allows system managers the ability to view all the information associated with a pipe section ? including age, pipe material, diameter, condition and repair history. By linking that information with the CMMS, allows operators to track history, assess costs and create work orders, all with the few clicks of a mouse.

Using the software, the city was able to easily track its costs for street paving. By showing the cost was more than double of what private contractors were charging, the city was able to justify the purchase of a grinder, which brought costs down from $250/ton to about $100/ton. ?That was still slightly more than what a contractor could do it, but by doing it in-house we are able to control it better and provide better customer service,? Smith said.

Another unique feature of Pleasanton?s CMMS is that it is linked to the water system?s supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) system. The SCADA system tracks key indicators including fluoride and chlorine levels.

?It gives us the eyes to see the water quality that we are getting from the wholesaler, and it tells us how safe the water is,? Smith said. ?If the chlorine goes out of range, it pages the operator 24 hours a day and they are able to respond immediately. That kind of system is not unusual to see at a water treatment plant, but it is less common in the distribution system. The advanced SCADA system has many other unique features that help operators control tank levels, roll tanks to improve water quality and operation to name a few. In fact, what we do in providing safe water is unique compared to most distribution systems.?

The Politics of Water

Pleasanton?s improved management of the water distribution plays a role in the larger questions of water resources and water quality. Pleasanton derives most of its water through the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, which ? via the State Water Project ? supplies fresh water to 25 million Californians.

Unfortunately, years of infrastructure construction, reallocation of resources and drought have brought the environmentally sensitive Delta to the brink of collapse. A recent controversy surrounding the plight of the Delta smelt led to a federal judge to curtail diversion of Delta water to protect the endangered fish species. That left water customers, agricultural and otherwise, without usual water supplies in an area already feeling the effects of a long drought.

Historically, water and wastewater infrastructure has not been a core issue among politicians ? the seminal Clean Water Act of 1972 being a noteworthy exception. The passage of the Clean Water Act, however, came coupled with federal grants for wastewater system upgrades, which were a welcomed shot in the arm for water quality upgrades. And as the federal commitment to water/wastewater issues has slowed to a trickle, local governments have been slow to increase its investment. Now that many assets are reaching ? or have exceeded ? the end of their design life, the need to reinvest in water and wastewater infrastructure is as important as ever.

According to a report by the U.S. Conference of Mayors Water Council, local governments will need to spend upward of $5 trillion through 2028 on water/wastewater infrastructure. ?That is a huge sum of money and government simply cannot pay for that,? Hosterman said.

Additionally, the regulatory climate, she argues, is counterproductive to maintaining and improving water quality. ?There are a number of cities trying to keep up with new rules and regulations that do not have the extra resources needed to stay in compliance. Consequently, money that may have been stockpiled for water and sewer improvement winds up getting spent on attorney?s fees and fines,? Hosterman said. ?Worse yet, mayors get called out in the media as being criminal polluters, and that is the last thing we are. We love serving our communities and we want to help make our communities better places to live and work and play.?

As a result, the U.S. Conference of Mayors is engaging the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Justice on combined sewer overflow and sanitary sewer overflow issues. Specifically, the mayors are asking for more flexibility in the way consent orders are drafted, including extending the period of time in which the city needs to become compliant, and increased financial support from the federal government. Hosterman has played a key role in the discussion through her role as co-chair of the U.S. Conference of Mayors Water Council. ?

With aging infrastructure, increasing population and climate change threatening to further strain water supply, water is becoming an increasingly important topic for mayors and local government leaders throughout the country. ?In the next 10 years water is going to be a bigger issue than oil,? said Smith. ?Going forward, the politics, particularly in California, are going to be based around water. There is not going to be any choice. It is a huge looming problem.?

In an effort to ensure water resources are protected in the future, Hosterman as part of the Local Government Commission worked to identify economically and politically viable options to sustain local water resources. The commission?s work resulted in ?The Ahwahnee Water Principles ? A Blueprint for Regional Sustainability.?

Hosterman recapped the 14 Ahwahnee Water Principles (the name derived from the Yosemite lodge at which the commission met) in an article for the U.S. Conference of Mayors? newspaper as follows:

Growing in a water-wise manner: (1) community design should be compact, mixed use, walkable and transit oriented to minimize auto generated urban runoff and maximize rainfall infiltration; and (2) identify, preserve and restore wetlands, floodplains, recharge zones, riparian areas, open space and native habitats to enhance flood protection, improve water quality, groundwater recharge and long-term water resources sustainability.
Water-friendly site design: (3) existing land features such as creek beds and ponds, as well as constructed areas including athletic fields and cisterns should be incorporated into the design of the urban landscape to decrease flooding and increase groundwater recharge; (4) all landscaping should consider choice of plants and soil preparation and irrigation systems to reduce water demand and retain runoff; and (5) permeable paving should replace impervious surfaces such as driveways and parking lots to increase groundwater recharge.

Stretching our water supplies: (6) ?dual plumbing? can be installed to reuse graywater from showers, sinks and washers for landscape irrigation; (7) local codes can require purple pipes in new construction to anticipate future availability of recycled water for outside irrigation purposes; (8) new construction and remodeled residential and business building should be designed to incorporate water efficient toilets, appliances and industrial equipment; and (9) communities should consider groundwater treatment and brackish water desalination to drought-proof water supplies.

Implementation principles: (10) consistent with the Show Me the Water laws, water supply agencies should be consulted early in the land use decision-making process regarding growth and demographics, and technology choice; (11) all public organizations in a watershed should collaborate to identify and take advantage of the benefits and synergies that can be derived from water resource planning at the watershed level; (12) integrated, multi-benefit development proposals should be identified and implemented before less integrated proposals are accepted; (13) a proactive planning process with well designed public participation and access to information should be required for any proposal so that the community can achieve shared goals; and (14) plans, programs, projects and policies should be monitored and evaluated to determine if the expected results are achieved and to improve future practices.

Achieving the goals of sustainable water supplies in the United States and the globally will take hard work and teamwork to achieve. Some cities, like Pleasanton, are leading the charge.

Jim Rush is editor of UIM.

The Hosterman File

Pleasanton Mayor Jennifer Hosterman

Political History
Elected to first City Council term:? November 2002
Elected to first Mayoral term:? November 2004
Elected to second Mayoral term: November 2006
Elected to third Mayoral term: November 2008
Third Mayoral term expires: November 2010

U.S. Conference of Mayors
Mayors Water Council, co-chair

Local Committees
Fire Joint Powers Authority Committee
School District Liaison Committee, Alternate
Zone 7 Liaison Committee

Regional Committees
Alameda County Congestion Management Agency
Alameda County Mayors? Conference, President
Alameda County Transportation Improvement Authority
Association of Bay Area Government Regional Planning Committee
Bay Area Air Quality Management District
Committee of Valley Water Retailers
East Bay Economic Development Alliance for Business
Local Area Formation Commission
TV 30 Board of Directors
1-680 Smart Carpool Lane Policy Advisory Committee

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