The San Diego County Water Authority on Monday was one of six public water agencies nationwide to receive a Platinum Award for Utility Excellence from the Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies, or AMWA. The awards recognize outstanding achievement in implementing nationally recognized best practices for effective utility management.
“The Water Authority staff has scrutinized each element of the agency to squeeze out inefficiencies and promote good government,” said AMWA, which announced the awards at its annual meeting in St. Petersburg, Fla. Based in Washington, D.C., AMWA is an organization of the largest publicly owned drinking water suppliers in the country. Its members serve more than 130 million Americans from Alaska to Puerto Rico.
The Water Authority won AMWA’s Gold Award for Exceptional Utility Performance in 2010 based on its successful efforts to diversify its water supply and develop a regional drought management plan to meet mandatory water-saving targets. Gold Award winners are eligible to apply for the Platinum Award three years after achieving the gold level. The Water Authority earned platinum status in its first year of eligibility.
“We pride ourselves on innovation, collaboration and determination to meet or exceed industry standards in every phase of the organization, from water planning and engineering to accounting and public outreach,” said Thomas V. Wornham, chair of the Water Authority’s Board of Directors. “This national honor validates extraordinary efforts by the staff and Board to achieve our mission of providing the San Diego region with a safe and reliable water supply at the least possible cost.”
AMWA noted several steps the Water Authority has taken to promote efficiency and smart use of ratepayer money. “The Business Plan was updated to reflect current market realities. Its facilities plan is undergoing a major upgrade as is the multi-agency Integrated Regional Water Management Plan,” said AMWA. “Profound improvements were made to the Asset Management Program so it provides detailed risk data in a visual format for better decision-making. An Online Water Ordering System was adopted and a high-low rate forecasting tool was developed to improve customer service. Outreach to stakeholders was greatly expanded through enhanced online offerings, community forums and other tools.”
To evaluate utilities, AMWA looks at attributes covering product quality, customer satisfaction, employee and leadership development, operational optimization, financial viability, infrastructure stability, operational resiliency, community sustainability, water resource adequacy, and stakeholder understanding and support.
“The Water Authority has created a culture of commitment to these attributes that improves every aspect of what we do,” said Water Authority General Manager Maureen A. Stapleton. “We are continually adapting to complex and changing circumstances to provide the best possible value for the region’s ratepayers.”
Other 2013 Platinum Award winners are the city of Columbus Department of Public Utilities (Ohio), Louisville Water Company (Kentucky), Onondaga County Water Authority (New York), city of Palm Bay Utilities Department (Florida) and the Western Virginia Water Authority (Virginia).
“AMWA awards recognize the extraordinary performance of water agencies where management vision and employee commitment create a sustainable utility producing ample supplies of clean, safe drinking water,” said AMWA President Pat Mulroy, general manager of the Las Vegas Valley Water District. “The communities served by these award winners should be proud of the accomplishments of their forward-thinking, exceptionally well-managed public utilities.”