The Pros of a Good Utility

Proactive maintenance and a progressive approach drive the best operations.

Interested in Cleaning?

Get Cleaning articles, news and videos right in your inbox! Sign up now.

Cleaning + Get Alerts

We talk a lot about the virtues of being proactive and progressive in MSW. If you’re stuck in the rut of reactionary response, your utility is doomed to jumping from one emergency repair to the next without ever getting ahead.

Perhaps no utility exemplifies the proactive and progressive approach better than the Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority, profiled in this issue.

Albuquerque is bucking all trends. The community — in a very dry climate to begin with — has been ensconced in drought for years. It has also grown significantly, creating greater demand for scant resources. But the utility isn’t standing by idly, hoping for rain. They began addressing the problem decades ago, and the results are evident.

Since 2008, aquifer levels have risen as much as 50 feet in some areas. The utility has accomplished this — despite the drought — through a multipronged approach that includes a new surface water source, an outreach program to educate citizens about the need to conserve water, a rebate program that rewards customers for conservation, and added attention on distribution system maintenance and pipe replacement.

ABCWUA is currently delivering the same volume of water it did in 1985, but it’s serving an additional 250,000 people. Models predict the aquifer will continue rising for at least another 20 years, despite projected growth of the Albuquerque metro and suburban population.

Next month, we’ll take a look at Brownsburg, Indiana, where the wastewater department has been tremendously proactive with education and outreach. Part of the department’s strategic plan is engaging the public and educating them about their sewer system. When people know what’s happening in the labyrinth of pipes and pump stations that whisk away their waste, they begin to understand what they can do to avoid problems and help the system function more efficiently.

Overall, the utility has identified its challenges and is attacking them. Beyond the outreach work, Brownsburg has purchased new equipment to complete more preventive maintenance on both sanitary and storm infrastructures. The utility has built a strong grease program, it’s lining pipes, and is aggressively pursuing separation of sanitary sewers and stormwater lines to minimize the number and volume of combined sewer overflows.

For municipal water and wastewater system operators, some ruts are easy to fall into. So many utilities march under orders to make the most urgently necessary repairs — wait until it breaks and then repair it as inexpensively as possible. Too many utilities are forced to function this way. The result, as you’re all well aware, is a utility that continues to throw money at emergency repairs rather than realize the long-term savings and other benefits of proactive maintenance and improvements.

Brownsburg has escaped this paradigm, and Albuquerque never allowed itself to be sucked into it. They’re both doing quite well and provide great examples of how a proactive and progressive approach can pay big dividends for your own utility.

Enjoy this month’s issue, and keep an eye out for the Brownsburg story next month.


Comments on this site are submitted by users and are not endorsed by nor do they reflect the views or opinions of COLE Publishing, Inc. Comments are moderated before being posted.