... Time Marches On

Plans don’t matter when new opportunities — and obstacles — present themselves.

Time can move painfully slow in specific instances, and the more you focus on the specifics, the more likely you’ll be to realize — when you eventually stand back — that weeks, months, years have passed.

I sat down to write this column on Monday, Sept. 12, the day after the 15th anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center. I remember pieces of that morning so vividly that it’s almost impossible to believe how many years have passed in the interim. I was driving down County Highway PD on my way to work at a small newspaper in southern Wisconsin when I heard on the radio that a plane had crashed into the first tower. There was no mention of terrorism.

When I got to work I learned about the second plane. We spent a lot of time in the conference room that day, staring at the TV in disbelief.

That was my first newspaper job. I left there in 2003 to move home and take care of my mom, who’d just been diagnosed with terminal cancer. In the years since, I’ve run a family business, worked for other newspapers, bought my first and second house, got married, got divorced, and jumped into the water and wastewater industry. So much has happened, none of it planned, but I like where I’m at today.   

What do you remember from 15 years ago? Are you in the position now you hoped to be? Is your utility? Maybe you wanted to replace all of the clay pipe in your collections system and you only did 50 percent. Maybe you wanted to upsize 10 miles of water main and you did 25. It’s good to plan and have goals, but you can’t plan for everything and you never know (my apologies for the cliché) what tomorrow will bring. How you adjust and adapt will ultimately tell the tale of your life and your utility.

The city of Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, had become focused on the day-to-day, delaying capital projects and spending $1.7 to $2 million per year on 40 to 50 water main breaks, mostly centered around cast iron pipe. But the utility has its eye on the future now, with a 20-year plan to replace 50 miles of cast iron pipe, concentrating first on the sections demonstrating high break frequency.

City Manager Matt Noble says the replacement program may be the best program the city has ever delivered. And it’s serving as a catalyst for other initiatives. In addition to planning for the replacement of a 12-mile transmission line, the utility is looking at establishing a valve exercising program and re-establishing a water main flushing program.

Recognizing opportunity and acting on it is the key to success. You never know which project might transform your utility, and you’ll never build a better tomorrow for your utility if you continue to operate in a reactive mode without ever stepping back to consider the future.

So embrace each day, and take full advantage of the opportunity it presents.

Enjoy this month’s issue.


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