Learn From Other Utilities

Every utility has a story to tell, and they all hold lessons that can help you improve your own.

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I always appreciate it when people tell me they read the magazine. As a magazine editor, the conversation sometimes feels one-sided, like I’m doing most of the talking. But it’s the responses, the feedback, the conversations with you that drive every story we turn out. It’s a partnership in that way, and partnerships are important.

I’d like to see utilities working together more. We try to facilitate that in Municipal Sewer & Water, holding up examples of good utilities for others to follow. A utility in Colorado can’t directly help a city on the East Coast manage its collections system, but it can share knowledge and experience that provides the East Coast city with a good approach to a shared problem. In that way, the success is shared, too.

I just returned from WEFTEC, the Water Environment Federation’s Technical Exhibition and Conference. It’s always good to catch up with others in the industry and find out what’s going on outside my own little bubble. I came away with some new perspectives and ideas for 2018, and I talked to a lot of people who want to share stories that’ll help make your utilities stronger.

I talked to a gentleman from the Greenwood Metro District in South Carolina. He told me about the district’s aging collections system, the efforts to reduce inflow & infiltration, and all the work his team is doing in-house. The district’s experiences and successes can certainly provide some valuable lessons and perspective for other utilities with shared challenges.

I also had the opportunity to talk to a member of the DeSoto County (Mississippi) Regional Utility Authority’s board of directors. He told me about how one of the member communities, Olive Branch, has grown from a population of approximately 3,500 in 1990 to 36,000 today. At times, construction was happening so rapidly that the wastewater utility had a hard time monitoring and inspecting all the work to ensure standards were being met. The utility is now working to get everything up to standard, and it has made a big effort to reduce inflow & infiltration. There are good lessons to be taken from this story as well.

There was another conversation with a representative of Portage (Indiana) Utilities. The city’s treatment division took over the field division five years ago. Operation of the collections system used to be very reactive, but it has become much more proactive over the past five years. The utility has made some great strides, including eliminating most of its combined sewer overflows.

I’m hoping to bring you all three of these stories in the near future.

The next big industry event is the WWETT Show in Indianapolis. There’s no bigger gathering of wastewater professionals. I always look forward to it, primarily for these types of conversations. It’s where you and I connect beyond these pages, and where partnerships are formed. It’s still a few months away, but I hope to see you there.

Enjoy this month’s issue.


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