Think Forward

Innovative ideas and a progressive management approach separate the top utilities.

Another year is nearly in the books. Christmas is just a few days off as you’re reading this, but the leaves in northern Wisconsin are still bearing the full colors of autumn as I write it.

I point that out because I just returned from WEFTEC in New Orleans where I got a first look at some new products and talked to a lot of bright people from across the industry. So much is being written about the poor state of our infrastructure and growing demands on water resources, but there is a lot of innovation and forward thinking in this industry.

That’s the underlying theme running through the profiles in this issue of MSW: innovation and forward thinking.

Altamonte Springs, Fla., is a great example. The city, located just north of Orlando, implemented one of Florida’s first reclaimed water projects in the late 1980s. And unlike some cities, where reclaimed water is diverted to a few large customers, Altamonte Springs makes reclaimed water available to all of its customers.

But perhaps the greatest innovation came years later as the Florida Department of Transportation was planning a significant expansion of Interstate 4 that would have included several large retention ponds and other stormwater features. At the same time, nearby Apopka was looking to reduce its reliance on groundwater and had recently built new water storage reservoirs to meet projected demand.

So, Altamonte Springs worked with Apopka and the FDOT on a unique plan to capture stormwater runoff and distribute it – after treatment – through its reclaimed water system. When complete, the project will reduce stormwater runoff, take stress off the aquifer and substantially reduce pollutant loads being introduced into the Little Wekiva River.

Evanston, Ill., has also taken an innovative approach to stormwater management. In response to years of problems after heavy rains, the city approved a Long Range Sewer Improvement Program that included a new system of relief sewers and additional storm sewers. The plan also called for the installation of flow restrictors in streets and alleyways throughout the city.

The restrictors and the relief sewer system work in tandem. The innovative approach of partial sewer separation combined with street flow control was more cost-effective than installing a totally new separate storm sewer system throughout the entire city. It also received awards: the Pisces Award in 2006 for innovative use of the Illinois Clean Water Act Revolving Fund for water-quality improvements, and the 2009 Illinois Section Award from the American Society of Civil Engineers.

Innovation and forward thinking takes a different course in Denton, Texas, where asset management has been raised to an art form. The utility’s layered and sophisticated computerized maintenance management system has created a “warehouse of data” that officials can use to target potential problems and address maintenance and repair work in the most efficient manner possible.

In April 2014, the Water Environment Association of Texas gave Denton its annual Sidney L. Allison Award recognizing the utility’s asset management program for how it’s improved productivity and service for the Denton Wastewater Collection System and its customers.

All three of these utilities have looked beyond the status quo and found better ways to meet the needs of their customers. They’re all doing great work, and I hope you find their stories beneficial.

Enjoy this month’s issue.


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