“Water is the driving force in nature.”
LEONARDO DA VINCI
In a year of transition for Tacoma Water, 2017 saw a continued focus on strategic planning, successful growth, customer service, planning for the future, and conservation and efficiency initiatives; all the while maintaining a laser focus on providing reliable, safe, clean drinking water to customers.
Tacoma Water took on the major task of updating its Water System Plan, which included a complete review of the entire water system. The utility performed an in-depth analysis to ensure compliance, and to verify that the system is planned to appropriately accommodate for growth.
Coupled with the update, was the development of the utility’s first formal Integrated Resource Plan. The plan will in part enable Tacoma Water to better understand how to incorporate environmental conditions when assigning water resources year-to year and season-to-season. A Water Yield Supply and Demand Model is also in development for both drought management (seasonal projections that can be applied in any given year) and capacity planning (60 years out), showcasing the agency’s continued ability to nimbly adapt to current factors, while strategically planning for the future.
This year marked Tacoma Water’s fifth of using a balanced scorecard approach to manage strategic work, ensuring adequate prioritization, resources, measurement and results. Highlighting the division’s planning, Tacoma Water received the Excellence in Engineering Award in the Planning Category for its economic model from the Pacific Northwest Section of the American Water Works Association..
The utility completed nine strategic initiatives in 2017, reflecting the significant tactical progress Tacoma Water is making while continuing to provide a high level of reliable, safe, clean water at affordable rates to customers.
In November, Tacoma Water took over system operation of the Curran Road Mutual Water Association water system, which transitions more than 620 accounts to the utility. To ensure reliable service to these customers, engineers have begun the design for the initial water main replacement projects, with main replacement work continuing for the next 8-10 years.
Water quality continues to be top-of-mind. Following the lead response in 2016, Tacoma Water brought in nationally recognized experts to evaluate the city’s corrosion control treatment. Preliminary results indicate that Tacoma Water’s current corrosion control treatment approaches are effective and should be maintained.
The water quality team processed hundreds of samples and results from the Customer Lead Sampling program. Through the end of the year, staff sent out more than 1,100 lead sample kits, and customers returned 570 samples. Only two initial sample results were above the EPA Action Level of 15 parts per billion (ppb) for lead, and 89% of the results were below 1 ppb. Follow up samples with the two customers were well below the Lead Action Level at both homes.
2017 saw the development and implementation of the Lead Gooseneck Replacement Plan, which laid out plans for removing all 1,215 suspected lead goosenecks from the distribution system within the next five years. A gooseneck is a short piece of pipe used during a certain period in time to connect the house line to the water main. Already, 226 suspected lead gooseneck locations were either removed or verified not to have a gooseneck.
Emergency response is a crucial area of focus for the utility. The Watershed Management group led a planning effort and exercise in coordination with the Burlington Northern-Santa Fe railroad, and the US Army Corps of Engineers, simulating a locomotive derailment and oil spill. This drill involved the deployment of absorptive booms near Tacoma Water’s intake on the Green River, and a cooperative “Spill Response Plan” now exists.
Tacoma Water’s recordable injuries continued to trend downward with a 29% reduction from 2016 (61% reduction from 2012). Much of the success can be attributed to the continued effort to raise safety awareness through increased communication and open dialogue between all employees.
The utility recently received seismic evaluations of its essential facilities. Initial evaluations indicated that these facilities would not perform well in a large seismic event. More detailed geotechnical and structural analysis was performed, and the findings (to be released in 2018) will help develop mitigation options for these facilities.
The Tacoma Public Utility Board and City Council approved two annual 4 percent overall rate increases beginning April 1, 2017. The impact to a typical residential bill was approximately $1.50 per month each year. Tacoma Water achieved conceptual support from executive leadership to move forward with a holistic evaluation of its fixed fees, system development charge, and wholesale pricing platform. Representatives from Tacoma Water also met with wholesale customers to discuss the regional wholesale market.
This year also saw collaboration with the Department of Public Works and Sound Transit to develop final plans for the extension of the Tacoma Link Light Rail system. Due to the location of the proposed tracks, nearly two miles of water main will be relocated to facilitate the construction of the Light Rail extension.
Conservation & Efficiency
Tacoma Water developed a ten-year conservation plan using valuable feedback from staff, stakeholder groups, and public input. In 2017, conservation program staff attended 20 community events, totaling over 1,700 conversations about conservation with our customers. Tacoma Water provided more than 1,400 water-efficient showerheads and over 1,500 faucet aerators. The utility also completed two water conservation rebate projects which are estimated to save more than 7 million gallons per year.
While 2107 saw transition with the welcoming of new Water Superintendent, Scott Dewhirst, and responding to everyday opportunities, the utility never lost sight of maintaining its promise to customers, of providing clean, reliable water now and in the future.
3628 South 35th Street / Tacoma WA 98409 / 253.502.8600