May 2013, Vol. 5, No.25

From the editors

Using a wide-angle lens

In the water sector, small increments of data fuse together to create something greater than the sum of the parts. Decisions and choices often grow from very intricate and granular data — permitted concentrations down to one part in a thousand, budget limits down to a few dollars, and membrane pores down to the size of a single bacterium. 

But, sometimes it helps to step back and to see the whole: Utility management is about taking this view and providing a service to keep people healthy and safe. 

Add the word water to utility management, and the focus changes to ensuring the continuity of flow — drinking water flowing toward customers and wastewater flowing away. And if this can be done while keeping customers happy — or, at least, not troubled — all the better. 

“Fast track to quench thirst in Midland, Texas” on speaks to delivery of both a speedy project and a reliable drinking water supply. This groundwater well field and conveyance system project is coming together quickly to prevent an interruption of service; in just 12 months (if all goes to schedule), the project will have built 44 production wells and a 93-km-long (58-mi-long) transmission main to carry about 37,850 m3/d (10 mgd) to a drought-plagued city. 

On the other hand, the City of Los Angeles Bureau of Sanitation needed to safeguard its ability to collect and treat wastewater. Achieving that goal required working with stakeholders to negotiate and communicate a 10-year plan for rate increases. 

While Midland had to go fast to ensure service, Los Angeles slowed down. The bureau spent more than a year collaborating with its stakeholders to develop near unanimous support for rate increases in a difficult economic time. Instead of focusing solely on specific construction needs, the rates sought to cover the costs to preserve existing infrastructure and therefore safeguard both physical assets and customer service. Read the entire story, “Rate increases in this economy?”   

In each of these cases, keeping the big picture in mind helped the utilities and project managers navigate more directly toward the ultimate goal of good water utility management.