Relying Heavily on Design-Build-Operate Model Seattle Public Utilities Receives Gold Award for Achievement

Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) has received a Gold Award for Competitiveness Achievement from the Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies (AMWA), a nonprofit organization of the nation's largest publicly owned water systems.

"The public's drinking water expectations for safe water and low-cost service are exceedingly high, and the AMWA Gold Award winners have met and exceeded those expectations," said AMWA Executive Director Diane VanDe Hei. "Their exceptional management practices achieve high performance in spite of challenges not faced by private water companies, including civil service and procurement laws...."

SPU was among the AMWA's 20 Gold Award-winning water agencies for 2001. Among a number of positive factors, the judges cited SPU for the following accomplishments:

  • Innovative approaches to facility development and alternative approaches to drinking water treatment saved SPU $70 million on the Tolt Treatment Plant by using design-build-operate (DBO), an estimated $150 million on the Cedar Treatment facility by moving to ozonation and ultra-violet technologies and a DBO approach, and approximately $100 million through more strategic approaches to reservoir covering and replacement.
  • An aggressive water conservation program that reduced per capita use by more than 20 percent over the past two decades.
  • All SPU services now have performance measures based on desired end results, and performance results are reported to the utility director quarterly and discussed with management leaders to assure feedback and performance results are synchronized.
  • An integrated Utility Call Center was created to provide seamless customer service related to any customer inquiries related to water, solid waste, drainage, wastewater and electrical services.
  • An enhanced Capital Improvement Program (CIP) included redesigned support systems, development of standards and new processes, and increased annual capital completion from around 55 percent to 100 percent. This capital completion rate was accomplished for three years in a row, while the size of the CIP doubled from roughly $50 million in the early 1990s to more than $100 million in recent years. In addition, SPU has maintained Aa2 and AA bond ratings.

    "We are very proud to be among the foremost utilities in the country on the leading edge of efficient management practices and business strategy development, said Diana Gale, SPU managing director. "It's an honor for Seattle to be recognized and for our regional water customers to know that they are benefiting from the attention to efficiency and effectiveness in the management of such an important resource."