The Power of a Vision: Comprehensive Water & Sewer Planning

The Power of a Vision: Comprehensive Water & Sewer Planning

The needs and pressures that water and wastewater utilities confront are diverse and constantly evolving. Preparing to meet both the challenges of today and those of the future is a difficult task. It is all too easy to manage reactively or treat different aspects of the work of a utility separately, but this approach usually leads to duplicate work, inefficiencies, and sub-optimal capital investment. 

To avoid falling into the trap of reactive management, a utility needs to establish a clear vision of what it wants to do now and into the future. These visions are best communicated and managed through a comprehensive capital improvement plan (CIP). While these plans set different timelines, goals and tactics depending on the needs of the community, our recent work with the City of O’Fallon, MO best exemplifies how powerful an integrated CIP can be.

With in-house construction and financing experts, the City of O’Fallon has always been proactive when faced with needed upgrades and improvements. However, when a new ammonia discharge limit was announced that went above and beyond the current treatment capabilities of the plant, the city immediately began working with us to develop a comprehensive CIP for their water and wastewater systems. By looking at their water systems holistically through the needs of the city’s water plant, water distribution system, wastewater plant, and wastewater collection system, we began to stitch together a long-term plan that tackled everything from odor control to ammonia discharge limits to aging infrastructure. Working with such a collaborative and forward-thinking client allowed us to push our own engineering and planning skills and will continue to provide the city with the following advantages.

Vision drives planning & prioritization

The entire plan took under two years to develop and outlined the major challenges facing the water and wastewater system. With these top challenges in mind, comprehensive system-wide facility plans were developed alongside long-term annual programs and capital projects to address long-term and immediate needs. By laying out all these challenges and the steps to address them the city was able to prioritize and schedule upgrades based on needs and funding availability. By combining both water and sewer together, the city leveraged both time and money to make the most efficient plans possible. 

Space for creative solutions

Agreeing on a vision removes barriers and helps to align staff across divisions. An integrated approach creates a collaborative environment, which fosters creative thinking. One of the most innovative aspects of this CIP was the first dual high flow treated effluent discharge permit to two different receiving water bodies in the history of the State of Missouri. This alternative saved the city $5M—giving them more capital to improve other parts of the water and wastewater systems. Looking at all the problems and resources under one umbrella allowed the design team to draw from a wide array of expertise and creative ideas from in and out of the state.  

Avoiding lump spending 

While the large number of plans and projects outlined in the CIP represent significant investments for the city, it also allows the city to avoid huge lump spending in a reactionary manner. The plan is designed in a phased, prioritized proactive way to meet both the current and future needs of the system. The CIP also includes a plan to adjust sewer rates to generate needed revenue to make both these immediate and future projects possible.  

Author

Senior Client Manager
Government & Institutional

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