Tackling Today's Top Management Challenges

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What challenge did the headlines in your newspaper or television broadcast present today? What keeps you up at night as a water or wastewater utility manager? What are people talking about? And importantly, what are people doing about meeting the challenges of the day?

Throughout 2009, a series of interactive discussions were conducted – during lunchtime – with utility managers from across the country. Lunchroom after lunchroom, utility managers assembled to identify the issues facing water sector utilities, to talk about the impacts and challenges these issues present, and importantly, to exchange ideas, experiences, and solutions to these challenges.

Utilizing a consistent framework to drive discussion, each session explored the issues, impacts, and solutions around five areas: environment, finances, infrastructure, workforce, and community. Discussion was lively and highly interactive, and each session both confirmed the realities of the times and generated innovative ideas and solutions.

The sessions also inspired a renewed sense of networking among the participating utilities and even spawned a new “Views from the Lunchroom” blog site to allow utility managers that participated throughout the year to stay in touch with the ongoing conversation on the issues and solutions discussed in each location, while also allowing those who didn't attend a lunchtime session the opportunity to share and learn as well.

By the end of the year, a total of 11 sessions were conducted – 9 at utility locations and 2 others at professional conferences, including the International City Managers' Association and the WEF/AWWA Utility Management Conference. Nearly 60 utilities and well over 100 utility leaders and professionals assembled in these gatherings across North America.

This session at the Utility Management Conference 2010 will take place in three parts.

First, it will present a summary of the findings of these facilitated discussions, along with an analysis and discussion of both the trends and “best practice” solutions that emerged along the way. The four major trends that Sandra will identify are:

The key inter-relationship between finance and CIP – including condition assessment, Risk analysis, Service levels, Prioritization, Repair and replacement projections

Optimizing Resources – Energy, Reuse, Conservation, Cost-benefit, Process “fitness”

Communicating value of water and wastewater services to garner stakeholder support – focusing on things like full cost pricing and the impact of regulations on cost of operations, public education and support, etc.

Utilities cooperating/working together to solve common problems in collaborative fashion – shared resources, shared solutions

Next, five utility managers from coast to coast, from utilities of diverse size and type, will cover one of the five Views from the Lunchroom discussion areas and relate how they are addressing a common issue at their utility.

Brian Wheeler – How Toho Water is addressing water conservation through reuse technology and strategies.

Kevin Hunt – How utilities in Orange County are working to communicate the value of water and how they are struggling to overcome the lack of a “single voice” as utilities.

Bob Ghirelli – How Orange County Sanitation effectively communicated the importance of its asset management program to governance and it paved the way to needed rate increases.

Cheryl Davis – How San Francisco PUC is addressing workforce issues both as a utility and as part of a collaborative effort in the Bay Area.

Ray Orvin – How Renewable Water Resources is leading the way in making Greenville, SC a more sustainable community, from the construction of a LEED certified utility administration building to programs that embrace sustainability principles and practices.

And last, the entire room will be engaged in an interactive discussion session with the utility managers and Views from the Lunchroom – thus making all participants part of the network of utilities solving today's problems.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.2175/193864710798286010

Publication date: January 1, 2010

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  • Proceedings of the Water Environment Federation is an archive of papers published in the proceedings of the annual Water Environment Federation® Technical Exhibition and Conference (WEFTEC® ) and specialty conferences held since the year 2000. These proceedings are not peer reviewed.

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