The past year was difficult for water utilities in the Southeast. Unprecedented rainfall levels in the Atlanta area had a substantial negative impact on water sales. While an improving economy led to increases in some development fees, revenues for 2013 are expected to close at about 10 percent less than projected. Offsetting this was a reduction in expenses of about 7 percent, due primarily to the reduced need to purchase potable water from our wholesale supplier.
The Water System’s financial situation was benefitted significantly by its successful refinancing of one of its outstanding bond issues. Despite a shortfall in revenues, the financial outlook for the Water System remains very positive and its triple AAA bond rating was reaffirmed by the nation’s top rating agencies.
The South Cobb Tunnel project proceeds within budget, and the tunnel portion of the contract is complete. An issue was encountered during testing of the lift station, which delayed the completion of the lift station portion of the project. The contractor anticipates that the project will be completed by July.
The $10.6 million R.L. Sutton Biosolids Receiving Station project is under construction and currently on schedule to be completed in summer 2014. This station will allow the introduction of dewatered sewage biosolids, received via truck delivery from off-site sources, to the incineration system at the Sutton facility. The project will reduce landfill requirements and result in substantial ongoing disposal cost savings.
The Water System continued to replace infrastructure. In 2013, approximately 21.5 miles of water mains were replaced. The majority of these were located in subdivisions where aging water mains, at or near their useful life, were replaced with ductile iron pipe. In addition, approximately 6,300 residential water meters were replaced as part of our meter change out program to ensure reliable water consumption measurement.
Recently, the Water System completed a billing system upgrade. This upgrade provides enhanced navigation for call center customer service representatives and the opportunity to initiate new procedures designed to streamline business processes. Also included in the upgrade were improvements to the interactive customer Web site portal. The new site offers better functionality, improved navigation and a more professional look.
For the third year in a row, the Operations Division received the Georgia Association of Water Professionals Wastewater Collections of the Year Gold Award for Outstanding Operation of a Wastewater Collection System in the category of large systems (more than 50,000 customers.) Platinum Awards were received for 12 consecutive years of perfect permit compliance at Northwest Water Reclamation Facility, eight consecutive years of perfect permit compliance at Noonday Water Reclamation Facility and five years at South Cobb Water Reclamation Facility. R.L. Sutton Water Reclamation facility was honored with a Gold Award for compliance in 2012.
In addition, the Cobb County Water Quality Laboratory was awarded the 2013 Laboratory Quality Assurance Award for a Municipal Wastewater Laboratory in the category of greater than 20 MGD.
The area of public education and outreach continues as a focus for the agency and serves as a national and statewide industry model in environmental education. The watershed stewardship “Ecological Tips” video series and water efficiency “Water $aver” newsletter are two continued opportunities to engage the community in ways to contribute as better environmental stewards. Also, this year, the distribution of an electronic version of the Annual Water Quality Report for the first time now makes this document even more far-reaching with direct access available through the county and Water System Web sites.