The Water System’s triple AAA bond rating was reaffirmed in 2014 by the nation’s top bond rating agencies, indicating their confidence in the system’s financial stability.
While increasing development activity associated with the area’s improving economy resulted in a continuing return toward historic development fee levels, water demand was somewhat less than expected in 2014, owing primarily to weather patterns. Total revenues were about 6 percent less than projected, but this shortfall was at least partially offset by reductions in operating expenses. The system operated in 2014 without an increase in rates and expects to do the same in 2015.
The South Cobb Tunnel is expected to be fully operational in early 2015. Although initially scheduled for completion in the summer of 2014, issues with the Influent pump station associated with the project resulted in significant delays. It appears that all technical issues have now been resolved and anticipate resolution of contractual issues during 2015.
A second project of note, the Sutton WRF Biosolids Receiving Station, was completed near the end of 2014. This station will allow the introduction of dewatered sewage solids, received via truck delivery from other treatment facilities, to be processed at the Sutton plant, resulting in a reduction in landfill requirements and significant ongoing cost savings.
Currently, the Water System is increasingly focused on renewal of existing water, sewer, and stormwater pipelines than has been the case in the past. About 23 miles of aging water mains were replaced in 2014, and, in addition to normal levels of sewer and stormwater pipe replacements, a substantial effort to reline failing pipe was initiated utilizing trenchless technologies.
The Water System has now fully implemented a billing system upgrade. The upgrade provides enhanced navigation for call center customer service representatives and the opportunity to initiate new procedures designed to streamline business processes. The improved efficiencies have enhanced service to customers, reducing queue times and allowing more immediate responses to issues. Continued adjustments are made to the Web site portal for easier use and to encourage paperless transactions.
The Water System received a number of awards in 2014. The Water Efficiency Program won the EPA WaterSense Large Utility Partner of the Year Award for its efforts in public outreach related to the efficient use of our water supplies. Of particular note, this was the third such award received by the Water System’s program in the last five years.
All four of the county’s wastewater treatment facilities were recognized with gold or platinum awards for operational effectiveness. The System Maintenance Division received a gold award for outstanding operation in the Large Utility category, and the Water System’s laboratory was selected for the state-wide Quality Assurance Award in the Large Municipal category.
The Water System’s Watershed Stewardship Program received several state-wide recognitions, including the 2014 Public Education Direct Media Award, the 2014 Watershed Award and the 2014 Rivers Alive Waterway Cleanup Award. In addition, the Georgia Fats, Oils, and Grease Alliance honored Cobb County with its 2013 Program of the Year Award.
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 Thalweg newsletter, and water efficiency “Water $aver” newsletter are continuing opportunities to influence the community to become better environmental stewards. The Water System is proud to be tasked with management of crucial elements of Cobb County’s quality of life.