Cincinnati leading utility management approach to keep costs low

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - Utility leaders from around the country joined with Greater Cincinnati Water Works (GCWW) and the Metropolitan Sewer District of Greater Cincinnati (MSD) on Tuesday to talk about sophisticated management approaches, innovative green infrastructure techniques and new utility-to-utility partnerships that are transforming the way utilities think and operate.

These innovative changes, designed to keep costs low while also maintaining high quality utility services, are in reaction to increasing regulatory pressures, strained utility budgets and skyrocketing capital expenses.

"The water and wastewater community is in the midst of a rebirth. The water paradigm in the US is changing and we need to keep costs low while also maintaining high quality utility services," said Tony Parrott, MSD Executive Director. "Utilities are transforming the way they view themselves, their relationships with one another and their communities. They are adapting to become the 'utility of the future' and Cincinnati is leading the way."

In effort to adapt, Parrott announced that GCWW is partnering with Alexandria Renew Enterprises to provide billing and customer call center services for the wastewater utility in Alexandria, VA. GCWW is also providing billing and customer call center services to Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government (LFUCG) in Lexington, Ky.

"Thanks to Alexandria Renew Enterprises' collaboration with Greater Cincinnati Water Works, we have a billing system that works, with a well-run customer service center. And if our Board of Director approves it next Tuesday, we'll announce changes in our rates that will result in a lower bill, about $6.78 less per quarter, for our ratepayers. All because of our partnership with Greater Cincinnati Water Works," said Alexandria Renew Enterprises Chief Executive Officer Karen Pallansch.

Parrott shared that potable water usage in the Cincinnati area has declined 16% per account over the last six years – a $14.5 million loss – and MSD is facing increasing infrastructure costs in order to comply with a federal consent decree. In addition, to offset the drop in revenue and increasing capital costs, GCWW and MSD are combining administrative services to save between $68 - $105 million over 10 years.

MSD is implementing a newly U.S. EPA approved and nationally recognized wet weather solution to remove 1.78 billion gallons of combined sewer overflows annually from the Mill Creek. This alternative plan will save greater Cincinnati about $200 million (2006 dollars) from the original deep-tunnel plan while also improving water quality, creating new jobs and opportunities for neighborhood revitalization.

Together, these two innovations are anticipated to save the Cincinnati community an estimated $300 million.

Utility leaders are in Cincinnati through July 17 for the National Association of Clean Water Agencies (NACWA) 2013 summer conference, being held at the Cincinnati Hilton Netherland Plaza.

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