Plan Ahead

by: Clyde H. Zelch

One person with vision can make a difference in the quality of life in the community. Let’s take a minute to examine YOUR vision. You know that water supply is a key player in not only daily use for sustenance, but in the planning and development of a community.

The planning ahead for expansion to accommodate housing and industry will help to assure the orderly growth of your community as well as the water system you manage.

As this growth occurs will your system serve for adequate fire protection as well as daily usage? What is your provision for expansion? Planners and developers are going to be depending on you to be right there, with the amount of water they need, when they need it. Are you going to be caught short or have you looked forward to this expansion and development and in fact encouraged it by making your water supply a valuable asset?

There are three principle parts of a water system:

1. Production Ability:
A. Source of Supply:
1. Wells, Lakes, rivers, purchased Water
a. Treatment Plant Capacities
b. Well Draw Down Records
c. Lake and River Low Water Levels
d. Purchased Supply Availability

1. Cost Effectiveness

2.         Storage Facilities:

A. Towers, Ground Tanks, Wet Wells
1. Capacity and Reliability
2. Maintenance and Inspection Records
A. Piping, Control Valves, Hydrants, Meters, Back Flow Devices:
1. Location Studies and Mapping
2. Flushing and Flow Testing
a. Hydrant Maintenance Records
1. Inadequate Rate Structure:
A. Conduct a Rate Study.
2. Inefficient Operations:
A. Waste No Time, Effort or Resources.
B. Long Range Planning – 25 Years.
3. Lost Water: If your percentage of water loss is too high, examine these probable reasons:
A. Old Meters
B. Piping Around Meters
C. Leaks
4. What kind of records do you keep?
A. Know and keep records of amount of water pumped and water sold.
B. Compare your figures with those of the billing department.
C. Work closely with whomever pays the bills for the water department.
5. Maintenance and repairs have to be considered in the rates you charge for water.
A. Compare previous years’ expenses.
B. Know the cost of materials you expect to need.
C. Know and plan for any major expenses.

6. Anticipate reasonable growth
A. Do not down size your system as you expand.

1. Establish a backflow prevention program.
2. Establish a regular water storage facility inspection and maintenance program.
3. Know and provide for government controls or regulations.

3.          Distribution System:

What about money? Is your water system self sufficient? Does the amount of money collected for water bills pay all of the expenses of the water department? “ All of the expenses” does not mean just your salary and the expense of repairs. What about the water departments share for retaining an attorney for advice on any situation of City business? You may need to ask if you can be sued if some tragedy happens that is the fault of the water system.

What about insurance on your pumps if lightening strikes? What is the liability if someone’s property is damaged? If someone gets sick? The water department should pay its share of the City’s insurance premium. The water department should even be shouldering its part of the City’s office expense.

If you have extensive repairs to make is the City’s General Fund going to have to “ bail “ you out or have you budgeted for both anticipated and unexpected expense? How well can you budget?

It is easier to determine the direct expense of operating a Public Water Supply District as opposed to a City’s Water Department. However, all of the same points of knowing and maintaining your system apply.

It is very important for operators to know every phase of managing the system he or she is in charge of.

You must be able to advise the Board of Aldermen or Directors of the projected needs of the water system during the year for which a budget is being prepared. You must know the system so well that you can anticipate its needs well into the future. You are the one responsible for every phase of your water system.

Let’s consider some of the causes of losing money in the operation of your water system.

All of these factors must be considered in establishing your rate structure as well as providing for bond requirements.

In planning ahead, you may also be able to prevent trouble with bacteriological samples of your drinking water.

While you are planning ahead for the needs of your water system, don’t lose sight of the fact that the people in every household, in every block, on every street in your town: on every road in your water system community, depend on you to deliver, in abundance, the best quality of living water. For without this, nothing lives.