Rochester Public Utilities | Blog

Archive for the ‘Awards’ Category

AMWA Recognizes Utility Management Achievement in Water Industry Awards

Wednesday, October 28th, 2020

News Release

Embargoed for Release October 13, 2020                              Contact:           Carolyn Peterson

            peterson@amwa.net

            Antoinette Barber

            barber@amwa.net

            202-331-2820

AMWA Recognizes Utility Management Achievement in Water Industry Awards

Washington, D.C. – The Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies (AMWA) honored the exceptional operation and performance of 13 public drinking water systems with its top utility management awards on October 13 at its 2020 Executive Management Conference.

“In an unprecedented year for this nation, these systems are at the forefront of providing innovative solutions to the multiple challenges a global pandemic, extreme weather events, and infrastructure gaps are creating,” said AMWA President Steve Schneider, General Manager of Saint Paul Regional Water Services. “By supplying their communities with clean, safe, and affordable drinking water, these water utilities are helping to safeguard the nation’s health.”

AMWA management awards recognize the exceptional performance of public drinking water utilities where management vision and employee commitment create sustainable utilities producing ample supplies of clean, safe drinking water. The Sustainable Water Utility Management Award spotlights efforts of water utilities implementing long-term and innovative economic, environmental, and social endeavors, while the Platinum Award for Utility Excellence and Gold Award for Utility Performance honor outstanding achievement in implementing the industry standard Attributes of Effective Utility Management.

AMWA awarded the 2020 Sustainable Water Utility Management Award to nine utilities, including the starred second-time winners:

  • Anaheim Public Utilities (California)
  • Charleston Water System (South Carolina)
  • Contra Costa Water District* (California)
  • El Paso Water* (Texas)
  • Greenville Water (South Carolina)
  • KC Water (Missouri)
  • New York City Department of Environmental Protection (New York)
  • Peace River Manasota Regional Water Supply Authority (Florida)
  • South Central Connecticut Regional Water Authority (Connecticut)

AMWA presented three utilities with the 2020 Platinum Award for Utility Excellence:

  • Central Arizona Project (Arizona)
  • Great Lakes Water Authority (Michigan)
  • Houston Water (Texas)

AMWA awarded the 2020 Gold Award for Exceptional Utility Performance to:

  • Rochester Public Utilities (Minnesota)

Sustainable Water Utility Management Award Winners

Anaheim Public Utilities (APU) continues to achieve financial effectiveness by maintaining robust liquidity, minimizing long-term obligation, offering affordable and competitive rates in the face of COVID-19 pandemic challenges and rising water supply costs. APU employs data analytics to optimize decision-making, organizational performance, and capital project investments. The utility invested over $67 million in capital improvement projects to support long-term water system sustainability. APU consistently focuses on assisting customers and partnering with them to help the community prosper. Through rebate and incentive programs, Anaheim also achieved a 30 percent per capita water use reduction in 2020.

Charleston Water System (CWS) established capital planning programs that ensure water and wastewater capacity, fire protection, and environmental and regulatory compliance requirements are fully met. It is the first combined utility in the U.S. registered in conformance with the Environmental Management System standards of ISO 14001. A dedicated source water manager maintains source water infrastructure, works with watershed stakeholders to address water quality and quantity concerns, and develops a source water protection plan. The CWS  low-income assistance initiative supports customers in need through the Palmetto Community Action Partnership, and creation of a Citizens Academy program enhances customer education and engagement.

Contra Costa Water District (CCWD) is a state-wide leader in water affairs with a focus on preserving Delta water quality and developing regional water supply reliability. CCWD is committed to balancing operational expenditures, revenues, and debt service while investing in infrastructure assets; controlling operations and maintenance expenditures, while increasing water quality and customer service levels.  The utility incorporates climate change considerations and resiliency into long-term planning, addressing vulnerabilities and investing in improvements that will increase sustainability. It has made significant investments in water use efficiency projects that have reduced total water use by over 30 percent since the late 1980s.

The El Paso Water (EPWater) strategic plan objectives include strengthening financial viability, improving land and water management, increasing innovative solutions, and strengthening stakeholder partnerships. Its financial management is consistently recognized for its bond ratings, debt service, audits, budgets, and pricing structures. EPWater has developed aquifer storage and recovery, advanced water purification desalination, and water importation projects, which contribute to a diversified water portfolio. Investments in flood control, water conservation, and open space preservation make EPWater a leader in environmental stewardship. The utility engages the community through payment assistance programs to help low-income seniors and low-income families financially impacted by COVID-19.

Greenville Water had the foresight to purchase watersheds in a high rainfall area, construct dams to develop reservoirs at favorable hydraulic gradients, and limit the access to its watersheds, ensuring a sustainable water supply for the next 100 years. The utility maintains a AAA financial rating from all three major rating agencies and a financial plan that supports daily operational needs and meets required debt services. Its asset management program promotes the continuous improvement of business processes, and its business services model optimizes employee efficiencies to benefit customers and billing partners. A robust watershed management plan supports resource management through strategic planning and partnership efforts.

KC Water implements sustainable management using green infrastructure solutions whenever possible as part of a 25-year, $5 billion program to mitigate adverse effects of its combined sewer system. The utility’s aggressive asset management program minimizes the cost and maximizes the benefit of infrastructure investments. KC Water relies on climate studies and other research to drive planning and execution of short-term operations and maintenance and long-term capital improvement programs, serving both immediate needs and generational impact. These initiatives have also saved treatment costs, delayed or avoided additional water and wastewater treatment expansion, and minimized risks to the water supply.

New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) achieved progress in a broad range of sustainability-related factors, including: receiving a 10-year filtration avoidance determination for drinking water from the EPA in 2017, building the largest green infrastructure program in the country with over 10,000 assets spread across the city, achieving Envision and LEED certifications for multiple projects, and launching innovative and impactful rate payer assistance programs. DEP approaches these achievements with triple bottom line thinking that assesses and seeks to maximize the utility’s priorities of protecting health and the environment, supporting its constituents and communities, and benefitting the economy. 

Peace River Manasota Regional Water Supply Authority created a reliable, sustainable, and affordable water supply in southwest Florida and provides the infrastructure for business development and economic growth. Through partnerships the Authority invested in alternative water supply (AWS) and interconnecting the major water supply systems. The utility is a model in AWS development, implementing surface water storage by off-stream reservoirs and aquifer storage and recovery systems. Limiting water withdrawal to occur only during high flow periods provides the sustainability of the downstream estuary and Charlotte Harbor while meeting demands for public water supply.

South Central Connecticut Regional Water Authority (RWA) is focused on the long-term economic viability of its company, resources, and region. Periodic studies ensure its rates reflect the true cost of water and remain affordable. Internally generated funds finance the capital program and increase discretionary reserves. To preserve and protect the natural environment, RWA has robust land and water management programs, has reduced its energy use using renewable energy sources, and diverts hundreds of tons of treatment residuals from landfill disposal. Its education program provides free, hands-on programs to local schools, and its recreation program provides access to nine recreation areas.

Platinum Award for Utility Excellence Winners

Central Arizona Project (CAP) leads and innovates in all aspects of its business. Through collaboration, CAP ensures resiliency and sustainability of the system, maintains water quality, improves stakeholder understanding and support, and puts customer service in the forefront. Its custom-developed programs and processes contribute to success in employee leadership and development, excellence in infrastructure strategy and performance, and an ever-evolving asset management program. CAP’s well-established financial planning cycle results in top bond ratings and award-winning work.

The Great Lakes Water Authority (GLWA) has been in continuous compliance with state and federal drinking water standards since its 2016 establishment. By optimizing operational efforts, it has experienced two rounds of rating agency upgrades by reaching AA category status in September 2018 and receiving further upgrades in March 2020. Focusing on collaboration and long-term sustainability, it boasts a 90 percent member partner satisfaction. It supports affordable programs and has kept its annual charge increases to less than half of its peers in the Black & Veatch Utility Rate Index. It achieved a systems-total of debt service savings of over $1 billion.

Houston Water provides drinking water and wastewater services to 2.3 million customers. Planning for sustainable, long-term utilities that are more resilient to the effects of climate change and other stressors, it is developing a strategic plan with the city’s stormwater utility using a One Water approach. Its focus on asset management has helped to reduce operational costs and has allowed for development of a risk-based prioritization of preventive maintenance. It actively engages with stakeholders to meet or exceed expectations and has reduced its customer response time by 96,000 days, increasing customer satisfaction by 73 percent.

Gold Award for Exceptional Utility Performance Winner

Rochester Public Utility (RPU) has no water debt obligations and provides one of the lowest water rates in Minnesota. Its investment in mobile technologies and other efficiencies has resulted in more time spent serving customers. Over the past few years, RPU has collaborated with Rochester Public Works to plan joint replacement projects of aging infrastructure. The capital improvement plan includes the top 20 highest risk score water main sections being replaced in the next five years. As part of its sustainability study with state agencies, RPU protects groundwater sources to ensure long-term supply of drinking water while maintaining its precious natural resources.

***

The Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies is an organization of the largest publicly owned drinking water suppliers in the United States.

# # #

Individuals and Organizations recognized for Environmental Achievements in the Community

Friday, January 17th, 2020

Rochester Public Utilities (RPU) and the Olmsted County Environmental Commission announce the recipients of the 2019 Environmental Achievement Awards. The recipients were recognized at an awards banquet Thursday evening at the Rochester Golf and Country Club. The awards honor individuals, organizations, schools and businesses that have made a significant contribution in 2019 towards environmental quality in any of the following categories: renewable efforts, conservation, energy, water, agriculture, education, and other.

The 2019 recipients are:

Pam & Michael Pagelkopf

Minnesota Master Naturalist Volunteers, Pam and Michael Pagelkopf, were excited to respond to the call from Sara Holger with Minnesota Project Get Outdoors. She was looking to have a nature-based program developed for a small number of preschools in the Rochester area. The Pagelkopfs created “Nature with Pam and Michael” in 2011. Two schools are visited September through May with programs utilizing puppets, animal pelts, skulls, antlers and horns along with creative games, snowshoeing and binocular gazing. The programs engage the children with all five senses.

Resourcing with the Statewide Health Improvement Partnership (in Olmsted County), Pam and Michael created “Touch ‘N Feel” in 2018.  They currently visit sites in Rochester and Byron providing more children a hands-on experience with pelts, antlers, horns, skulls, bones, and many miscellaneous nature items. 

In addition to their preschool involvement, Pam and Michael have been building and delivering field desks for the Minnesota School Forest Program.  Since 2010, they have built and delivered 1,172 field desks to 42 School Forest sites across Minnesota traveling 6,800+ miles.

318 Commons

318 Commons is a mixed-use retail, office, classroom, and residential development located in downtown Rochester. This past year, the facility participated in Rochester’s Voluntary Energy Benchmarking Program. The program asked organizations and businesses across Rochester to share their utility consumption data publicly to develop an understanding of energy performance, encourage best-practice sharing, and accelerate the pace of energy conservation projects in Rochester.

318 Commons is conserving energy to a degree that separates themselves from other participants in the program. They are the only privately-operated facility in the top-20 performing facilities in Rochester. On a square foot basis, 318 Commons is consuming less than half of the energy of an average building that participated in the benchmarking program. The facility utilizes high-efficiency boilers, a two-pipe heat pump system, and conducts regular service checks. 318 Commons also educates its residents on best-practices regarding energy consumption. 

Sandy Bauter

Sandy Bauter has been a member of the Rochester Chapter of the Minnesota Master Naturalists since 2015 and currently serves as the treasurer and outreach chair. If you’ve attended an environmental event in Olmsted County, chances are you’ve seen Sandy and her spinning wheel of native animal species. She has educated hundreds of community members at Earthfest, the County Fair, and Whitewater State Park.

Sandy also volunteers at Quarry Hill Nature Center where she has been a docent since 2016 and assisted the facility librarian with book inventory and organization during the Nature Center’s year-long renovation in 2017/2018. At Quarry Hill Park, Sandy is a “Weed Warrior,” spending many hours controlling invasive species. Additionally, Sandy volunteers her time driving injured birds to the Raptor Rehabilitation Center in St. Paul.

Sheldon King

For the past 100 years, Lake Zumbro has been one of the most popular bodies of water for boaters and anglers in southeastern Minnesota. Formed by the installation of the Lake Zumbro Dam, this 600-acre reservoir is an important local recreational waterbody as well as a source of renewable hydroelectric energy. Over the years, the lake has experienced a lot of pressure from the discovery of zebra mussels in 2000 to increased sedimentation. The lake was declared an impaired waterway by the MPCA in 1998, and by the U.S. EPA in 2002. In 2001, Sheldon King took notice of the declining state of Lake Zumbro and decided to do something about it. Over the past 18 years, he was a strong advocate for the restoration of Lake Zumbro. Some of his significant contributions to improving the lake have included:

  • Starting Lake Zumbro Forever Inc. with volunteer board members dedicated to restoring and preserving the lake 
  • Holding legislative nights on the lake and lobbying at the State Capitol for funding
  • Starting the Lake Improvement District (LID) to implement assessments on fellow lake residents dedicated to improving its environmental character
  • Raising money from public and private entities for restoration work 

For years, Sheldon has been instrumental in restoring and preserving the beauty of the lake, ecological integrity, recreational quality, and the overall value of this unique natural resource. Shelden will remain active in efforts to restore the lake for current water enthusiasts and help preserve the resource for future generations.

Rochester Golf & Country Club

It takes a lot of water to keep the grass green on a golf course. But thanks to a recent investment in their facility, the Rochester Golf and Country Club (RGCC) will be using considerably less groundwater. In 2019, the RGCC completed the installation of an extensive drain tile system throughout their golf course property. This tile system collects stormwater and funnels it to a holding pond where it can be used as an irrigation source when needed. This project has reduced the demand on their deep well by over 60%, saving water and electricity in the process. Playing conditions have improved on the course making this a win for their business and water conservation.

Community Food Response

Community Food Response’s (CFR) mission is to help mitigate hunger in Rochester and the surrounding communities. Since 1993, CFR volunteers have been “rescuing” prepared food from restaurants and grocery stores that would have otherwise ended up in the garbage. The organization has operated out of Bethel Lutheran Church since the program began, with a second location opening at the Exchange Co-op in 2017. There are no income or residency restrictions to receive food at either location.

CFR has over 40 food donors and is supported by over 900 volunteers who pick up food, open, sort, and distribute it at both locations. In 2019, the organization collected approximately 125 tons of food and provided over 89,000 meals.

Heidi Kass & Kelly Rae Kirkpatrick – Rochester Seed Library

Heidi Kass and Kelly Rae Kirkpatrick have a passion for helping people grow their own food. In the spring of 2018, they initiated a collaborative effort with staff and volunteers from the Rochester Public Library (RPL), UMN Extension, Rochester Garden and Flower Club, and the History Center of Olmsted County to create the Rochester Seed library. The concept was simple. Residents with a library card could “check out” up to 10 packets of seeds per year. The volunteers spent the rest of 2018 planning and interacting with the community to figure out what types of seeds were in high demand.

By mid-February 2019, the group had packaged over 6,500 seed packets—with 44 varieties to choose from. A large seed donation came later, bringing the total packets closer to 8,500. RPL was a crucial partner, serving as the fiscal host and obtaining grants that were used to buy seeds and promote the program. RPL also serves as the physical location for the Seed Library which officially opened on March 2, 2019. Throughout the spring and summer, nearly 700 unique card-holders checked out seeds. Over 400 community members also participated in seed-related programs. The Seed Library is preparing for another year of distribution in 2020.

Sandy Hokanson

Sandy Hokanson has been a member of the Zumbro Valley Audubon Society for the past 10 years, and a wildlife artist for over 30. She is a professional graphic designer who volunteers her talents to create wildlife trail signs, with an emphasis on birds. These signs can be found at numerous parks in Rochester, Olmsted County, and beyond. Complete with captivating photographs, vibrant artwork, and helpful graphics, these educational displays rival anything you could find at a large zoo or nature center. 

Within the Zumbro Valley Audubon Society, Sandy has served as a board member and as the organization’s president. She has used her creative skills to design and maintain the organization’s website and Facebook page. She leads field trips and assists with monthly bird walks at Quarry Hill. Sandy also organizes the Nature Art Show at Quarry Hill Nature Center, donating a portion of the event’s proceeds back to the Nature Center.

Sisters of Saint Francis – Assisi Heights

The natural landscape of Assisi Heights provides a peaceful haven in the middle of an ever-growing city. Deer, wild turkey, and numerous other animal species can be spotted on the property to the south and west of the Motherhouse, in an area known as the “Green Space.” Thanks to a proclamation of Conservation Easement this past July, much of this land along with the Motherhouse, Chapel, and Wilson House will be preserved in its current condition—72 acres total. This decision by the Sisters of Saint Francis is representative of a shared mission to strive for justice and reverence for all of creation. 

Members of the Environmental Team at Assisi Heights have collaborated with the Conservation Corps of Minnesota and Iowa, as well as the Friends of Indian Heights Volunteers to clear invasive buckthorn and garlic mustard from the property. The Sisters also utilize solar energy, maintain a large kitchen garden, raise bees, and have made energy-saving enhancements to their building.

For more information on energy and water conservation or the Environmental Achievement Awards, visit www.rpu.org.

About Rochester Public Utilities

As the municipal utility of Rochester, Minn., for more than 110 years, RPU provides high-quality and reliable electricity to over 50,000 customers. Water customers number more than 39,000. RPU continually investigates innovative technologies to help customers realize the best value from the services they receive. Current initiatives include fuel cell research, wind power, and photovoltaic offerings.

###

RPU Receives Diamond RP3 Designation from American Public Power Association

Thursday, April 11th, 2019

Rochester Public Utilities (RPU) received the 2019 Reliable Public Power Provider (RP3) Diamond designation by the American Public Power Association (APPA). RPU was honored at the APPA Engineering and Operations Conference in Colorado Springs, CO on Monday, April 1, 2019.

The Diamond designation is the highest level achievable within the RP3 designation. RPU scored a total of 99.5 points out of a possible 100. RPU is one of only 254 public power utilities nationwide that hold the RP3 designation.

The RP3 designation, which lasts for three years, recognizes public power utilities that demonstrate proficiency in four key disciplines: reliability, safety, workforce development, and system improvement. Criteria include sound business practices and a utility-wide commitment to safe and reliable delivery of electricity.

Applications are reviewed by an 18-member panel of public power representatives nationwide.

The American Public Power Association has offered the RP3 designation for 13 years now. The Association is the voice of not-for-profit, community-owned utilities that power 49 million people in 2,000 towns and cities nationwide. The Association advocates and advises on electricity policy, technology, trends, training, and operations.

Additional information regarding the APPA RP3 designation can be found at www.publicpower.org or by contacting Tony Benson at 507-280-1534 or email at tbenson@rpu.org.

About Rochester Public Utilities

As the municipal utility of Rochester, Minn., for more than 110 years, RPU provides high-quality and reliable electricity to over 54,000 customers.  Water customers number more than 40,000.  RPU continually investigates innovative technologies to help customers realize the best value from the services they receive.  Current initiatives include photovoltaic offerings, wind energy, energy and water efficient equipment, and electric vehicle charging.

###

Call for Nominations: 2018 Environmental Achievement Awards

Friday, September 7th, 2018

Rochester Public Utilities (RPU) and the Olmsted County Environmental Commission are calling for nominations for the 2018 Environmental Achievement Awards. The awards honor individuals, organizations, schools and businesses that have made a significant environmental contribution over the past year in Rochester or Olmsted County.

Award categories include: climate change, education, renewables, sustainable food production, conservation, energy, water, and other.

Since 1992, the awards have recognized the positive environmental impact of over 100 Olmsted County and Rochester community members and groups.

To submit a nomination or to see a list of past recipients, go to www.rpu.org. Completed nominations are due by Friday, October 5, 2018 to Anthony Wittmer (wittmer.anthony@co.olmsted.mn.us).

 

About Rochester Public Utilities

As the municipal utility of Rochester, Minn., for more than 110 years, RPU provides high-quality and reliable electricity to over 50,000 customers.  Water customers number more than 39,000.  RPU continually investigates innovative technologies to help customers realize the best value from the services they receive.  Current initiatives include photovoltaic offerings, wind energy, energy and water efficient equipment, and electric vehicle charging.

 

###

Former RPU Director of Power Resources/Customer Relations Receives APPA Individual Achievement Award

Wednesday, June 27th, 2018

Former Rochester Public Utilities (RPU) Director of Power Resources/Customer Relations Wally Schlink received the James D. Donovan Individual Achievement Award at the American Public Power Association’s (APPA) National Conference in New Orleans, Louisiana.

The James D. Donovan Individual Achievement Award recognizes individuals who have made significant contributions to the electric utility and public power.

“We congratulate Wally on this much deserved award that recognizes his valuable contributions to RPU, the citizens of Rochester, and the broader public power community,” said Mark Kotschevar, General Manager for Rochester Public Utilities.

Schlink was active with the Southern Minnesota Municipal Power Agency (SMMPA) along with serving on numerous boards including the APPA board of directors, the APPA DEED board and the Engineering and Operations section. He began working at RPU in June 1997 and retired in March 2018 finishing a 20 year career with the largest municipal utility in Minnesota.