City of Lincoln
2008 Media Releases
Mayor Chris Beutler today announced that the Water and Wastewater divisions of the City Public Works and Utilities Department received high marks in a recent survey of 180 comparable utilities from around the nation. Beutler said citizens can be proud of how well the utilities scored in the 2007 American Water Works Association/Water Environment Federation Benchmarking Survey.
“Providing quality water and wastewater services is a priority for the health of our citizens and the growth of our City,” said Mayor Beutler. “At the same time, residents expect these services to be provided at a reasonable cost. The survey shows that our systems are both effective and efficient, and I commend the City staff who work hard every day to provide these services.”
Of the communities surveyed, the median cost for 10 units (7,500 gallons) of water as well as wastewater service was $53 per month. In Lincoln, the cost was $29 per month. Nick McElvain, Operations Support Manager for the Lincoln Water System (LWS), said the division’s own surveys of other local and regional communities also show Lincoln’s rates to be very competitive.
“It’s important to note that the size of the City’s water and wastewater systems has grown 25 to 30 percent in the last 12 years,” said Beutler. “Our divisions have been able to manage the growth and maintain the systems without adding additional employees.”
One of the key efficiency categories measured in the survey was the number of customer accounts per employee. LWS has 658 accounts per employee compared to the national median of 456. The Lincoln Wastewater System (LWWS) has 766 accounts per employee, compared to a national median of 555. Lincoln has fewer employees per customer than two-thirds of the utilities surveyed.
“I’m pleased to see how efficient our utility operating divisions are,” said Public Works and Utilities Director Greg MacLean. “Many communities are faced with the need to hold down their costs by delaying infrastructure renewal and rehabilitation projects. That’s a short-sighted approach that can often result in ‘pay me now or pay me later’ outcomes.”
Lincoln scored in the top 10 to 15 percent on the benchmarks for infrastructure renewal and replacement. “Lincoln has done an excellent job of balancing the capital expenditures necessary to provide service to new growth areas of the community with the need for maintenance programs to replace aging infrastructure,” said MacLean.
The City of Lincoln owns and maintains more than 11.5 million feet (2,200 miles) of water and wastewater mains, some of which are more than 100 years old. It would cost more than $12 billion to replace these facilities. MacLean said Public Works is developing an asset management program using Lincoln’s geographic information system, which will be used to analyze and prioritize maintenance and replacement programs in the future.
The survey also highlighted a few areas for the City to improve, such as an increased focus on preventative maintenance and a greater emphasis on employee safety programs.
This is the first year the City has been included in the survey, but MacLean said LWS and LWWS will continue to participate on an on-going basis as an essential part of the department’s ongoing efforts to improve service.
More information on the benchmarking survey, LWS or LWWS is available on the City Web site at lincoln.ne.gov (keyword: public works). The public also can call LWS at 441-7571 or LWWS at 441-7961.