Monday, April 14, 2014

Alert! Money Down the Drain

In late March, DC Water customer Mark Stein got an unexpected telephone message from the Authority. “We have observed a significant increase in daily usage for your home,” the message said, “that may indicate a problem with internal plumbing or higher usage.”

Surprised, and maybe somewhat alarmed, Mr. Stein went to investigate why his water use had suddenly spiked. His search led him to the basement bathroom where he found the culprit; the flap in the toilet tank had not closed properly and water had been running continually for a week. The graph below shows how dramatically water usage in the Stein household shot up.

To translate this into monetary terms, the value of the water consumed during the five days the leaking toilet went undetected was almost $40 a day. Before that, the customer’s normal cost of water was closer to $1.50 to $2.00 a day. A huge difference!

Mr. Stein fixed the problem and sent us a very appreciative email. He wrote, “Without the message from DC Water, who knows when we would have discovered this problem, stopped it, and attended to repairing it?”

We get responses like that on a fairly regular basis, and it speaks to the incredible value of our alert system, both to the customer and to us. Officially, it’s called the High Usage Notification Application – HUNA for short – and since its inception in 2006 DC Water has sent out more than 50,000 alerts to customers warning them that their water usage has suddenly increased and urging them to look for a leak or other plumbing problem that might be responsible for the increase.

Here’s how it works. Our Automated Meter Reading (AMR) network transmits data daily about water consumption. When the system notes a customer is using 6 times more water than normal, for 4 consecutive days, it generates an automated alert and either emails, calls or texts the customer.

We send out anywhere from 220 to 250 alerts every week, and approximately 11,000 - 13,000 alerts a year. In many cases, for the customers who get them like Mr. Stein, it may save them several hundred dollars in unexpected charges on their water bills, for water they didn’t know they were using! As another relieved customer put it, “Yay for innovative customer solutions!”

Signing up for the HUNA program is easy. If you already have an online DC Water account, with a valid email address or telephone number on file, you’re automatically enrolled. If you don’t have any account, just go to to register and get started. Also, if you prefer to register by phone, call Customer Service at 202-354-3600.

We hope everyone will take advantage of this great service. After all, not only is it free, but it could wind up saving you money as well!

Friday, March 21, 2014

A Well Deserved Award

DC Water has been fortunate to achieve many awards over the recent years, based primarily on the tremendous people who work for us directly, and for our many excellent partners and collaborators.  Yet upon occasion there is an individual that stands out and deserves special attention.  Randy Hayman, our excellent General Counsel, is such a case – and is the recent recipient of a Minority Business Leader Award from the Washington Business Journal (WBJ).

I was fortunate to be one of the many who attended the sold-out event on March 20 to honor 25 minority business leaders from the District region.  The WBJ produced a two-minute video for each of the awardees, which are inspirational and educational to watch.  Start with the video from Randy below, and then if you have the time, take a look at some of the rest.  They are well worth the time! You can also read interviews with Randy and the other award winners in the Business Journal and on its website.

Two points stand out for me. The first is that we are fortunate to have Randy on our team.  For an organization of this size and scope, the range of legal issues that arise is daunting. Yet Randy handles this never-ending workload with grace and wisdom, and ultimately provides what anyone in my position seeks – thoughtful, experienced, helpful counsel.  He is our General Counsel in every sense of that word, and we rarely take any significant step forward without gaining his advice.

The second is the remarkable diversity of the folks honored last evening – race, gender, age, nationality for sure, but also the wide range of businesses they represent.  Their diversity is a great strength of the Washington, DC region, we have talent and perspective from across the country and globe, in every age group and gender – and in business angles that have expanded far beyond the government origins of our economy.

I came away energized, feeling fortunate Randy decided to come from St. Louis back to the location of his law school studies, and more convinced than ever that diversity is a fundamental strength for any region, city and organization!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

A Little Heat Brings Key Things to the Surface

Three lessons from a recent event.
  1. DC Water’s highest priority is the health and safety of our customers.
  2. DC Water’s infrastructure is failing too often.
  3. DC Water’s personnel pulls together to solve problems and serve the public.
Which event, you ask, could yield such a divergent set of lessons?  It all started on a late Wednesday afternoon.

At about 5 pm on Wednesday, March 5, 2014 our internal power circuitry at our pump station at Fort Reno in Washington, DC failed.  Power is essential to being able to provide clean drinking water to our customers, so we had a back-up system in place.  The back-up – an on-site generator – automatically switched on.  A switch-gear must then shift the power source from what has failed to the generator.  The switch-gear then failed.  Despite having power from Pepco, and back-up power from a generator, our own systems caused our pumps to fail.

Throughout the city, water is supplied by gravity from above ground tanks or below ground reservoirs.  A reservoir at Fort Reno provides water to customers at our highest elevations, and can provide water for about 1 hour until it must be replenished by the pumps.  With the pumps down, the water in the reservoir drained down, water in the water mains decreased in pressure and in some cases stopped flowing entirely.  Lack of water pressure in the pipe can cause a negative pressure that draws moisture into the pipe from the ground outside.  This infiltration could allow contaminants to get into the drinking water.

Realizing this sequence of events, DC Water issued a precautionary boil water advisory for the 1,019 properties in the elevations where a drop in pressure could cause contamination.  We went into overdrive to inform our customers and coordinate our response with the city, sending alerts through every available means and responding to the special needs of customers like hospitals and schools. We also coordinated with Fire and EMS on plans for fire suppression when the pressure in hydrants was dropping.

Fortunately, our expert maintenance personnel were able to rewire the switch-gear to restore power and replenish the Fort Reno reservoir, which then repressurized the water system.  We left the boil water advisory in place until two rounds of water monitoring – taken at difference places and difference times – confirmed that no contamination had actually occurred.

And no surprise, there was lots of media attention:
FOX 5: Some DC residents advised to boil drinking water

The first is to highlight again that our response demonstrates that our stated focus on water quality and customer safety is genuine. No water authority wants to issue a boil water alert – which calls into question the quality of our drinking water, our primary product. This reality is particularly true for DC Water, because we in the midst of such an aggressive campaign to convince our customers to use tap water rather than bottled water. And in this case, we never had any actual evidence that indicated there was contamination – just a theory on how contamination could occur under the observed circumstances. We did not hesitate, however, to issue the advisory as soon as we knew the risk was real. In truth, the health and safety of our customers is most important to us.

The second is that our infrastructure is failing. And critically important to us is infrastructure that expands beyond the classic pipes and valves to include electrical switch-gear and associated control technology. In this case, not only our internal electrical circuits failed, but the switch-gear necessary to shift to our back-up power (which we did have on hand) also failed. As it turns out, we have a capital project in the planning stages to update all the electrical and other control systems in all of our pump stations. Yet this is another stark example of how deferred maintenance in the past is haunting us today, even if we are upgrading and rebuilding as fast as we can.

The third is that our team is fantastic at banding together to solve problems when they arise. We had our electrical and maintenance crews mobilized immediately who were able to assemble a wiring resolution on the spot at Fort Reno. We had flushing crews at the ready and water quality experts quickly mobilized to collect and evaluate samples to detect any contamination. Our external affairs office worked with the water quality division to create press releases, informational materials, robo-call messages and a nearly constant Facebook and Twitter presence to get out the word – including walking door to door to deliver notifications to affected customers.

It was a fast moving event as you can see in this summary of our social media efforts assembled by External Affairs: The Boil Water Alert - From the Inside Looking Out.

I also have to give credit to the District government, which quickly convened a sequence of emergency calls to alert relevant agencies and cover a wide variety of important issues: how to provide fire suppression in areas with low pressure; how to provide water to hospitals, dialysis centers and other vulnerable populations; how to support the five schools in the area of potential contamination; and how to minimize the consequences to affected businesses.

I list below the employees who stepped up and helped respond to this crisis. The list is long and diverse, and highlights a final additional lesson. Solving crises requires coordination among many people, many skills and perspectives – and an organized structure and format is necessary to do so in order to succeed. I’ll write more about our emergency-planning program in a future blog.

Charles Kiely Incident Management Team
Jonathan Reeves Incident Management Team
Chuck Sweeney Incident Management Team
Lauren Preston Incident Management Team
Jason Hughes Incident Management Team
Carmen Gibson Command Center, Fielding Customer Calls
Geneva Green Command Center, Fielding Customer Calls
Annette Laughter Command Center, Fielding Customer Calls
Erica Smith Command Center, Fielding Customer Calls
Kim Harrison Command Center, Fielding Customer Calls
Lashawn Jones Command Center, Fielding Customer Calls
Pam Easter Command Center, Fielding Customer Calls
Bunmi Akinyosoye Command Center, Fielding Customer Calls
Sharon Roach Command Center, Fielding Customer Calls
Timothy Cannon Command Center, Fielding Customer Calls
Tyvon Leonard Command Center, Fielding Customer Calls
Tammy Banks Command Center, Fielding Customer Calls
Kim Crawford Command Center, Fielding Customer Calls
Gloria Blair Command Center, Fielding Customer Calls
Greg Collins Command Center, Fielding Customer Calls
Gregory Vinson Command Center, Fielding Customer Calls
Kim Arrington Command Center, Fielding Customer Calls
Mary Larris Command Center, Fielding Customer Calls
June Adams Command Center, Fielding Customer Calls
Edith Lanum Command Center, Fielding Customer Calls
Derrick Myers Customer Notification Deployment
Keith Watts Customer Notification Deployment
Victor Browm Customer Notification Deployment
Eric Stevens Customer Notification Deployment
Gregory Stevens Customer Notification Deployment
Eli Philson Customer Notification Deployment
Jeffery Crosson Customer Notification Deployment
Charles Redd Customer Notification Deployment
Reginald James Customer Notification Deployment
Roy Marshal Customer Notification Deployment
John Herring Customer Notification Deployment
Michael Cooper Customer Notification Deployment
Isidro Carranza Customer Notification Deployment
Renard Blanchard Distribution System Monitoring
Curtis Brown Distribution System Monitoring
Francis Peters Distribution System Monitoring
Chris Coit Distribution System Monitoring
Art Smith Distribution System Monitoring
Ervin Sawyers Distribution System Monitoring
Donald Yearwood Distribution System Monitoring
Sam Bridges Distribution System Monitoring
Mike Jackson Distribution System Monitoring
Tyrone Johnson Distribution System Monitoring
Edward Boney Distribution System Monitoring
Marquette Austin Distribution System Monitoring
Jessica Edwards-Brandt EPA Coordination
David Wall Distribution System Monitoring
Calvin Williams Mobile Command Van
Scott Brown Mobile Command Van
Nicole Condon Public Outreach
Pam Mooring Public Outreach
Tamara Stevenson Public Outreach
Will Pickering Public Outreach
Nija Ali Public Outreach
Jill McClanahan Public Outreach
Danny Ballerini Public Outreach
Louis Desjardins Public Outreach
Omar Javed Public Outreach
Renee Lawrence Pump Station Restoration
Ravi Kammila Pump Station Restoration
Carlos Almeida Pump Station Restoration
Chip Yanager Pump Station Restoration
Larry Hendrickson Pump Station Restoration
Warren Small  Pump Station Restoration
Steve Lunsford Pump Station Restoration
Leslie Howard Pump Station Restoration
Tony Winbush Pump Station Restoration
James Jones Pump Station Restoration
Wayne Reed Pump Station Restoration
Ray Thompson Pump Station Restoration
Duane Jones Pump Station Restoration
Eugene White Pump Station Restoration
Hiram Tanner Pump Station Restoration
Tom Dyson Pump Station Restoration
John Kennedy Contractor Liason
Maureen Schmelling Water Quality Monitoring
Pierre Constant Water Quality Monitoring
Silas Obasi WQ Water Quality Monitoring

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

How Green Can You Go?

We continue to gain very positive media attention for our deep tunnel project to nearly eliminate combined sewer overflows (CSOs) in the rivers of Washington, DC. This article and graphics, in USA Today, focuses on the issue more broadly – considering there are 750+ cities that have this issue across the country – and uses our Lady Bird Tunnel Boring Machine as an example. Take a look – the video is one of the best I have seen at explaining the problem.

But not the best! I think my favorite video about the issue is our own “A Drop’s Life!” If you don’t remember, take a look here.

Finally, one of the issues referenced in this article and discussed at some length in many places is the role of Green Infrastructure (GI).  I am a huge fan of GI and am trying to integrate a significant investment in GI into our Clean Rivers Project (the name of our plan to respond to CSOs).  A comparison is often made to a very ambitious and impressive GI program in Philadelphia – and why many other cities, like Washington, DC and Northeast Ohio among others – have not also developed a plan with a similar scale of GI investment.

Philadelphia’s plan (Green City, Clean Waters), costing more than $1 billion, relies mostly on GI.  Cleveland (Project Clean Lake) and Washington rely mostly on “gray” tunnels and are using GI as a supplemental approach in a hybrid solution – and have $3.0 billion and $2.6 billion dollar price tags respectively.

The answer is fairly simple.  Which remedy is selected, and how much GI it includes, is almost entirely driven by the percentage of capture of the overflows that must be met.  For both Cleveland (overflows to the Great Lakes) and Washington, DC (overflows to the Chesapeake) – the capture percentages are very, very high – 98 and 96% respectively.  We have both realized that it is difficult to retain that much flow in large storms without deploying the tunnels, and are using GI as a supportive technique.  For Philadelphia, the capture percentage target is lower, so they can rely more broadly on GI.  I admire Philadelphia’s plan and believe the city will be transformed by its implementation.  But it is not on the table in DC because a comparative version will simply not attain the capture percentage of the total overflows that we must meet.

All these approaches are excellent.  I support the maximum use of GI that is possible within an agreed-upon budget combined with an agreed-upon capture target.  For Washington, DC, we are still seeking to attain 96% capture, which means we need the scale of capture that tunnels provide, supplemented (we hope) by a nearly $100 million investment in GI.

Enjoy the videos!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Strategic Change: Building Enthusiasm and Support

At the recent Utility Management Conference in Savannah, Georgia jointly hosted by the Water Environment Federal (WEF) and the American Water Works Association (AWWA), I was asked to speak about how DC Water has worked to gain buy-in for our ambitious and far-reaching change program and strategic plan.  Two initial thoughts.

First, I am very pleased that WEF and AWWA teamed up for this program.  We need to see more collaboration from our trade associations and cross-fertilization of ideas.  And many of us do both drinking water and enriched water treatment.  I hope NACWA and perhaps AMWA join this effort next year.  I’d like to see more GM’s at a conference that focuses so intently on management issues – and NACWA and AMWA have tremendous influence on that audience.

Second, DC Water’s strategic plan is called Blue Horizon 2020. The name is obviously a play on what we see on the horizon in the blue world of water, and 20/20 is both the outside date for our longest term strategic ideas, and the vision we hope to keep on the prize as we move forward.

As for buy-in, the critical factor to success of any agenda, I outlined ten steps:
  1. Talent.  My first answer to almost any question you might ask me begins with this principle. There is no question that everything we do depends on the people who work for us.  Retaining top talent, and recruiting the best and brightest to work with us (on staff and with consultants!) is the first priority we learn in GM school.  I am kidding about the GM school by the way, but not the priority.  I am blessed a hundred times over to have a fantastic staff in my office, and executive team for the enterprise.   I am also always on the look for top talent, and have hired tremendous additions to our team from St. Louis, New York City and Philadelphia.  And on staff, our excellent team specifically includes Ernest Jolly, who leads our strategic planning effort.  No matter what I do or bring to the table, only the team will accomplish our goals.  I want the best.
  2. Champion.  Before engaging on a strategic or change agenda, I suggest that any leader builds pride in the organization first.  Become a champion for your enterprise and its people, who are usually the most underrated and unheralded public servants in any place we exist. We are fundamentally important to every job (every business needs our service), every home (ditto) and every living organism (water is the only element essential to all life!).   What other business can make these claims?  I have seen too many times that new leaders come into an organization with an immediate change agenda based on its imperfections, which may be needed.  But to start there out of the gate will trigger immediate resentment and resistance.  Arrive at your organization and focus first on the positives, which may well be taken for granted, and highlight them to every audience.  You can drive more change as a champion of your enterprise than from any other place.
  3. Understand.  In the leadership equivalent to the Golden Rule, follow-up the effort to champion your enterprise with an aggressive learning campaign to hear from it.  Unless change is immediately needed, take the time to listen to as many of your employees as you can before fleshing out your agenda.  Everyone will be grateful that you listened before deciding what to do – and my bet is that your change agenda will itself change significantly based on what you hear.  In addition, you will gain invaluable insight into the champions for change, critical thought leaders, and the main obstacles to your agenda.  Not only the agenda, but your implementation strategy can be improved as a result.
  4. Wins.  I always recommend that the first few changes you drive are based on what you have heard in the enterprise, be somewhat more modest so that the change can be achieved relatively quickly, and be designed to be visible.  Your folks will long remember if your first steps are to make an improvement or change that they have long sought.  The sense, and I hope the reality, that your agenda is ultimately to make things better for everyone will be founded on this step.
  5. Inward.  Before engaging political and/or governing bodies on strategic planning, start to build the agenda with the staff.  We have all experienced planning where a governing body or similar entity has gone off and built a new plan for an organization that is disconnected to its current priorities or realities.  Such plans can be elegant, insightful and interesting – but usually fail or become appealing documents relegated to the bookshelf or hard drive.  Starting with an agenda that is cooked up first with the team will make sure it is connected to reality.  The risk in this approach is that the plan will not be far-reaching enough – that current reality will stifle creative ideas that should be on the table.   One of the primary jobs of the chief executive then, is to make sure the agenda is connected to what can be done, but still pushes the organization to its limits, sometimes outside our comfort zone, to achieve better results.
  6. Let Go.  Once the executive team has formed the structure of the agenda, the governing body must be brought in to take charge.  That is what they are – the governing body – and they must take ownership of the plan.  That requires the difficult step of letting go of the carefully thought-out plan to the governing body to be reshaped and recast according to their priorities.  My experience is that the reshaping is important, and almost always right-on: governing bodies add issues or components that are important to them.  The plan must reflect these priorities, and we on staff need to know what these issues are as soon as we can.  This step also creates an ownership interest in the plan by the governing body, which is fundamentally important to its success.  Again, the chief executive has a critical role in making sure the governing body has a sense of the reality and implementation issues associated with any new idea.  Ultimately, though, this must be the board’s plan.
  7. Feedback.  So after the agenda is set and then molded by the governing body, be sure to include another feedback loop round with the staff.  This is a structured process to be sure that new ideas are vetted by the folks who must do the work.  While it may be hard to reject ideas proposed by the governing body, it is perfectly appropriate to review them for implementation and cost issues.  Again, the chief executive will need to take the lead in informing the governing board with how much an idea will cost, and how and when it can be done on a practical basis.  This exchange will be critical to making sure they understand the consequence of their decisions on the plan, and are fully aware of the budgetary and other resource issues and questions that will come.
  8. Integrate.  Once the plan has been finalized and planning hopes are melded with implementation realities, it is time for the hard-core integration of the plan into the workings of the organization.  At DC Water, every objective in Blue Horizon has been assigned a champion, and has been reviewed for budgetary needs and schedule requirements.  Budgets for upcoming years are being modified, and performance goals for critical employees are being revised to include the milestones in the plan.  Finally, we are devising a cascading series of metrics – general at the board level – unfolding down with more specificity into the enterprise, to measure our success.  Reporting on Blue Horizon will become a principal part of our monthly reporting to the Board, and a principal part of my performance review as well!
  9. Give unto Rome.  When the plan starts to unfold, spread around the credit for its accomplishments far and wide.  Invite in political leaders, labor and organizational chiefs, community leaders, environmental advocates – anyone who can help publicize the success and share in being part of the effort.  This step is hard sometimes, particularly when inviting in someone who has been a critic or an obstacle.  But my experience is that some positive publicity and giving of credit helps gain friends and allies for the future.  For some of the more ambitious parts of any plan, friends and allies galore will be essential.
  10. Go Public, Go Big, Have Fun!  When the plan is unfolding and accomplishments start to roll – even some of the smaller initial steps – take the time to sing praises from the mountaintops.  Engage the media, provide demonstrations, give tours – anything that can drum up interest.  For DC Water, we do not spend as much time publicizing the plan itself, which has little interest to our stakeholders on its own, and runs into the skepticism almost anyone has about yet another “plan.”  But when we achieve something, or launch a new effort, we go crazy about getting the word out.  For our tunneling program, for example, we have named our machine “Lady Bird” for Lady Bird Johnson (an early champion of cleaning up the Potomac, and yes, we checked with the family) and the machine now has its own twitter feed! Even more ambitions outreach has accompanied our drinking water campaigns, including our “Must have Water” campaign (with pictures of interns reaching for water on buses and the like) and our water taste tests outside Metro stops.  Making this fun is good for the staff, and starts to drive interest in the media and the public.
The Naming Ceremony for Lady Bird
Following some form of these ten steps will not guarantee success – unfortunately except for death and taxes, little is guaranteed in life.  But I can assure you that your opportunity to build an exciting, relevant, strategy document that will help you guide your organization to higher performance and more customer satisfaction will increase ten times ten times!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Gray, Green and the Bright Future of Washington, DC

Resident Engineer James Wonneberg speaks to the Washington Post
Wow!  I have to give constant credit to our external affairs team at DC Water because they do such a fantastic job getting our message out to our customers and many stakeholders.  The best recent example is the coverage we received for our deep tunneling project on the front page – above the fold as they say – of the Washington Post Sunday newspaper on February 16.  Not only did we have coverage on A-1, all of A-8 and part of A-9, with informative and fascinating graphics to boot, but we had additional pictures and a video added online.  Take a look!

Article: Meet Lady Bird, a massive machine digging out a solution to D.C. wastewater woes
Graphic: The dirty work under the District
Photo Gallery: Digging deep under the District
Blog Follow up: You asked for more about Lady Bird, we answered

The Lady Bird tunnel boring machine is part of the Clean Rivers Project – or the program dictated by a Consent Decree entered in the Federal Court to create a Long Term Control Plan (LTCP) to respond to a combination of rainfall and sewage that overflows to our Rivers during significant rainstorms.  My great thanks to John Lisle and Pam Mooring in External Affairs, and of course our excellent Clean Rivers Team led by Leonard Benson and Carlton Ray.

My Visit to Lady Bird with Carlton Ray and James Wonneberg
The Post video adds helpful technical details to a similar video we have done of a visit I had made down into the tunnel.  Just like Ashley Halsey III, the Post writer who visited Lady Bird, I was fascinated by the complexity, scale and importance of the tunneling work.  We are hugely grateful to the Post for covering this story and absolutely believe the ultimate conclusion of this work will be a permanent improvement to the waterways of the District and ultimately the Chesapeake Bay.

This fascinating story does not stop here, but connects directly to another fascinating opportunity about the future of the District that is unfolding now.  In short, while we plan to complete the tunnels to nearly eliminate combined sewer overflows to the Anacostia River, we are proposing an alternative to the tunneling plan for the second two phases of the project.  Rather than build tunnels alone, we are proposing a green hybrid – a combination of tunnels and green infrastructure (GI) that can capture rainfall at the surface before it makes it to the tunnels in the first place.  This new 12-minute video explains our plans:

Several critical issues need to be highlighted about our proposal.

1. Proposal.  This hybrid idea is a proposal!  We are on-time and on-budget to complete the tunneling projects contemplated by the Consent Decree.  For those of you who don’t know, combined sewer overflows (CSOs) occur when pipes designed to carry both sewage and rainfall overflow into our waterways. This happens when there is too much rainfall entering the pipes from storm drains on the streets.

2. Summary.  We will build the largest tunnels to nearly eliminate overflows to the Anacostia River.  We seek to replace a short tunnel planned for the Piney Branch (part of Rock Creek) with $60 million of GI in the area where stormwater to the Piney Branch originates.  We seek to replace the existing design of a larger tunnel along the Potomac River in Georgetown with a shorter tunnel, some separation of sewers and storm drains (to eliminate the combined flow) and $30 million of GI in the area that drains to the part of the Potomac tunnel we plan to eliminate.  This is our hybrid plan – part tunnel, part GI, part sewer/stormwater separation.

3. Public Comment.  This is a proposal that is subject to formal public comment.  Anyone who would like to comment is encouraged to do so by March 14.  Information about the proposal and how to comment is posted on our website at

4. Green Infrastructure.  GI refers to rebuilding the surface of the landscape that surrounds us to capture rainwater and use it as the valuable resource that it is – to help nurture a greening of the city in new tree boxes, vegetated boxes and bioswales, greenroofs and other amenities.  All the rainwater that is captured to help green the city is less flow that must be accommodated in our underground pipes.  Rather than capturing that overflow in deep underground tunnels that no one sees, we capture it in green amenities that make our city a more desirable place to live.  I wrote a more detailed blog post in December that identifies questions that GI can answer (Top 10 Reasons to Implement Green Infrastructure and How Pittsburgh is Showing the Way).

5. Performance.  The best modeling available about the performance of GI indicates that our hybrid approach will yield comparable environmental results to the all-tunnel plan.  In fact, much of the benefit to GI will come on-line sooner.  Obviously, a tunnel does not start doing its work until it is finished.  And for the Rock Creek and Potomac, we are not planning to be finished until 2025.  For GI, water quality improvements start as soon as a GI amenity is constructed, which will be as early as 2015.  Then the benefits that derive are cumulative each year thereafter.  The bottom line, though, is that our hybrid will deliver comparable benefits to the tunnels on water quality indices narrowly defined.  We seek the GI alternative, though, because we know there are so many other benefits that GI offers to energy use, climate, quality of life and job creation.  To us, a dollar spent on GI delivers far better results for Washington, DC and the region.

6. Timing - Part 1.  To date, we have only accelerated our work under the Consent Decree.  We are on-time and on-budget for the largest pieces of the work – which are the tunnels for the Anacostia River.  We have accelerated two huge components of that project – building a $140 million tunnel along First Street in NW to reduce flooding in Bloomingdale and LeDroit Park almost 10 years earlier than planned, and then moving forward the entire $600 million Northeast Boundary Tunnel – the portion of the CSO plan that will nearly eliminate the threat of flooding in the central part of the city – by 3 years.  Plus we are funding and building $2.9 million of GI in the Bloomingdale neighborhood, and have funding an immediate plan to capture rainwater in one sand filter at the old McMillan water treatment facility.  Our record and credibility on undertaking the work required of us is absolutely clear.

7. Timing - Part 2.  We are seeking a 7-year extension to complete the hybrid project – to be completed with everything by 2032.  We need the additional time because doing GI is actually much more complicated to plan and execute.  Rather than working out of sight and out of mind deep under the ground, we will be rebuilding city streets to manage stormwater.  This work will benefit the city many times over, but by necessity will cause disruption at the street level while the work is being done.  Only a certain amount of street work can be undertaken at one time until the amount of temporary loss of parking spaces and turn lanes make neighborhoods impassable.  We seek the extension to plan out the GI work over time, and the tunnel along the Potomac, so that the community can handle the actual work.

8. Price.  The total cost of our Clean Rivers project will remain essentially unchanged, although extended out over seven more years.  We are not proposing the GI hybrid to save money – although the extension of work will be helpful to manage the rate increases that our customers face to pay for this extraordinary scale of work.  We project rate increases for at least the next 20 years, in large measure to pay for the size and scale of the Clean Rivers project.  An additional 7 years to complete the project will allow us to manage rate increases more moderately over a longer period, particularly in the 2020's.  We are greatly concerned about the affordability of this project, particularly when added to the vast range of additional capital projects necessary to deliver clean water in the Washington, DC region, for our low and fixed income customers.  While this proposal does not eliminate the challenge to this segment of our ratepayers, it helps.  Some of our analysis on the consequence to our ratepayers is included in our Proposed Modification to the Long Term Control Plan (Appendix E, page 211).

9. District Team.  We will not succeed at GI without a close collaboration with the District government.  Most of the work will be done in the public space controlled by the District Department of Transportation, and we will have to work closely with the Office of Planning, Department of Public Works and a host of other agencies.  The good news is that Mayor Gray is a strong proponent, and his able City Administrator (and our Board Chair!) has convened a cross-cutting team to make sure we can deliver on what we promise.  This is not just a DC Water proposal, it is a proposal by the entire City about its future!  Mayor Gray reiterated his support in a letter on January 31, 2014.

10. Jobs.  Last but certainly not least, the jobs component of the GI project is one of its best attributes.  Deep tunneling work does create jobs – although the “sand hogs” who do this work are fairly specialized, and tend to travel from place to place to do it.  GI is work rebuilding streets, planting trees, constructing green shrubbery boxes and bioswales – work that is more accessible for folks who need jobs and can be trained to do it.  We hope to have the challenge of building an associated job-training course with local providers to identify candidates to do this GI work, generating good, long-term jobs that are meaningful to water quality and the city.  Once GI is constructed it must be maintained – many of these jobs will be permanent!

I could go on even longer about how excited the DC Water team is about the prospects of GI – but that would make this GI post, already the longest I have written, even more of a challenge for the reader.  So I will conclude here and dearly hope that many folks will comment on our proposal and support this direction.  Ultimately, we will only be able to implement our GI hybrid proposal if it is supported by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Department of Justice.  Our federal partners need to hear from you!

To comment on the proposed modification, please take a moment to fill out this short survey or email us at