© 2019 Econics Innovations Inc. DBA Waterworth
Customer since 2017 | Population: 2,074
- Years of flat water rates and little development have led to delayed asset replacement.
- Often maintenance has been deferred in order to keep rates low.
RESULTS & BENEFITS
- Waterworth provided easy-to-explain visual representations of the state of the water system.
- Elected officials gained a clearer understanding of the current system’s issues and future revenue needs, making them more likely to support critical rate increases.
Granby, Colorado, is a town of approximately 1864 residents, located about 85 miles northwest of Denver. Water department staff previously relied on the then-standard practice of utilizing consultants and engineers for water rate reviews. Contracting with an engineer for a rate study analysis can often reach a cost of $10K. With that contract, they’d also possibly need the engineer to present to the board, with the need for follow-ups and adding to the final cost.
Doug Bellatty, Superintendent of the Town Water Departments, felt that even with those follow-ups, the engineer’s analysis could be inadequate, since it would be assessing existing infrastructure but potentially not addressing future needs, such as infrastructure replacement and community development. It was a situation that would leave Granby stuck in a band-aid approach, because of reserves that are — and would remain — essentially too low. Inadequate reserves and a backlog of long overdue capital improvements is an all too common circumstance for small communities across the Mountain West and North America.
In addition, Doug says the community has also been struggling to address deferred maintenance, which has been an issue for years — but which has allowed the system to keep rates low. Aging infrastructure that is undersized and unable to adequately support current needs can also undermine future development. So with growing urgency, Granby has been trying to make up for lost time, and as Doug points out, “We are trying to get to the point of running a sustainable water system.”
GETTING UNSTUCK WITH WATERWORTH
Waterworth helps Doug and his team convey the condition of the system to the board and the community at large, including rate payers, allowing them to drive home the message that raising rates is absolutely critical. Waterworth also helps make the message crystal clear that the revenue generated through those increases is essential to annual reinvestment in the system — reinvestment that is needed to ensure long-term sustainability.
Doug says that with Waterworth, he knows the direction he needs to be moving with rate increases, and he’s able to clearly convey that information to the people who make the final decisions. He particularly appreciates Waterworth’s graphs — easily explained visual depictions of “what’s going on with the system”. Also of great value is the ability to demonstrate live, in real-time, how even small changes to rates, up or down, will impact the model. Doug says being able to visually, “…represent the system, its state, is very important because town boards are focused on a lot of different stuff and rates are complicated.” Conveying the need and gaining consensus are two very different aspects, but utilizing Waterworth enables systems to do both.
These more meaningful conversations with elected officials, about both the state of the current system and future needs, have been crucial to improving what was previously no more than a very basic grasp of the scope of the system. “Town boards may or may not understand how many water treatment systems they have, how much compliance is required, how elaborate the systems are,” says Doug. But with Waterworth, he finds it easier to help the board connect the dots and gain a deeper understanding of the true cost of reliable, safe water service, both currently and into the future.
THE VALUE OF PROFESSIONAL SUPPORT
Initially, Doug had a few concerns about making the jump to Waterworth. He was concerned about his own technical ability as far as learning to use the program, as well as about compiling and entering the necessary data. As the primary administrator of four water systems, someone with little help and huge demands on his time, Doug was particularly concerned about the time commitment Waterworth would require, both in terms of the initial data entry and actually performing annual rate reviews.
Since starting with the software, Doug has found that Waterworth’s support staff has been great at helping keep him on track, making progress toward meeting his goals, even going as far as providing live support during presentations to the board. Describing the staff he’s worked with as, “Very patient, very capable,” Doug says support has been so good, he can envision a time when he’ll be comfortable using Waterworth on his own, even with the constraints on his time. “Down the road, I think that it’s entirely likely that I’ll be able to handle it all by myself.”
AN EYE TO THE FUTURE
Doug’s goal is to get the system into the best financial position possible over the next 12 or so years. He’s aiming to build enough cash reserves to replace one of the town’s aging water treatment plants, if not to pay for it outright then to at least qualify for grants or loans to cover any shortfall. The water treatment plant is a 40-year-old plant and, “no equipment lasts forever”.
Granby is also bringing a new water system online soon, due to a large development, and Doug is excited about getting that system into Waterworth as well. “I look forward to doing that data entry,” he says, “all that infrastructure that’s fairly new, and hopefully we’re able to include capital replacement and operational maintenance… in those rates.”
Overall, Doug’s plan is to continue using Waterworth to illustrate the system’s needs to the board, to deepen their understanding and gain their support for the incremental, annual rate increases that are absolutely critical to reaching those long-term goals. Waterworth provides the system with the rational nexus to not only demonstrate the needed rate increase, but also the defensible rationale for that increase.