CITY OF ATLANTA, GA
In 1997, the City of Atlanta faced a financial crisis with its water system. Upgrading the aging system to new state-mandated standards was projected to add an overwhelming 81% to existing water rates. Not surprisingly, Atlanta. s citizens and local businesses voiced strong opposition to the proposed rate increases. As a result, the City of Atlanta embarked upon operational and cost-saving evaluations of its water and wastewater systems.
Atlanta Mayor Bill Campbell opted to form a public/private partnership to oversee new investment and management of the city. s water system. After a year-long selection process, Mayor Campbell awarded a 20-year contract to United Water Services Atlanta (UWSA), a joint venture of United Water Services and the local engineering firm of Williams-Russell & Johnson. Starting January 1, 1999, UWSA assumed operational responsibility over the city. s two water treatment plants; 12 water system storage tanks; 7 zone-transfer pumping stations; 25,000 fire hydrants; and 2,400 miles of water distribution mains. Additionally, USWA has been given responsibility for managing billing, collections, and customer service. In total, USWA serves 1.5 million residents over a 650 square-mile area.
From facing an 81% rate increase in 1997, Atlanta. s water users can now expect to see a total of $400 million in actual cost savings over the life of UWSA. s contract. At the same time, service quality is expected to improve with the current $4 million investment in a new computer system and software, and another $5 million in planned system upgrades. In addition, United Water Services Atlanta is guaranteeing $32 million in value-added operational services and $46 million in added revenues to the city. s enterprise fund.
To date, UWSA has successfully transitioned over 400 employees, doubled productivity in key areas, and established a One-Call Center for Customer Service. Employees are guaranteed existing jobs with wages and benefits equal to or exceeding those offered under public operation. Additionally, employees are being trained in new skills (over 6,500 staff training hours were provided in 1999).
United Water Services Atlanta shares the city. s vision to significantly stimulate economic development and is committed to playing a positive role in the community. UWSA has actively supported the Atlanta Empowerment Zone (EZ) by establishing its regional headquarters within the EZ, establishing an Institute for Water Resources Development, adopting a local high school, and establishing college internships with the Atlanta University Center.
United Water is also committed to involving the local minority community. Williams-Russell & Johnson is now the most successful minority-owned engineering firm within the national water/wastewater privatization industry. Furthermore, after only 11 months of operation, UWSA has achieved levels of minority and female participation that are unprecedented for the City of Atlanta. For example, in November UWSA achieved 80% participation level for minority and female subcontractors and 42% for minority and female commodities/suppliers.For more information, please contact:
Deb McGhee Speights
J. Thomas Cochran, Executive Director
1620 Eye Street, NW, Washington, DC 20006
Telephone (202) 293-7330, FAX (202) 293-2352