Our Water . Our Community . Our Future
TED Talk presentation on the subject of drinking water and its value to a community:
What is “R&R”?
Most like to think of R&R as “Rest and Relaxation.” Here in the water industry, it’s just the opposite…it’s work…but valuable, very important work. According to the American Water Works Association, “R&R” stands for “Replacement and Rehabilitation.” Of what? Our infrastructure…which consists of our water mains and water services and all the associated parts and pieces. Over time, parts and pieces of any structure (or infrastructure) wear out, break, or are otherwise damaged and need to be replaced. In those times, it’s R&R to the rescue! At this time, there is a need to launch a major 50-year R&R Program that will be replace approximately 180 miles of our 256-mile system. Please read on for more details. (for a map, click here)
Video: The Need for Infrastructure Investment in Washington State:
Lakewood Water District has always been committed to providing for all our customers water service that is reliable, safe and clean in the most cost-efficient and responsible way possible. This means we continually seek the best ways to maintain our system to continue that service well into the future for our community.
In last year’s Water Quality and Annual Report, the message from your Board of Commissioners dwelt at some length on the history of the District’s water transmission facilities, beginning with its acquisition from the federal government in 1943 of the initial 41 miles of water mains and attached individual service lines and the construction of additional mains and lines as our service area expanded, resulting in our present system totaling 256 miles of mains and lines.
Also discussed was the composition of those mains beginning with the original asbestos cement (AC) and cast iron mains and galvanized steel service lines; then in the 1970’s until 1995, mostly polyvinyl chloride (PVC) mains with polyethylene (PE) lines; and from 1995, ductile iron mains with PE lines.
Sewer construction from 1978 to 1985 resulted in hundreds of broken AC water mains and lines requiring repairs but also causing a substantial increase in our “leakage” (the difference between what we pump out of the ground and what we sell). Initially, to deal with these problems, we adopted a leak detection and system repair program; however, the program was not enough to solve the problem. So, in 1995, the District initiated a Water Main Rehabilitation and Replacement (R&R) Program and since has set aside an average of $700,000 each year for replacement of old mains and their associated parts and pieces, including the original galvanized steel service lines, which are subject to corrosion over the long period of time since their installation. Despite these expenditures, 20 to 25 miles of the original mains installed before 1943 (some as early as the 1930’s) are nearing the end of their useful lives; and the galvanized steel lines installed before the 1970’s, as well as the couplings, bands, and clamps used for repair of the many main and line breaks during the sewer construction, are well beyond their service lives. In addition, the brittle AC mains must be replaced to solve our “leakage” problem.
Our District has been blessed with low rates since its inception, in part due to the fact we have not had to make large capital outlays for our transmission system. We did not have to pay the federal government for the initial 41 miles of the system and, except for repairs and replacement, the extension of our system as our service area grew was paid for by developers. Unfortunately, no such “angels” exist to pay for the needed replacement of our system. We must generate the funds ourselves from operating revenue and, likely, borrowed funds. Necessarily, this will result in increased rates over time.
With the assistance of our financial and engineering consultants, and our staff, the Board is working to prepare a plan for replacing about 180 miles of mains and service lines (click here for our 5-year R&R project schedule). In today’s dollars, the estimated cost is approximately $1 million per mile. Obviously, we can’t do it all at once, so the first task is to determine over what period of time it can be done feasibly at a cost bearable by the District and its customers. We are tentatively working with a model of 50 years. If we were to shorten the number of years significantly, the burden would fall more heavily on our present and near-future customers. By spreading the project out over more years, customers coming on board in the more distant future will also help shoulder the burden.
As we stated last year, we are being proactive in setting a schedule now to systematically perform the needed work before things wear out or break with potential damage to homes, businesses, and property.
Early this spring, we formed a Citizen’s Advisory Group representing various sectors of our community. We educated them on the District’s system and our replacement needs; and presented to them our tentative plan. We sought feedback from them…and listened. In turn, they will assist us in presenting the plan to all of our customers.
We are very sensitive to the fact that many of our customers are on limited budgets. Consequently, in our planning, every effort is being made to minimize the burden of rate increases while accomplishing the vital and necessary task of rebuilding our system. After all, part of our stated mission is to provide our customers with water service that meets or exceeds all water quality standards, and we fully intend to fulfill that mission.
We thank you for your continued support of your Lakewood Water District; we will definitely need your help in the days ahead to continue to keep our water system secure and reliable.