April 2, 2015 05:01 PM

The Suffolk County Water Authority Board this week approved Operating and Maintenance and Capital Budgets, in the amounts of $170.1 and $68.6 million, respectively, for the fiscal year ending May 31, 2016. The budgets include numerous initiatives that will benefit Authority customers.

The capital budget includes an investment of more than $4 million above the current capital budget of $9,339,000 for water main replacement, which will provide substantial additional protection against water main breaks. The importance of such an investment was clear during this winter’s brutal cold and resulting spike in breaks. (SCWA responded to 139 water main breaks in January and 204 in February, but despite the high numbers, SCWA employees beat the Authority’s internal benchmark for water restoration by an average 29 minutes in January and 19 minutes in February.)

The budget also includes more than $2 million above the current capital budget for improvements to the Authority’s distribution system, which will ensure that SCWA customers continue to receive the highest quality water.

A $750,000 increase in the capital budget will pave the way for key technological advancements that will greatly improve the efficiency of operations throughout the Authority, which will in turn lead to cost savings for SCWA customers. The bulk of the funding will go toward the installation of mobile workforce technology, which, when fully implemented, will streamline many aspects of the Authority’s operations.

Funding has been provided to hire leak detection staff and to purchase leak detection equipment.

Additionally, money has been allocated to conduct research on the cause of water main breaks and how to prevent them. These steps, collectively, should help to reduce water main breaks and therefore save a substantial amount of money.

"We feel these proactive investments in our future will greatly benefit our customers in the long run," said SCWA Chairman James F. Gaughran.

SCWA maintains excellent bond ratings of AAA from Fitch Inc. and AA+ from Standard & Poor’s Rating Services, which has kept the Authority’s bond interest costs low.

The Authority this year will also begin the installation of new generators throughout its service territory to bolster emergency power systems and will replace undersized water main with larger water main in areas either prone to storm impacts or serving critical facilities. These projects, totaling $24,700,000, were included in the 2015 Capital Budget as part of a 25% grant, 75% zero-interest loan under the New York State Drinking Water State Revolving Fund Storm Mitigation Loan Program. The water main projects are in Huntington, Sag Harbor, North Haven and the Fire Island community of Cherry Grove.

The Suffolk County Water Authority is an independent public-benefit corporation operating under the Public Authorities Law of the State of New York. Serving approximately 1.2 million Suffolk County residents, the Authority operates without taxing power on a not-for-profit basis.

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