April 1, 2016 05:43 PM

The Suffolk County Water Authority this week approved operating and capital budgets for the fiscal year ending May 31, 2017 of $177.8 million and $69.8 million, respectively, that include funding for numerous proactive initiatives that will position the Authority to continue to thrive in the coming decades.

This year’s budgets place a strong emphasis on taking proactive steps to prevent water main breaks. During this fiscal year, the Authority will increase investment in leak detection technology and computer forecasting. These initiatives will help Authority staff detect potentially problematic water mains before they break, which should lead to significant long-term savings.

The Authority will also be taking the next steps toward the implementation of a complete mobile workforce management system that will significantly decrease reliance on paper work orders and provide automated resource planning, scheduling, routing and dispatching of work.  The capital budget includes $1.3 million to begin the process of implementing this technology, which, once fully implemented, will lead to tremendous efficiencies throughout Authority operations.

Another project that will help make Authority operations far more efficient is the implementation of Automated Meter Reading technology. Originally scheduled to be completed in 2019, the increased use of SCWA employees to replace manual meters with AMR meters has enabled us to move up the target date for the project’s completion by one year. Once these meters fully saturate our service territory, meter readings will be able to be recorded in a fraction of the time it takes to conduct a manual read, leading to tremendous savings. And this year’s budget included $900,000 in funds for the purchase of the next level of technology for AMR meters.

This year’s budgets continue the Authority’s commitment to the conversion of a substantial portion of the vehicle fleet to vehicles using compressed natural gas (CNG) and other fuel-efficient technologies. This year, the Authority has budgeted the final $500,000  of a $1.5 million plan to build a new maintenance facility that will be CNG-compliant, which will enable the department to conduct major repairs to these vehicles in-house. A CNG fueling station that will make the fueling of these vehicles far more efficient is already under construction.

Also this year, SCWA engineers will design and build a filtration system to remove any trace amounts of the contaminant 1,4 dioxane from groundwater at one of our pump stations. This full-scale pilot project is just another example of the Authority leading the way when it comes to providing our customers with drinking water of the highest quality.

This year will also mark the introduction of the Authority’s first-ever system-wide hydrant flushing program, which will enable Authority staff to keep SCWA’s massive distribution system free of accumulated sediment in an organized, structured fashion.

For more information about the Authority’s budget initiatives, go to scwa.com and look for the link on the bottom left of the page that reads "Budget 2017."

SCWA continues to maintain bond ratings that are among the best in the industry. Current ratings are AAA from Fitch Inc. and AA+ from Standard & Poor’s Rating Services. These high ratings help to keep the Authority’s bond interest costs low.

The Suffolk County Water Authority is an independent public-benefit corporation operating under the authority of 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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