DWM was formed in September 2002 to manage the City of Atlanta’s essential utility operations: drinking water, wastewater and stormwater systems. As part of this operation, DWM manages one of the largest water capital improvement programs in the country at an estimated cost of approximately $4 billion. In addition, the wastewater component of the capital program is largely controlled by two Federal Consent Decrees that have perhaps the most stringent and demanding schedule and performance requirements in the country. These Consent Decrees were ordered by the Federal Court in 1998 and 1999 to compel the City of Atlanta to address the conditions of the wastewater system that had been significantly underfunded and seriously under‐maintained for decades. Watershed Management completed all construction for the first Consent Decree in 2008 in what was termed by the Federal judge a “remarkable accomplishment”. In 2003 the Department resumed operational control of drinking water system that had been outsourced in 1998. This system was in a similar operational condition and subject to two State Consent Orders. These systems are essential to the public health and safety of the residents of the City as well as the economic stability of the City, Region and State. Both systems were in a state of significant disrepair and potential failure.
Since 2002 DWM has made significant improvements in both the physical state and performance of the water utilities. Under a detailed Strategic Plan, focused on continuous improvement, the program moved from no financial plan for the $4 billion capital program to a detailed plan with successful implementation of rate increases, a dedicated municipal sales tax, bond issues, improved budgeting processes and effective costcontrols. The capital program has eliminated over 400 million gallons per year of sewer spills from local streams and rivers, while compliance has avoided millions of dollars in fines and a sewer connection moratorium. The avoidance of the moratorium allowed continued development with a $19 billion economic benefit to the City. From nine boiled water advisories in 2002 the number dropped to zero in 2008. Over the same period, annual water leak repairs rose from 750 to 9,600. Revenue collections rose from approximately 90% to over 98%. Estimated water bills dropped from over 200,000 annually to approximately 110,000 annually and malfunctioning water meters from an estimated 20,000 to approximately 4,000.
Significant improvements have been made in a wide range of operational areas including facility operations, street construction repairs, steel plate management, customer service and call center performance, sewer inspections, financial performance, billing system capabilities & performance, and employee training, retention and recruitment. However, this is a long‐term program of continuous improvement. The Consent Decree extends to 2014, the Water Loss Program will take years to fully implement and decades to complete, the first stage of the water meter replacement and AMR program will be completed this Summer and move to subsequent phases, and the intense capital program ultimately needs to evolve to a long‐term asset management program. While there has been substantial progress and accomplishments, there are improvements that still must be made in virtually every aspect of the utility systems and operations over the next decade.