CHAPEL HILL – In the past couple years our community-owned water treatment facility, OWASA, has received several awards and kept water rates the same.

Some of those awards include the Platinum Award for Utility Excellence from the Association of Metropolitan Water and the “Excellence in Water Treatment” award from the Partnership for Safe Water. “(And) one of our most recent operational awards is the Partnership for Safe Water’s Distribution System Directors Award for systems who optimize their drinking water system,” says Mary Darr, OWASA’s director of engineering and planning.

And as OWASA receives awards for their drinking water and utility systems, staff continues to work on improving efficiency. “OWASA has for many years had a philosophy of continuous improvement which means that we are constantly trying to see ways to provide a higher quality service, a more reliable service, and a more efficient service” says OWASA public affairs representative Greg Feller.

That philosophy has enabled OWASA to keep water rates the same for the past two years.

“Some of the things we have done in recent years for efficiency is reducing the work force,” Feller says. “We have about 12 percent fewer employees now than we had in 2004.” (As employees left the company, OWASA evaluated the vacant positions and consolidated work to avoid the need to hire new personnel.)

Feller says OWASA’s newest project is focused in improving efficiency at the Mason Farm Wastewater Treatment Plant.

“There is now a project underway (there) that will increase the energy efficiency of the biological treatment process, and we expect that’s going to involve a 20 percent reduction in electricity use,” he says.

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