Member Case Study – May 2017

  • by Pamela Martineau
  • May 26, 2017
  • Newsletters

Contra Costa Water District’s Partnership Program with Belize Pays It Forward

Challenge

CCWD and BWS staff inspect a battery-operated meter in a new service line in Belize.

Not all water operators throughout the world have the opportunity to learn the latest techniques in water operations, worker safety, engineering and technical services. Officials with the Contra Costa Water District wanted to help change that reality.

In 2010, with funding from the InterAmerican Development Bank and the United Nations Human Settlements Program (UNHabitat), CCWD launched a water operators’ partnership with Belize Water Services. Over the next nearly seven years, the partnership evolved and moved into new areas of focus. Now, BWS is looking to mentor other water services in other parts of the world, particularly in the Caribbean.

In other words, the partners are now paying it forward – multiplying the training to spread the benefits worldwide. And CCWD officials say they’ve reaped as many benefits from the partnership as they’ve sown.

“The opportunity to work with Belize Water Services has been a great experience for our board and employees,” said CCWD Board President Lisa M. Borba. “CCWD is designated as the mentor; however, throughout this partnership, our agencies have mutually shared much information, to the benefit of all involved.”

Solution

Phase 1 of the partnership began in 2010 and ended in 2011. The program consisted of two BWS staff trips to CCWD to develop an action plan for improvements to BWS operations and practices. Staff from CCWD then traveled to BWS facilities to assess progress on that mutually developed action plan, according to a report on the venture.

At the outset of the partnership, staff from BWS and CCWD jointly selected the areas of focus for training. They included safety, operations, engineering, customer service, information technology, and finance.

CCWD and BWS staff conclude a debriefing following CCWD’s site visit to Belize in March 2015.

Worker safety was a huge focus of Phase 1. Throughout the partnership process, CCWD has worked with BWS to promote safety through information sharing, outreach, education and exchange of best practices. Subsequently, BWS developed an executive safety committee and an employee safety committee comprised of workers from throughout its system. The committee meetings have helped to enforce the safety culture across the organization and have provided an open forum where employees can share their concerns.

Phase 2 Built on the Success of Previous Work

Phase 2 of the partnership, launched in 2013, continued the progress made in Phase 1, and was funded with monies from Public-Private Infrastructure Advisory Facility (PPIAF) and UN-HABITAT under the Global Water Operators’ Partnerships Alliance Programme (GWOPA). The U.S. Water Partnership was instrumental in securing funding for this phase of the WOP effort.

Phase 2 included one BWS staff trip to CCWD to build on the knowledge gained in Phase 1 and one CCWD staff trip to BWS facilities to assess progress and provide further recommendations. The areas of focus for Phase 2 were safety, engineering/technical services, information technology, operations, and public affairs. While Phase 1 participants were mainly managers and supervisors, Phase 2 participants were primarily members of field crews.

The specific areas of focus and goals for Phase 2 included:

  • Improving the use of the Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) system at BWS facilities.
  • Certifying all water treatment operators through programs equivalent to that provided by American Water Works Association (AWWA).
  • Establishing a meter calibration program similar to that used at CCWD in order to contribute to the BWS goal to reduce Non-Revenue Water.
  • Adding backflow prevention devices to the water distribution systems.
  • Expanding the water quality monitoring program and exploring the possibility of obtaining lab accreditation, and training lab and field personnel on sample collection and handling.
  • Enhancing educational outreach programs and developing an audiovisual means of exploring.

 Partnership Brings Permanent Changes to Belize Water Services

The partnership between CCWD and BWS has brought permanent, positive changes to the BWS system of operations and has spread to other utilities in the area as well. Safety is now considered at the design stage of new projects, not just during operations. For example, BWS incorporated many safety improvements into its Belmopan Water Treatment Plant Upgrade project, including installing hand rails around rapid sand filters and walkways around the clarifiers.

Traffic control safety improvements for work performed in and around streets and highways have gained the attention of other utilities in Belize as well. The electrical utility has implemented improvements to its traffic control procedures that are modeled after BWS procedures. The increased attention paid to safety has been expanded to contractors too. Now BWS staff makes sure that all contractors working on projects for BWS are properly outfitted with personal protective equipment and are following safe practices.

Through the use of SCADA, BWS also is expanding its service to previously unreachable areas, and now has the ability to make logic and programming changes to remote sites from the main office.

Significant progress in operator certification and training also has been made at BWS, and the utility has enrolled over 80 employees in numerous certification programs available through California State University, Sacramento.

But participating CCWD employees gained immensely from the program too. When asked to use one word to capture their visit to Belize their choice of words said it all. They were: inspiring, unforgettable, life-altering, enlightening, and meaningful.


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