Transparency Throughout the System

 

The Birmingham Water Works (BWW) is committed to non-discriminatory service and provides service to all customers throughout its service area regardless of what location customers live in, work, or visit. That is why the company’s primary goal is provide the highest quality water to its customers and to be responsive to the needs of the entire community. The BWW vows to maintain, preserve, and conserve our most precious resource, water, in order to ensure the supply for future generations.  

As a result of the company’s financial condition, the board’s current bond rating is AA with Standard and Poor’s and Aa2 with Moody’s – both of which were recently upgraded – a rating that places the utility among some of the highest rated water utilities in the nation. The recent upgrades also saved the company’s ratepayers money. The BWW attributes Standard and Poor’s and Moody’s recent ratings upgrades to the work of its efficient governance model, a model the company says works best for its ratepayers, bondholders, and stakeholders.

While the BWW maintains that the governance model has worked effectively for over 50 years, legislation was introduced last year to revamp the current composition of the board. However, the BWW continues to assert that the board functions properly and efficiently. Although, the BWW has no intention of changing their system, they do recognize that the company should better communicate to legislators, local elected officials, and to the customer how the Board works to meet daily and long-term goals.   

Additionally, as an all-inclusive company, the BWW values transparency and welcomes the public to take part in public meetings, which include rate discussions. The utility also encourages the public to attend budgeting workshops, which allows the dialogue between consumers and the company to remain open. Ratepayers have several opportunities to attend budget workshops and board meetings where rates are discussed before any final decisions on the rates are made. Rates are discussed at least 60 days before they are approved and they are approved 30 days prior to taking effect. The budgeting process is as follows:

  • Budget parameters are submitted.
  • Scenarios and options for board consideration are submitted.
  • At least three open budget workshops are conducted and at least three board meetings are held to discuss budget and potential rate increases.
  • The board votes on a new budget at least 30 days before it goes into effect.

Furthermore, where transparency is concerned, the BWW is interested in open and honest discussions. Discussions on rates last a minimum of 60 days where during this time open meetings and deliberations are held. The Board also operates under Alabama’s Open Meetings Act and it a uses the rate stabilization and equalization model to determine its rates.

 BWW refinanced  $23 million of existing bonds and an issuance of over $70 million dollars in new money bonds for capital improvements during 2013. Wall Street’s support of these bond issues during tough economic times is a testament to BWW’s financial strengths.

In addition to fair and reasonable service, consumers pay an equitable rate regardless of class and location. BWW customers pay less money for higher quality water than other consumers locally and in the southeast.

In reviewing the past 12 months, numerous BWW employees rose to the occasion and made stellar system improvements and achievements. Throughout the year, the company heightened its reliability through several capital improvement projects that enhanced the quality of the system. Those projects helped assure the company’s ability to deliver water to more than 200,000 connections, which service more than 14,000 fire hydrants that provide water and fire protection throughout its service area.  

             The BWW continued to excel in receiving awards throughout 2013, a few of those include the Alabama Department of Environmental Management’s Optimized Plant Award, American Water Works Association (AWWA) Phase Three and Four Awards, the AWWA’s Alabama/Mississippi Section Senior Plant Operator of the Year Award, the 2013 Top 125 Training Award from the nationally recognized Training Magazine (second consecutive year), as well as the American Water and Pollution Control Association’s Charles W. White Award.

The company’s Pipe Tapping Team won its 10th National Championship during AWWA’s Annual Conference Exhibition 2013 (ACE13) after having received their 5th World Championship at the 2013 World Water Cup. Additionally, the BWW’s Top Operators won their 3rd National Championship at ACE13.

The BWW’s ultimate goal is to continue to provide water with the best quality and taste, as well as to provide quality service to all of its customers, while upholding transparent and open communications system-wide.