The Utility of the Future (UOTF) Today Recognition Program is in its fourth year of honoring water resource recovery facilities for community engagement, watershed stewardship, and recovery of resources such as water, energy, and nutrients and to celebrate the achievements of forward-thinking, innovative water utilities that are providing resilient value-added service to communities.
Utility of the Future Today recognition celebrates the achievements of forward-thinking, innovative water utilities that are providing resilient value-added service to communities, particularly in community engagement, watershed stewardship, and recovery of resources such as water, energy, and nutrients.
The Utility of the Future framework provides a model for utilities of all sizes to achieve more efficient operations, enhanced productivity, and long-term sustainability. The recognition program component, Utility of the Future Today, was launched in 2016 by four water sector organizations—the National Association of Clean Water Agencies (NACWA), the Water Environment Federation (WEF), the Water Research Foundation (WRF) and the WateReuse Association, with input from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
The Utility of the Future concept is being promoted as the nation’s water systems transform operations through innovation and technology. The 43 utilities recognized in 2019 are recovering resources from wastewater, engaging in their community, forming unique partnerships, and building an internal culture of innovation.
The Utility of the Future Today activity areas focus on the key building blocks of this transformation:
- recovery and new uses of a full range of resources;
- engagement as a leader in the full water cycle and broader social, economic, and environmental sustainability of the community;
- transformation of the internal utility culture in support of these innovations; and
- engagement in the community and formation of partnerships necessary for success when operating outside of the traditional span of control of the utility.
Since the Utility of the Future concept was introduced in 2013, over 118 utilities have successfully implemented new and creative programs to address local wastewater technical and community challenges. The recognition program's honorees are featured during WEFTEC each fall.
The sponsoring organizations for this recognition program understand that substantial excellence in the operations of wastewater treatment systems exists today. Many utilities optimize and continually improve their operations, consistently meet or exceed their regulatory requirements, plan and invest effectively for the maintenance, repair and replacement of their infrastructure, and engage their employees and communities in meaningful and productive ways.
The Utility of the Future Today Recognition Program seeks to reach deeply into the water sector to form and motivate a community of like-minded water utilities engaged in advancing resource efficiency and recovery, developing proactive relationships with stakeholders, and establishing resilient, sustainable, and livable communities. The Recognition Program, through the aggregation and sharing of utility advancements and experiences, will enable participants across a broad continuum of capacities and capabilities to learn from each other and continually grow and sustain their efforts to be, and continually advance the concept of, the Utility of the Future.
Utilities receiving recognition through this program are expected to share their practices and experiences to create a community of practice around the Utility of the Future Today, and to enable other utilities to continually learn from each other and evolve as a sector.
The “Water Resources Utility of the Future” was first articulated in a 2013 publication jointly prepared by the National Association of Clean Water Agencies (NACWA), the Water Environment Federation (WEF), and the Water Environment Research Foundation (WERF). The Water Resources Utility of the Future: A Blueprint for Actionsought to capture in one place current, emergent, and possible wastewater utility opportunities that, packaged together, presented a revolutionary future for the sector. That revolution would transform the traditional wastewater treatment system to a community-based resource recovery center and leader in the overall sustainability and resilience of the communities they serve.
While a variety of initiatives exist to promote and acknowledge excellent performance and sustainable management of utilities focused on our sector’s historic priorities – providing reliable, affordable, and responsible wastewater collection and treatment service, the most prominent of these is Effective Utility Management (EUM) (www.WaterEUM.org). While EUM is not a requirement for recognition under this program, utilities are encouraged to use the EUM framework as they seek to become a Utility of the Future.
“Being recognized validates our organization’s path of continuous improvement that’s informed by best practices and a commonality of experience with other water utilities that are transforming the nation’s water systems.”
Hardeep Anand, P.E., Deputy Director
Miami-Dade Water and Sewer Department FL
“We’ve participated in the Utility of the Future Recognition Program since its launch. The Program is one of the ways we measure performance and cultivate a culture of learning within our organization and our industry. Utility of the Future is also a platform for telling our story: To our ratepayers and stakeholders, to our organizational peers and partners, and – perhaps most importantly – to each other”
Diane Taniguchi-Dennis, P.E., BCEE, MBA, Chief Executive Officer, Clean Water Services, OR
“I extend my gratitude to NACWA, WEF, WaterReuse Association, WE&RF & EPA for advancing efforts in water resource recovery through the Utility of the Future Today Recognition program. We were proud to be honored for leading innovative solutions that are enhancing our environment, improving our precious water resource, and contributing to the quality of life for Fayetteville citizens.”
Mayor of Fayetteville AR
“Gwinnett County has been an innovative leader in the water sector for many years. Being recognized two years in a row as a Utility of the Future Today has become a source of pride for our employees, community, and County leadership. And it is a designation that we will continue to seek.”
Tyler Richards, Assistant Director
Gwinnett County Department of Water Resources GA
“Through setting high performance standards, the Utility of the Future Today partnership helps CWW to continuously compete and improve, thereby building stronger trust from customers and instilling a servant’s heart within our employees in regard to environmental stewardship.”
Steve Davis, President
Columbus Water Works GA
“Recognition as a Utility of the Future Today means Phoenix residents can be confident that their water utility is committed to resiliency, innovation, and working with the community to use – and reuse -- water efficiently and sustainably."
Kathryn Sorensen, Director
City of Phoenix Water Services Department AZ
“We see this recognition as an honor, and vindication of the City’s vision and commitment with multiple private and public partners to create a one water utility that will provide our community with a sustainable water supply for the foreseeable future.”
Tim Snead, City Administrator
City of Quincy WA