WATERTODAY reached out to the City of Roswell’s Water Department. Here is what we learned from Water Plant Manager, Jessie James Cash, and Water Utility Manager, Chris Boyd.
WT: The city of Roswell’s Water Utility was recently honored with three statewide awards at the Georgia Association of Water Professionals. Please tell our viewers about these awards and what it has meant to you as a team to have received these honors. What has it taken to achieve that quality of excellence?
Cash: The three awards the water utility received are the GAWP Gold Award (this is the fifth time the plant has received the award given for zero permit and pre-treatment violations); GAWP Water Treatment Plant of the Year Award (given to the best managed, best-operated facility); and the Distribution TopOp Award (presented to Corey Bagby).
It was a great honor for us to be chosen for these three awards. By winning these awards, our team members know how appreciated they are and that their hard work throughout the past year has not gone unnoticed.
It takes building the right team whether it’s distribution or water plant operations. It has taken time for the utility to achieve the quality of excellence we are at now.
WT: In addition to your primary water source, Big Creek as well as the groundwater well are there any other backup plans should there be an emergency shutdown?
Cash: The water utility has developed several redundant plans to deliver high-quality water to its customers. If we can’t draw from Big Creek due to drought conditions or water quality concerns, we have a 10-million-gallon raw water tank at the treatment plant that will supply up to 5 days of water to customers.
Additionally, there are three above-ground storage tanks within the distribution system that store 1.075 MG of potable finished water for customers. Finally, during emergencies when the water treatment plant is down, we maintain six interconnects with Fulton County allowing us to purchase water until the water treatment plant is back online.
WT: Are there population projections that influence future planning for the WTP?
Cash: Yes. We are always thinking about the future. We currently project populations for the next 20 years and as new data is released (Census, ARC projections etc.) our projections are updated. The City is growing at a rate higher than previously projected so it is vital that we plan for future growth and system demand.
WT: As far back as 1838, water has been a central focus for the City of Roswell and the City was designated a WaterFirst Community in 2009. How has the Water Department built upon and maintained that emphasis?
Cash: Roswell strives to be good stewards of our water by promoting water conservation measures and partnering with EPA’s WaterSense Program.
We are always looking at ways to reduce non-revenue water and water waste. In 2011, the City implemented its Automated Metering Infrastructure (AMI) and moved to monthly billing
The new AMI system allowed the City to notify customers of potential leaks within 72 hours.
In 2015, the City launched its customer portal, AquaHawk, giving customers the ability to track their usage and set thresholds to be alerted to potential leaks within 24 hours or less.
The AquaHawk system links to our AMI and billing systems. We recently implemented a real-time pressure monitoring, Smart Hydrants, throughout the water distribution system, which notifies us of pressure drops and extreme fluctuations due to transients.
The AquaHawk Alerting is the customer portal that customers can register to use to track their usage and set thresholds to receive alerts to potential leaks within 24 hours or less. Alerts can be received via email, text or robocall/p>
When we are alerted to pressure drops, we can send a crew to investigate if we have a main break or potential water theft from a hydrant.
For the main breaks, we have been able to be on-site within 5 to 10 minutes from the time we receive the alert. Oftentimes, arriving before the contractor has notified us of the leak. We are also able to track exactly when the break occurred and better estimate the water lost as a result of the leak, as well as when pressure was restored. To date, we have been alerted to approximately 6 main breaks, and 3 instances of someone obtaining water from a hydrant without the proper hydrant meter.
We also maintain and update the City’s Water Utility Master Plan. The most recent plan was updated in 2022. The plan looks to future demands, finances, and projected 5-year capital and operating initiatives/goals to complete.
WT: Please describe the technology in your system.
Cash: The water plant is a conventional WTP that includes a 10 MG raw water storage tank, chemical addition, rapid mixing, four-stage flocculation, sedimentation, dual media filtration, treated water storage, and pumping to the distribution system. Water used for backwashing and rewashing of filters is recycled back to the head of the plant into the raw water storage tank. The current WTP has a design production capacity of 3.3 million gallons per day.
WT: Taste and odor events are widespread throughout Georgia. How does Roswell WTP deal with this?
Cash: We monitor taste and odor by conducting daily odor threshold tests. We sample from our source water, raw water storage tank, and finished water. We also have carbon onsite to use within the treatment process if a potential taste or odor issue is detected.
WT: Lead pipes are also a concern throughout the U.S. Do you have a lead replacement program?
Cash: to date we have not seen any lead pipe services, or goosenecks within the City’s water system. We are currently working on our service line inventory (public and private) to identify if there is a lead pipe within the system. Once identified, we will schedule/plan for replacement. We conduct lead and copper sampling every 3 years. in fact, we are scheduled to sample this year starting in June.
WT: PFAS and other emerging contaminants of concern is something WT is seeing in Canada and the U.S. Are these contaminants a concern for Roswell?
Cash: These chemicals are always a concern for us here at the water utility. We will begin testing for PFAS and PFOS starting in early 2023.
WT: Drought and Flooding Event – how does Roswell plan for this?
Cash: Flooding isn’t a major concern for the water treatment plant since it was built outside the 100-year floodplain. It is also located approximately 60 feet higher in elevation than Big Creek.
Droughts are always a concern. If flows in Big Creek get too low, we are not allowed to withdraw water. We then rely on our 10MG raw water storage tank until flows in Big Creek increase. If it is a prolonged drought, we will open the interconnects with Fulton County and purchase water.
WT: Do you have any programs such as WTP tours or events that engage the public, or any school programs?
Cash: The water utility is very engaged with the public. We host an annual water festival that allows the residents to tour the water plant, view leak repair demonstrations, and receive an education on other various programs the City and Utility have to offer. The Environmental/Public Works Department has an education coordinator who gives presentations, conducts programs, and gives lessons at the local schools and summer camps.
WT: A career in the Water Department is something that many cities are needing to promote. Please tell us about your recruiting program. Why is Roswell a great place to work? On a personal note – please tell us why you chose this career. What does it mean to be the guy in charge of the City’s water?
Cash: One of the most important aspects of a good recruiting program is networking. The utility is very active in local water organizations and regularly participates in conferences (local, statewide, and nationwide), seminars, and committees. Roswell takes good care of the employees and wants to see them succeed. They offer good developmental programs within the City that prepare employees for supervisory roles. They also offer classes and various educational opportunities that any employee can benefit from.
I started in this career when I was discharged from the Military looking for an easy job I could do until I finished school. The longer I stayed and the more I learned the more I enjoyed it. After graduating from college, I decided this was what I wanted to do. I enjoy the work and the people.
To be in charge of the City’s water for me means to be in charge of the public’s health. To accomplish this goal, you need to have a great team behind you.