Creating new water sources, regulatory initiatives, security and paying for infrastructure were the issues on tap at the American Water Works Association’s annual meeting.

Pipe-tapping competition shows off skills.

When not checking out technical sessions, exhibitors’ booths or the pipe-tapping competition, 11,000 attendees heard updates from the clean water advocacy group June 15-19 in Anaheim, Calif.

The outgoing president pointed to a climate dramatically changed since Sept. 11, 2001. "A new culture of security has swept our profession," said Lyndon B. Stovall, general manager of the Greenville (S.C.) Water System, at the opening session.

Stovall pledged that AWWA will continue to fight "legislation that gives water polluters immunity from accountability." AWWA and other national water groups oppose two bills pending in Congress. Critics claim they would take manufacturers of the fuel additive MTBE off the hook for groundwater cleanup costs.

Regulatory issues surrounding the tradeoff of microorganisms and disinfection by-products present "a very complex situation…and it’s not going to get any simpler," said L.D. McMullen, chief executive officer and general manager of Des Moines (Iowa) Water Works.


Despite state and local budget crises, owners plan bold long-range capital programs. Among the largest is San Francisco’s $3.6-billion, 13-year upgrade of its Hetch Hetchy water delivery system. At an executive roundtable, Patricia E. Martel, general manager of the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, said the agency also is developing a master plan for a $1-billion sewage system upgrade.

SFPUC rates are frozen until 2006, but "we’re going to need to have rate increases to pay for improvements in infrastructure," says Robert Renner, AWWA’s deputy executive director.

In the Sun Belt search for new sources, "seawater desalination is here to stay," declared Brent Alspach, a project engineer in the Carlsbad, Calif., office of Malcolm Pirnie Inc. Desalination is more feasible than ever, thanks to creative financing, rising demand, and costs that have dropped from as much as $1,500 per acre-ft in the mid 1990s to between $800 and $1,100, Alspach said.