Categories: Major project, utility optimization

Drivers: Wichita faces a challenge familiar to many cities around the U.S. After decades of deferred maintenance, much of the city’s water and wastewater systems has passed the end of its useful life and deteriorated beyond the point of repair. By 2015, the city estimated that they needed to invest $1.6 billion in the water and wastewater systems. Most notably, Witchita’s water treatment plant is over 75 years old with many parts of it well past expected useful life. As the city’s only water treatment plant, this single point of failure presents a major risk that could leave 550,000 people without water for an extended period of time in the too-likely event that any number of deteriorating parts at the plant finally fail. The city also recognized the need to improve operational efficiency, enhance training and safety, and optimize staffing.

Partnership Analysis: Wichita is addressing this challenge head on by launching an innovative two-phased procurement that assesses system needs, prioritizes capital improvements, optimizes staffing, and identifies delivery and financing approaches that minimize lifecycle costs and risk. Table Rock and its partners were selected to work with the city in phase 1 to identify a number of strategies that can optimize utility operations, improve efficiency, and significantly reduce risk. While the city is not considering a full system P3, the team assessed a range of risk sharing approaches including alternative delivery and financing options for priority projects including a new water treatment plant. The value for money analysis Table Rock produced during the first phase demonstrated the potential to lower costs, reduce rate impacts, and greatly offload performance risk through a P3 approach.