You have to spend money to save money.
It’s a slight spin on an old adage that works only one way: if you invest in the life cycle of your capital improvements. In the long run, the money — and infrastructure — will last longer.
For more than 20 years, Black & Veatch worked with the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Utility Commission to upgrade its wastewater treatment system on a project-by-project basis. There were many short-term wins, but a dated master plan made the long-term a bit less clear.
That all changed with the South Fork Improvements Program, which started as a solution to correct sanitary sewer overflows. After an initial assessment, the commission decided to invest in a program management approach that is already paying back.
13 Projects Rolled into One Master Plan
The commission has three basins in its wastewater treatment system, including about 1,500 miles of sewer lines, more than 50 pumping stations, and two treatment plants with a total capacity of 51 million gallons a day.
Developers targeted one of the three basins, South Fork, for improvements because of projected population growth in the area. Black & Veatch developed the strategy for 13 integrated projects, including replacement of sewer interceptors, construction of new pumping facilities, and electrical and aeration system upgrades.
Those were all successes that solved the overflow problems and continued a decades-long success story and trusted partnership.
The real win came in the form of a programmatic approach where Black & Veatch became the commission’s short- and long-term program and construction manager.
"Black & Veatch has always worked with us, not for us. I consider them a coworker, not so much a consultant. I feel like they truly have our best interests at heart. They talk with us, work with us, explain things to us, and seek our input so we ultimately get the best result. It is just a great benefit to know we are planning for the future, and Black & Veatch has helped us do that."
Investing in the Infrastructure Life Cycle
It meant Black & Veatch took care of the permitting, assessments, design, contracting and other project essentials while shouldering some of the commission’s biggest burdens: financing, sustainability and performance management.
- Financing: The capital improvement program needed $120 million in funding. Black & Veatch applied for and secured it with zero percent to 2 percent interest rates.
- Sustainability: The commission needed emergency power backup at one of its plants. Instead of going the traditional, less environmentally friendly route of diesel-generation, the program used a Combined Heat and Power (CHP) strategy. The renewable energy-recovery system furthered the commission’s sustainability goals and reduced capital costs because the commission could sell energy back to the power grid.
- Performance management: Across the wastewater treatment system, the commission needed a more efficient way to manage flows, extend the life of infrastructure and decrease operational costs. Black & Veatch-powered smart analytics allowed for real-time flow transfers, consolidated treatment options and energy management, all to reduce costs. Savings were realized immediately, for example, when smart performance management allowed for a five-to-seven-year deferral of pipeline expansion.
“A capital improvement program gives the counties unlimited growth potential,” said Kent Lackey, Vice President and Senior Client Director for Black & Veatch. “Our partnership reduces costs for end users and brings new businesses and jobs to the area.
“The master plan included training and career advancement for the commission’s staff, which is relatively small. Internal management and resource automation mean long-term cost savings for the commission.”