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A Tale of Three Cities: Different Approaches To Successful Competitiveness
Author: John E. Salo, Larry Wallace, Lester Williams, Douglas O. Bean
Presented at WEF 73nd Annual Conference and Exposition, Anaheim, California, October 14-18, 2000

Facing increasing financial pressure, water and wastewater utilities have had to become more cost efficient in their operations. The drive for competitiveness has been accelerated by pressure from private companies seeking to take over operation of public systems. According to Public Works Financing, private companies generated O&M revenues of $928 million from U. S. publicly owned water and wastewater facilities in 1999, a 14 percent increase over 1998. Three major utilities -- Atlanta, Nashville and Charlotte -- have responded to these pressures and launched aggressive competitiveness programs. All three have achieved initial positive results, substantially reducing operating costs, although following very different pathways to this success. Atlanta is utilizing a combination of private contract operations and internal reengineering. Nashville has a comprehensive reengineering program under way that is addressing all core and support functions. Charlotte has been one of the leaders in employing managed competition to achieve efficiency gains. This paper will inform other utilities facing similar challenges of the various approaches available to improve competitiveness through assessing its own unique circumstances and aggressively implementing the measures that work best for its situation.