2021 Year in Review

PWSA Chief Executive Officer, Will Pickering

The Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority (PWSA) is entering a new era – one with a renewed emphasis on public health, the environment, and our responsibility as steadfast stewards of the vital water services our region relies on each day.  

There are many exciting projects underway at PWSA that directly support this evolution. While our work as public servants is never done, I’m confident the strategic priorities we’ve been undertaking will further transform our water system while rebuilding trust with the public we serve.  

The following full Year in Review highlights much more of the work we’re undertaking to support our transformation into a trusted community utility partner.   

In Key Accomplishments, we further explain some of the priority programs noted above and highlight additional efforts we’re leading. From water main and lead service line replacements to sewer rehabilitation and more, the work we’re performing shows our commitment to supporting our region through the delivery of safe and reliable water services.  

We also summarize our Financial Health, describing our current financial standing, projections for the coming years, and highlight our success in securing state and federal funding to support our infrastructure investment.   

We include Performance Metrics that provide information about our daily operational performance. From the quantity and quality of our customer service calls, to the miles of pipes, catch basins, and hydrants we replace, our PWSA teams are going above and beyond to deliver to you the water service you expect.  

Lastly, we highlight pertinent water, sewer, and stormwater Capital Investment accomplishments. These strategic investments highlight critical projects to improve our infrastructure and manage stormwater in our neighborhoods.  

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Key Accomplishments

Pittsburgh's Allegheny River facing towards the confluence.

Environmental Compliance and Ethics

A key element of our ongoing transformation centers on a renewed focus on environmental compliance and ethics. We’ve made – and continue to make – great strides in this critical area, setting in motion what we’re confident will be a lasting and sustained cultural shift that places these topics front-of-mind in everything we do. 

Our recently established Environmental Compliance Program is the cornerstone of this commitment to operating in accordance with the strict requirements of the law and in a manner consistent with high ethical and professional standards in the delivery of drinking water, wastewater, and stormwater services to our customers. This program is multifaceted, consisting of, for example, organization-wide policies around ethics, conduct, and training, and the development of an Environmental Compliance Manual.  

Leading these efforts is Frank Sidari, PWSA’s former Environmental Compliance Manager for Water Production and Supply at our Aspinwall Water Treatment Plant. Mr. Sidari is a professional and board-certified engineer who has more than 20 years of experience in drinking water systems.  

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Headshots of our new hires

Culture of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

To drive a cultural foundation of diversity, equity, and inclusion, the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority developed and implemented a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion policy to build and maintain a diverse workforce and talent pipeline. To equip all employees with the tools to foster an inclusive environment, we provided diversity and inclusion training as well as anti-harassment training to foster a work environment where all employees are treated with dignity and respect.  

As an agency that serves the city of Pittsburgh, we are striving to create a workforce that represents the community we serve and provide gainful employment opportunities to its residents. In 2021, we participated with the Pittsburgh Black Elected Official Coalition by attending two of their recruitment events in person to expand awareness about employment opportunities.  

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A permeable paver parking lane for the Maryland Avenue Stormwater Project A permeable paver parking lane for the Maryland Avenue Stormwater Project

New Rate Structure

Provides greater equity, prioritizes stormwater management

On January 12, 2022, rate changes, including a new stormwater fee went into effect. The new rates and the implementation of the stormwater fee reflect the ongoing renewal of our water and sewer infrastructure and will significantly change how we fund stormwater improvements.  

Historically, we have funded stormwater services from wastewater rates that are based on water usage. Having a stormwater fee based on the hard or impervious surfaces on a property ensures that all property owners in Pittsburgh contribute a share that is proportional to the amount of runoff generated by their property. Basing the fee on hard surfaces such as roofs, driveways, and parking lots is a more equitable way to charge for stormwater and ensures that all property owners pay their fair share.  

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Customer Assistance Programs logo

Enhanced Customer Assistance Programs

Expanded outreach and benefits lead to increased enrollment 

In 2021, we set a goal to expand awareness and increase enrollment in our Customer Assistance Programs. This past year, our newly launched PGH2O Cares team hit the ground running to reach those most in need of these essential programs. As a result of their relentless work, more than 5,200 customers enrolled in our Bill Discount Program.  

As part of our 2021 rate setting process, further enhancements were made to our Customer Assistance Programs to simplify the enrollment process and offer more discounts to more customers. The program enhancements went into effect on January 12, 2022.

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A person typing on a laptop with analytics graphs visible

Technology Upgrades

While PWSA is making historic investments in water and wastewater infrastructure, we are also investing in the technology infrastructure that is needed to modernize internal business operations and provide a better digital experience for PWSA customers. In 2021, several technology improvements including the launch of a new electronic billing and payment portal, the deployment of a digital document management system, expansion of internal and external applications for using ArcGIS, and a new online permitting system were made.  

These projects; however, are only a start.  Currently in development is a new state-of-the-art Customer Information System (CIS) powered by SAP, Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software, and customer self-service solutions. This project, which we anticipate completing in 2022, is an important step in PWSA’s evolution to offer modern self-service options for customers and streamline routine processes that will enhance staff efficiencies and day-to-day operations.  

Attendees fill water containers at a Bike PGH summer event Attendees fill water containers at a Bike PGH summer event

Expanded Community Partnerships 

From the Allegheny Overlook to the Schenley Grand Prix and a Bike PGH event in Mellon Park, we supplied water to numerous community events throughout Pittsburgh. These sponsorships reflect one of the many ways we are striving to become a better community partner.  

Financial Health

Actual Annual Capital Investment 2017-2021 Actual Annual Capital Investment 2017-2021

The Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority maintains a strong financial outlook. Our cash balance is the highest level in at least the last decade and for the third consecutive year, capital spending has exceeded $100,000,000. To ensure maximum financial flexibility, we continue to boost our reserve funding that in the long-term will help to reduce costs and create a more sustainable financial future for PWSA. 

Our historic capital investment will significantly shape the water future of Pittsburgh for years to come. We are well poised to implement our ambitious 2022 – 2026 $1.4 billion Capital Improvement Program, which includes large, generational projects to rehabilitate critical components of our water pumping and distribution systems and funds our lead service line replacement, sewer rehabilitation, and stormwater improvements.   

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Performance Metrics

By Department:

Customer Service

Average Answer Speed

  • 28 seconds 

Call Handling Rate

  • 98.3 percent of 134,332 calls 

Average Handling Time

  • 5 minutes, 2 seconds

Abandonment Rate 

  • 1.5 percent of total calls

 

Human Resources

Positions Filled

  • 77

Public Affairs

Meetings Hosted/Attended

  • 85

Social Media Response Rate

  • Nearly 100% within 3 business days

Social Media and Newsletter 

  • 13,276 subscribers

Management Information Systems

Average Critical Information Infrastructure Availability 

  • >99% of the time

Support Requests Received

  • 4,245

Capital Investment

Construction continuing on the Rising Mains 3 and 4 Project. Construction of the Rising Mains 3 and 4 Project, which is part of our Water Reliability Plan

The Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority (PWSA) continues to responsibly invest large sums of funding into critical water, sewer, and stormwater infrastructure improvements. In 2021, our total capital investment amounted to $106,396,248. Projects benefitting from this investment include water main and lead service line replacements, sewer rehabilitation/reconstruction, storm drain replacement, and stormwater management projects.  

Last year, via the hard work of Team PGH2O, we executed the following upgrades via capital investment: 

Water 

  • 9.1 miles of water main replaced  
  • 620 public-side lead service lines replaced  
  • 514 private-side lead service lines replaced 

Sewer 

  • 1.9 miles of sewer reconstructed 
  • 9 miles of sewer rehabilitated 
  • 797 storm drains replaced 

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Awards & Recognitions

The Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority was the recipient of several awards and recognitions in 2021. 

Water Environment Federation 

  • Utility of the Future Today 

Western Pennsylvania Water Pollution Control Association (WPWPCA) 

  • Alfred Bologna Water Control Achievement Award - Laboratory Project Manager, Linda Leopold 
  • Engineer’s Service Award - Senior Engineering Project Manager, Rob Herring 

Government Technology 

  • Special Districts 2021 Technology Innovation Award - Customer Service Managers Tishla Jones, Tracy Willy, Brittany Schacht, Sharon Gottschalk, and Crystal Thurston 

NRG Energy, Inc. 

  • Excellence in Energy Award in the Sustainability category - Sustainability Manager, James Stitt