Looking back, every year can seem like a big one—especially for a utility like ours, charged with protecting, treating, and delivering water for more than 1.5 million people...
But we think you’ll find that this was indeed a momentous year for the Philadelphia Water Department. Our 2019 was a year defined by change and progress.
Follow along over the next few weeks as we share 2019 highlights and look forward to 2020!
Change at the Top
At the top of the list when it comes to changes was the appointment of Randy E. Hayman, Esq. as our new leader. Commissioner Hayman took the reins this summer after Debra McCarty, appointed by Mayor Kenney at the start of his first term, retired.
Because his impressive career, including becoming a partner at a prestigious Washington, DC environmental law firm and having served as a general counsel for two major water utilities (DC Water and Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District), took shape outside of Philadelphia, we conducted some interviews to help our customers get to know him better.
Here, Commissioner Hayman addresses the city and the +2,000 PWD employees dedicated to ensuring Philadelphia has clean water and clean waterways:
In 2020, Commissioner Hayman wants to:
- Continue our push to improve customer service and communicate more with our customers and partners.
- Develop a rate structure that is fair and equitable.
- Use our recently enhanced Intern-to-Hire program to increase our workforce diversity while attracting new talent to replace the large pool of retiring workers.
- Look for areas where we can boost efficiency in delivering services while keeping costs reasonable.
- Develop and maintain proactive business practices.
We’ll be sharing more short videos about his priorities as we recap 2019, so stay tuned!
Here are some other achievements we are proud of from the last year:
E-Billing and Modernizing Customer Service
In all of our customer satisfaction surveys, customers listed paperless billing and e-billing as top priorities.
In October, we finally made it a reality with the launch of a new e-billing site. Part of larger efforts to make managing water accounts more convenient, customers can now set up automatic payments for free, go paperless with online bills, sign up for reminders and alerts, and look up past bills.
Thanks to our partners at the City of Philadelphia’s Office of Innovation & Technology and Department of Revenue, the rollout has been hugely popular: nearly 100,000 e-billing accounts have been created in just two short months.
By switching to paperless (which happens automatically when you create an e-billing account, though you can opt-out if you still want paper bills mailed to you) many of those customers will help us reduce costs and waste associated with printing and mailing. You can get all the perks above at phila.gov/waterbill!
Ready to become an e-billing customer?
Sign Up Now!
In 2020: Look for more customer service improvements as we upgrade to new meters that provide real-time leak alerts and other features that will give you more control and help us keep water affordable. You can stay informed with another new customer service tool: our email and text alerts!
World Leaders (Officially)
One of the factors that made Commissioner Hayman want to come to Philadelphia was our reputation as a national leader among water utilities. This year, he helped elevate that status by successfully nominating PWD to become part of the elite Leading Utilities of the World organization, which has just a few dozen members globally.
In addition to our work in the community with groups like the Schuylkill Action Network, we were recognized for our pioneering work on a real-time water quality warning system that generates more 200,000 tests daily and for introducing the income-based Tiered Assistance Program (TAP).
Through October 2019, over 50,000 new assistance applications have been received, allowing us to connect customers with savings and programs that keep the water on in more homes. With the new income-based option, we also streamlined the application process so everyone can use the same form.
Big Bonds Win
While it probably seems abstract to most, our leadership and financial team—led by Melissa LaBuda, Deputy Commissioner / CFO—worked with the City Treasurer to complete a $250.7 million Water & Wastewater Revenue Bond Issuance, in August 2019, that allowed the City to borrow money to complete crucial system-wide infrastructure investments.
What does that mean for customers?
PWD was able to get a loan to build the infrastructure every Philadelphian depends at historically low rates, making it easier for us to keep water bills here affordable.
“The continued strength of PWD’s financial management increased investor demand for their bond leading to the historically low interest rates achieved on this transaction,” City Treasurer Christian Dunbar said. “This means our borrowing costs are lower—and that saves [customers’] dollars.”
Showcasing the People Working for You
We went all out for Customer Service Week 2019 to showcase all the people—from those in the call center answering phones at desks to those crawling through sewers to find leaks—who work for you.
We’re proud of the work they do, and we had a lot of fun sharing their stories across our social media platforms, so check it out in this ICYMI recap:
Next up: We’ll be sharing some of the exciting work we did to promote Philly’s incredible, affordable drinking water, so be sure to follow @PhillyH2O on social media, sign up for email/sms updates or check back!