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Creating a Resilient and Connected Community CWS Annual Report 2020-21

For more than 50 years, Clean Water Services has worked to protect public health while enhancing the natural environment of the Tualatin River Watershed. CWS was formed out of crisis and throughout the pandemic has maintained responsive and empathetic service to the communities we serve. This annual review shares highlights from Fiscal Year 2020-21 and our future-forward focus on regional resilience and equitable service.

As this year has proven, we are truly stronger together. Our dedicated partner organizations, volunteers, visionary Board and resilient staff continue to do extraordinary work in this unprecedented time, creating the outcomes that people, businesses and the Tualatin River Watershed need to grow and thrive.

The CWS team has adapted from emergency operations to a new normal in operations in response to the pandemic, continuing all along to deliver reliable and efficient services to our communities 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

I’ve been with Clean Water Services for 10 years now, and I see the next 10 years as a critical time, a decade of tremendous challenge and opportunity. To me, the greatest challenges are the chaos and fear that accompanies crises — such as climate change, pandemic, social upheaval, drought and wildfire, floods and earthquakes — that are happening simultaneously and interacting in powerful and often destructive ways.

Yet when I look at our customers, Board, staff, volunteers and partner organizations, I feel hope. Together, we have proven that we can rise and meet challenges as partners in service to people and the environment, working together for a healthy Tualatin River Watershed.

With gratitude,

Diane Taniguchi-Dennis, CEO

We Believe in Compassion

We believe in our employees, our community and our environment. As essential service providers, CWS maintained quality service for our community while ensuring employee safety throughout the past year.

Supporting Families in Need

After deferring rate increases for a year and working to secure $3 million in federal funds to assist ratepayers, CWS collaborated with federal and state authorities to monitor and support the distribution of additional funds to further aid low-income customers.

People and Partnerships Protecting People

Staff collaborated with community partners for People Protecting People, distributing over 1.6 million pieces of PPE to agricultural workers, COVID Business Recovery Centers, community-based organizations, TriMet passengers, and employees of assisted living and food processing facilities. Laboratory staff produced surface disinfectants, hand disinfectant and disinfecting wipes for employees and Washington County programs.

Generosity in Response to Scarcity

The community stepped up by tripling donations for the food insecure during the CWS Leaf Disposal and Food Drive, while also tripling the cubic yards of leaves they dropped off in the first year without curbside pickup.

Connecting Safely

At the onset of the pandemic, CWS consulted with our community partners on providing opportunities for connection to nature through Paseos Verdes while keeping everyone safe, resulting in bilingual nature kits and open-house-style walks at Tualatin Hills Nature Park.

Leading Research on COVID-19 in Wastewater

Using new analytical techniques, researchers can find evidence of the virus at the neighborhood scale, which could provide an early warning sign of the virus in a community.

New Molecular Lab Powers Regional Virus Study

The droplet digital polymerase chain reaction (ddPCR) technology in CWS’ molecular biology lab processes vital tests as part of the sewer surveillance study in partnership with Oregon State University. The ddPCR system is one of only a handful located in the Pacific Northwest, and the second in Oregon after OSU.

Lessons in Distance Learning

After several months of distance learning under our belts, the CWS education team refined virtual programming and hands-on tools to support learners and teachers.

Historic Wildfire and Smoke

At work and at home, just like our neighbors, CWS staff strove to stay safe and productive amidst wildfires and hazardously smoky air. Historic wildfires were just one example of crises nested within crises during this pandemic year.

Sustaining Kindness While Keeping Distance

CWS employees have expressed care for each other by practicing pandemic precautions — such as masks, physical distancing and vaccination — and by reaching out to one another throughout the pandemic. CWS provided each employee with a Wellness Kit and sponsored activities to foster connection.

We Believe in Resilience and Adaptation

We are dedicated to ensuring we can continue to manage the region’s water resources — through innovation, collaboration and stewardship — in the face of climate change, the current pandemic and future challenges.

Rising to Challenges and Changes

  • CWS began releasing cool water from Hagg Lake and Barney Reservoir into the Tualatin River on May 3 to maintain flows and protect water quality and fish habitat in the river. The release was the earliest on record.
  • Oregon Gov. Kate Brown signed a law requiring “do not flush” labels on disposable wipes on June 8. CWS staff were instrumental in the long journey to pass this legislation.
  • In June, a chlorine shortage threatened operations at CWS and other water utilities along the West Coast. CWS received enough chlorine to weather the crisis, and asked customers to reduce their water use to help conserve the supply.

In this era of rapid and complex change, we must be strong and flexible, as individuals, teams and an organization: From I to Us to All.

— Diane Taniguchi-Dennis

Recovering Resources: Water Reuse

In one year, CWS provided 75 million gallons (including onsite use) of irrigation water to more than 218 acres of athletic fields, golf courses and parks from the Durham facility.

Recovering Resources: Energy

We also generated approximately 21.5 million kilowatt hours of renewable energy by capturing digester gas from the Rock Creek and Durham facilities, as well as solar power at Durham to meet approximately 47% of the electrical demands for the Durham and Rock Creek facilities.

Recovering Resources: Nutrients

We recycled phosphorus and ammonia at the Durham and Rock Creek facilities to produce more than 840 tons of Crystal Green® fertilizer to sell at commercial nurseries and in the agricultural industry.

Recovering Resources: Water Reuse

We worked with the DEQ to expand our recycled water use program to include supporting native wetland plant growth.

Combining science and nature, we clean water and return it to the Tualatin River so it can be used again. We work in partnership with others to safeguard the river’s health and vitality, ensure the economic success of our region, and protect public health for more than 620,000 people in urban Washington County.

We Believe in Partnerships

Everything CWS does, we do in partnership. From tree planting and pipe repair, to student education and water supply planning, the impact and scale of our efforts are possible only by working with others.

Chicken Creek Channel Realignment & Floodplain Enhancement

CWS and other Tree for All partners enhanced over 2,000 feet of stream channel with large wood habitat structures and riparian vegetation in the Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge. The project will create more than two miles of stream habitat, enable native plants throughout the 300-acre site and reconnect Chicken Creek to its historic floodplain.

Wapato Lake National Wildlife Refuge

Crews built new bridges, walking paths and a new pump station. Multiple partners — including Intel, US Fish and Wildlife Service, Tualatin Soil and Water Conservation District, Joint Water Commission, USGS, Metro and Bonneville Environmental Foundation — have contributed funding and worked collaboratively on planning and implementing these and other projects at the refuge.

Cedar Mill Creek

CWS began construction on a two-year project that replaces critical infrastructure while adding needed creek and floodplain resilience in and around Tualatin Hills Nature Park. This generational investment will address infrastructure, environmental and community needs in coordination with THPRD, Washington County and other partners, and has included bilingual outreach to the community.

Fanno Creek: Denney-to-Hall

CWS partnered with THPRD and Metro to reestablish the natural flow of Fanno Creek by replacing two undersized culverts with a pedestrian bridge, realigning the stream, creating a depressional floodplain wetland, reintroducing native plant communities and more.

Everything we do at Clean Water Services aims to protect public health while enhancing the natural environment of Oregon's Tualatin River Watershed.

We Believe in Science and Research

We control our destiny through research and innovation in the face of population growth, water quality demands, climate change, and the needs of the sensitive Tualatin River.

Optimizing and Stabilizing Biological Phosphorus Removal

In May 2021, a new state-of-the-art aeration basin was commissioned at our Durham facility. The new basin is designed with the best industry knowledge to achieve stable biological phosphorous removal. We also completed a phosphorus study to update the Tualatin River phosphorus Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL). The study assessed the capabilities of the water resource recovery facilities to remove phosphorus without adding tertiary alum — which produces some cost savings and considerable environmental benefit — and monitored the effects on the river.

Optimizing Monitoring Networks

The CWS Internet of Things team demonstrated that a low-cost, reliable, modular, scalable and fit-for-purpose sensor network can be used to monitor water quality and flow information — making CWS the first U.S. utility to adopt and expand this do-it-yourself approach. The team has developed and deployed 25 stations to support a variety of projects, at less than half the cost for commercial sensors.

Optimizing Asset Management

We developed an asset management system to maintain critical equipment and implement project planning and resource management and reduce the need for external laboratory analytical support. The system has already saved over $100,000.

Optimizing Bird Habitat

A five-year study by Portland Audubon revealed increased bird activity, the number of different species, and overall bird abundance at Fernhill as a result of creating natural treatment systems. Fernhill is an important stopover area for wintering waterfowl and migrating birds traveling the Pacific Flyway.

Optimizing the Permitting Process

In December 2020, CWS applied for a new watershed-based NPDES permit that combines wastewater and stormwater permits and allows water quality trading. We also developed an Integrated Plan to establish an innovative long-term permitting strategy. DEQ found the application administratively complete and extended the current permit past the expiration date. We’re working with the agency to finalize details of a new permit.

We Believe in Equity and Culture

CWS aims to honor all people in our region and workplace by embedding diversity, equity and inclusion into our services, employment practices and the way we conduct our daily business.

Equity, Diversity and Inclusion

CWS has been laying groundwork through leadership learning, community consultation, planning and research. As we shift toward policy creation, broader workforce learning and pilot action we are guided by four areas of focus identified by our DEI Steering Group: hiring and recruiting, culture and equity action, procurement, and internships and apprenticeships.

Aligning People, Resources and Positions

Three new senior leadership positions — Chief Operating Officer, Chief of Staff and Chief Utility Relations Officer — and shifts in programmatic portfolios helped us continue to build the capacity and capability of the Clean Water Services team. We set the stage for the creation of two new service-driven departments in FY 2021-22: Regional Utilities Services and Enterprise Asset & Technical Services.

Employees Engaging Equity

While the early stretches of the CWS equity journey have focused on the leadership level and understanding employee perspectives, signs of staff-level interest in equity learning and action are evident everywhere you look at CWS. Staff have participated in focus groups and surveys; shared resources and insights on bulletin boards and in learning sessions; tuned in to online updates from leadership; and begun to envision pilot initiatives.

Cultivating Our Culture of Learning

The implementation of Clean Water Learning Online offered a digital platform to share and access online courses as well as schedule live trainings. With over 283 courses added in the year ranging from cybersecurity and lab safety to an electronic operations manual and safety trainings, the platform offered employees a way to share information with our Board, co-implementers, industries and each other to support our culture of learning.

APWA 2020 Project of the Year

The Tualatin Interceptor Project was named Project of the Year by the American Public Works Association. This multiyear $34 million upgrade involved 11,000 linear feet of pipe, two vertically curved siphons under the Tualatin River and restoration of several areas. Project partners included Mortensen Construction, Kennedy Jenks and K&E excavation

Financial Reporting Awards

The Government Finance Officers Association recognized CWS for Excellence in Financial Reporting and Distinguished Budget Presentation. The honors highlight CWS’ commitment to the highest quality financial reporting and transparency, and meeting the highest principles of governmental budgeting.

National Recognition for Water Resource Recovery

CWS was recognized in the Watershed Stewardship category in the Utility of the Future Today program. The program celebrates the achievements of forward-thinking, innovative water utilities. Three of our water resource recovery facilities also earned awards for 100% permit compliance from the National Association of Clean Water Agencies; one has met this milestone for more than five consecutive years. Another facility earned an award for fewer than five permit exceptions.

Leadership and Passion

Nora Curtis was honored as PNCWA Woman of the Year for her contributions as a leader, mentor, communicator and advocate. Bob Baumgartner won the Tualatin Riverkeepers Green Heron Award for his passion for water quality.

Budget numbers above cover the period from July 1, 2020, through June 30, 2021.

Financial Statement Fiscal Year 2020-21

In these unprecedented times, Clean Water Services is carefully sequencing investments, determined to be responsible stewards of ratepayer dollars. Through careful planning, we were able to delay our regularly planned rate increase and provide some economic relief for households and businesses. At the same time, we continued to play a positive role in the economy through thoughtful job creation, purchasing and capital investment decisions.

Clean Water Services is deeply grateful for the visionary leadership and generous support of our Board of Directors, composed of the five people elected as Washington County Commissioners. Although we maintain a close working relationship with Washington County government, Clean Water Services is a county service district organized under Oregon Revised Statute 451 that is separately managed and financed.

CWS Board of Directors – Fiscal Year 2021

We welcomed the arrival of our newest Board member, Nafisa Fai, elected in November 2020.

In everything CWS does as a regional utility, we strive to support the people and businesses so they can grow and thrive. We’re overachievers, because the small, slow and sensitive Tualatin River demands us to be. As we look to the future, we’ll continue in partnership to review lessons learned, adapt and innovate to solve the complex water challenges of our large region while ensuring cost-effective and equitable service. We are grounded in science, and through an equity lens we are working to build a more resilient and inclusive community.

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