From Source to Tap: Managing a Clean, Reliable Water Supply
Imagine an Olympic-size swimming pool, filled to the top. Now, multiply that by 50. That’s about how much water Lee’s Summit Water Utilities has the capacity to bring in per day. The City has the ability to receive up to 7.5 million gallons of water per day from the City of Independence and up to 25 million gallons of water per day from the City of Kansas City. That’s a lot of water! There is a complicated water infrastructure below the city, invisible to the eye, but vital for the health of our community.
Water Utilities manages more than 600 miles of water mains, with nearly as many miles of sewer mains. Through proactive maintenance and strategic planning, the department has been able to achieve its mission to provide safe, reliable water and sanitary sewer service to Lee’s Summit residents at a cost effective rate.
According to a 2018 report, Lee’s Summit had the third lowest combined water and sewer rates in the Kansas City metro. Lee’s Summit residents paid about $75 per month, based on 5,000-gallon consumption. The monthly average in the metro, based on that same consumption rate, was about $90. The City also met or exceeded all federal and state standards when it comes to water quality.
Unlike many other utilities, Lee’s Summit Water Utilities maintains a low amount of debt to maximize reinvestment into water and sanitary sewer infrastructure. In fact, the department’s financial policies and practices have resulted in Water Utilities maintaining its Aa1 rating by Moody’s Investors Services. Moody’s noted, “Lee’s Summit Water & Sewer’s credit position is very strong. Its Aa1 rating is higher than the median rating of Aa3 for water and wastewater systems nationwide.”
Every year, Water Utilities reinvests $8.5 million into system renewals and improvements. This helps provide a reliable and sustainable water infrastructure, reducing the risk of costly emergencies. In 2018, Water Utilities repaired more than 37,000 feet of sewer mains and replaced more than 14,000 feet of water main throughout the City.
Customers play a critical role in shaping the department’s vision and policies, through the Water Utilities Advisory Board. The board consists of 10 members, including Mark Schaufler, who is the director of Water Utilities. The board is designed to review and make recommendations to City Council regarding the department’s services, financial policies, planning, fees and charges. It’s an approach that allows customers, both large and small, to have a sense of ownership in how Water Utilities is managed.
Water Utilities is well positioned to meet the anticipated needs of the growing Lee’s Summit community for the next several decades. The City has the necessary capacity to not only adequately serve residents, but also ensure the Lee’s Summit Fire Department has reliable water services for fire protection. Rapid growth results in extra demands on City infrastructure, but through strategic planning and investments, Water Utilities is prepared for whatever comes next.