Austin Water External Review

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Alison Alter
Posts: 188
Joined: Fri Jan 13, 2017 3:52 pm

Austin Water External Review

Post by Alison Alter »

Colleagues,

In February of 2022, after the fifth major incident with our water supply in as many years, I authored a resolution calling for an external audit of Austin Water (https://bit.ly/3ID9oqb) to examine the five most recent significant negative water quality events and water supply service interruptions in our community and to identify appropriate protocol, operational, investment and other changes and actions. This resolution, co-sponsored by Council Members Tovo, Fuentes, Ellis, Pool, and Kelly, was approved unanimously at the February 17th Council meeting.

I am pleased to share an update on this work. The Austin Water External Review, which was completed by the UT Center for Water and the Environment (CWE) under the direction of the City Auditor, was released this morning. I invite you to review it here: https://bit.ly/3CFJHBs.

The release of this report is an important step towards rebuilding trust between our community and our utility, and it is crucial that we remain transparent as we implement the report recommendations. My hope is that our utility will embrace new approaches to stewarding our resources and managing our emergency response systems. Austin can serve as an example for other cities and utilities grappling with water quality and supply issues brought on by the climate crisis, but that starts with transparency and accountability.

I understand that throughout the project, Austin Water worked closely with the Office of the City Auditor and the CWE review team to provide unfettered access to facilities, extensive documentation, and access to personnel. The report identifies 53 recommendations to strengthen Austin Water in the areas of Hiring and Compensation, Organizational Structure, Operations and Staff Training, Culture and Internal Communications, and Emergency Management. Austin Water agrees or partially agrees with 49 of the 53 recommendations. Austin Water has developed an Implementation Plan with associated implementation dates for each of the 49 recommendations and has already begun working on 19 of them. Austin Water has committed to transparency in the implementation of the recommendations and will provide regular status reports to the appropriate Council oversight committee.

The External Review also affirmed certain aspects of Austin Water’s operations, including the appropriateness of the treatment process, the design and capacity of infrastructure, risk mitigation related to water quality, and power resiliency (as updated post Uri). I expect Austin Water will take the findings and recommendations of the External Review to build upon those strengths and become a stronger water utility.

I invite you to join me at the January 18th Audit and Finance Committee meeting (9:30 AM), where we will receive a briefing on the Austin Water external review from the Auditor’s Office and the UT Center for Water and the Environment (CWE) review team. A similar presentation will be given to the Water and Wastewater Commission at 6 pm that day. Note that all audits are considered draft until accepted by the Audit and Finance Committee.

On February 15th, at what will likely be a joint meeting of the Audit and Finance Committee and the Austin Water Oversight Committee that afternoon, Austin Water will present their response to the audit.

I am looking forward to our discussion on January 18th.

Regards,
Alison Alter
Council Member, District 10
Council Member, District 10
Alison Alter
Posts: 188
Joined: Fri Jan 13, 2017 3:52 pm

Re: Austin Water External Review

Post by Alison Alter »

Colleagues,

I wanted to share a reminder that the external review of Austin Water, which examines the five recent water service interruptions in our community and recommends changes and actions, will be presented tomorrow (Wednesday) during the Audit and Finance Committee meeting at 9:30 a.m. The City Auditor’s Office and the UT Center for Water and the Environment (CWE) will provide a briefing on the audit findings, and you can review the report in advance here: https://bit.ly/3CFJHBs.

While the executive team from Austin Water will be onsite to answer questions tomorrow, Austin Water will present their response to the report and their implementation timeline for report recommendations at a joint meeting of the Audit and Finance Committee and the Austin Water Oversight Committee on February 15th.

I hope that you can join us tomorrow, and I look forward to this next step in rebuilding our community’s trust in our water utility.

Regards,
Alison Alter
Council Member, District 10
Council Member, District 10
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