SJWTX began a year-long integration process after closing on the acquisition of Canyon Lake Water Supply Company in May 2006. SJWTX, now doing business as Canyon Lake Water Service Company, began simultaneous improvements to the utility’s operations, management and infrastructure in order to fulfill its commitments. Throughout the implementation phase, SJWTX maintained its focus on the needs of the key stakeholder groups: customers, employees and co-op members.
Soon after closing of the sale of the utility to SJWTX, co-op members benefited from a distribution of cash equity from the sale of the assets, which was based on the difference between the value of the assets paid by SJWTX and the debt and other liabilities of the WSC. The WSC board determined the method of allocating the distribution among members.
Customers of the utility, most being also co-op members, were eager for service improvements. To achieve this, SJWTX embarked on an initial $9 million Capital Improvement Program, completed in the first 2 years, that included major upgrades to two surface water treatment plants that both increased capacity and improved water quality. In addition, a new half million gallon water tower was constructed to improve pressure and fire protection. New transmission mains were constructed, well sites improved and support facilities expanded.
Besides the visible physical plant improvements, SJWTX implemented managerial and information system improvements in order to more efficiently employ its assets and staff. Modern corporate accounting systems were implemented to better track costs and assets. A new advanced Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) system was deployed to aid operators charged with controlling facilities distributed over a large service area. A facility Geographic Information System (GIS) was developed to keep track of over 480 miles of buried water mains and to assist engineers to plan improvements.
Through these improvements and others, customers saw immediate and extended benefits. Service interruptions were significantly reduced. Water loss was reduced from over 30% in 2005 to less than 15% in 2010, and is under 10% as of 2014 . Water quality violations were corrected. Over 70 fire hydrants that had been out of service in 2005 due to lack of maintenance were repaired.
SJWTX recognized that the third groups of key stakeholders, employees, were critical to meeting its commitments to the other two groups. Nearly all employees of the WSC agreed to stay on with SJWTX after the transfer, including the General Manager who agreed to a one year contract before his retirement. SJWTX undertook a review and modernization of employee benefits with the aim of improving recruitment and retention. For the first time, the utility’s employees were offered life insurance and full dental, along with improved medical insurance and a 401K retirement plan. An employer-sponsored training program was implemented along with incentives for employees who obtained needed licenses. Over time, pay scales, which had averaged about 25% below comparable utilities under the WSC, were adjusted to attract and retain qualified operators, managers and customer service staff.