Tim Welch, director of utilities for the City of Sunrise, Fla., recently sat down with BC's Florida Water News editor Albert Perez to talk about the economic challenges facing utilities today, the water industry's need to invest in wastewater reuse and his legacy.

JULY 9, 2013

How has the industry changed since you started?
Perhaps the largest area of change I've noticed from the time I started is in the area of regulation. There has been continuous recognition of the importance of compliance with the Safe Drinking Water Act of 1972 and all amendments as well as all of the wastewater contaminant removal regulations to ensure environmental protection, but there has never been more scrutiny or regulation than now. The industry has advanced impressively in the improved capabilities for performance and related reporting, while the requirements for demonstrating this compliance are more onerous than ever.

Although we have tremendous advancement and improved treatment technologies, automatic instruments and real-time feedback for instantaneous monitoring and corrective actions, the costs for these systems replace affordability for the personnel to monitor and maintain operations. Our workforce must be totally engaged, conscientious to a much larger magnitude and extremely attentive to anticipate changes that affect our ability to operate systems in a reasonable and sensible way, which can be quite challenging.

What are some of the challenges facing the city of Sunrise?
Sunrise is a fantastic city with seasoned and intelligent leadership. Sunrise's departments are achieving more with fewer resources and making tough decisions about which services it must cut to keep pace with inflation and a receding tax base, and has a proud and conscientious workforce. The city leaders continuously strive to attract stable and profitable commercial and residential development to bolster and sustain recurring sources of revenue to secure its tax base, and its executive management has continually delivered top notch municipal services and maintained substantial reserves to weather tough times.

The significant challenge for Sunrise will be to apply its resolve to commit resources and capital to sufficiently renew, replace and sustain much of its aging infrastructure, and compliance with regulations as they evolve. This economic time is as difficult as many of us who are working age have witnessed, and the challenge to meet the public utility service demands are significant, along with our responsibility to help develop the next generation workforce.

How are you meeting these challenges?
The city has implemented regular and proactive maintenance, streamlined financial and procurement and permitting activities, focused selection of projects to ensure proven technology is used wherever possible, while innovative thinking and technologies are introduced when they can reduce cost or complexity burdens. Our workforce is becoming younger, more educated, and we're applying more time to train, orient and build consciousness and alert attention to building compliance expectations.

The city is automating many of its systems and introducing more outreach and education on conservation measures, participating in collaborative efforts with other cities to assist and participate in regional solutions or projects which may benefit not only Sunrise residents, but make way for legacy-type projects that will reduce overall cost and complexity burden for future generations (such as the C-51 Reservoir Water Supply project).

How does reuse figure into this plan?
Sunrise is significantly invested in developing reuse, including planning for its strategic development in a logical way and constructing irrigational reuse systems to provide IQ water to the first customers before 2016. The city has committed to make reuse a focal part of its conservation goals and objectives, and already has initiated designs for two advanced wastewater treatment plant expansions at the Southwest and Sawgrass treatment facilities. It is also designing irrigation systems for plant sites and nearby large commercial users.

Is the public on board with plans for water reuse?
The public parties we've communicated with are receptive, at least, while others are passionate in their desire to embrace reuse of wastewater.

What would be the one thing that you would hope to have as your legacy?
I hope I can remain involved and be instrumental in assisting with delivery of water supply projects that resolve the demand from the environment and residents of Palm Beach, Broward and Dade counties by participating and assisting with the successful implementation of wastewater reuse and the C-51 Reservoir Water Supply project.

What fun thing would you like readers to know about you?
I enjoy sharing my work and the accomplishments of our utility with school-aged kids, and seeing their amazement when they get the opportunity to tour our treatment facilities. I find these tours truly exciting!


Name: Tim Welch

Title: Director of Utilities, City of Sunrise, Fla.

Background: With 24 years of experience working in planning, design and delivery of municipal water, wastewater and stormwater projects, Welch has worked in both the private and public sectors.

He began working for the City of Sunrise in February 2007, serving as the Assistant Director of Utilities until his promotion to Utilities Director in January 2010. His responsibilities include supervising engineering, treatment plant operations, field system operations, environmental compliance and related administrative resources, 180 employees with an annual budget of approximately $95 million.

Sunrise Utilities has assets of approximately $1 billion. At present, the City of Sunrise Utility Department is delivering a capital improvement program of approximately $350 million.

Welch previously practiced engineering with Berry & Calvin Inc. Consulting Engineers in Hollywood, Fla., and served as a Project Engineer and Engineering Design Manager for the City of Fort Lauderdale. He earned his Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering from the University of Florida in 1989, and a Master of Science in Environmental Engineering from Florida International University, Miami, in 1993.

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