For decades Halifax Water has been focused on improving operations to continue to manage their region’s water cycle in a financially and environmentally responsible manner. They take their responsibilities seriously and feel an immense sense of pride in reaching beyond industry service standards. Halifax Water is the municipal water, wastewater, and stormwater utility and serves the 360,000 residents of the Halifax region.
In 2003, the Halifax Water was under new pressures. Recent amalgamation had doubled the size of the Halifax Regional Municipality, and the Commission was now responsible for the operation of 11 water systems, both small and large. Then, the Government of Nova Scotia introduced new standards – some of Canada’s highest – for drinking water quality. Suddenly, the number of monthly, quarterly and annual reports ballooned to 142 from just two.
Reid Campbell, Manager of Plant Operations, knew he had his hands full. He had heard about WaterTrax at a recent conference, and despite initial reservations about entrusting a web-based service with Halifax Water’s data, invited WaterTrax for a demonstration. What struck Mr. Campbell was the contrast in simplicity between implementing and using Watertrax, and the Commission’s recent experience with in-house projects in MS Access. WaterTrax was available immediately, and did not saddle the Commission with maintenance, upgrading, and support costs. Even more importantly, WaterTrax would provide technical support to staff, and manage the interface with the Commission’s contract laboratories.
“The ease of getting the service going sold me on WaterTrax,” says Campbell. He and Carl Yates, General Manager of the Commission had some concerns about whether the implementation would go smoothly, but as the service was implemented, everyone caught on quickly. Looking back, he marvels at the fact that “it was exactly what we needed.” His concerns with security had been quickly allayed when he recognized that the measures to protect the integrity of the utilities’ data were similar to those of on-line banking.
“We had good records, but on paper and in binders, and every time I would get a notice of low chlorine levels and then try to find the previous results in the binders, after several minutes of flipping pages I would get frustrated and walk away, but with WaterTrax I can provide an answer right away!”
The over riding value of WaterTrax is in the consolidation of all Halifax Water’s water quality data and immediate accessibility. “I like the fact that staff come in each morning and clear out the lab reports,” says Campbell. “It’s become routine, like clearing out your e-mail. There’s a good discipline in place.”
Before WaterTrax, “we had good records, but on paper and in binders, and every time I would get a notice of low chlorine levels and then try to find the previous results in the binders, after several minutes of flipping pages I would get frustrated and walk away.” His staff has made it clear they would never go back to paper.
A subsidiary benefit has been found in the Commission’s stakeholder relations. If a customer comes in with questions about their water “I can provide an answer right away – an actual number right there and then,” says Mr. Campbell. By way of example, he relates that one of their private system clients wanted to see a summary of water quality testing. After just five minutes the client had a full report on the quality of water in the system. He left happy and secure knowing that the system’s water quality met the standards, and with evidence of the Halifax Water’s commitment to professional management in-hand.