2021 Highlights – How SPU Delivered for our Customers and Community this Year

It has been an extraordinary year at Seattle Public Utilities (SPU). Despite the numerous challenges brought on by the pandemic, SPU staff adjusted and adapted, and we sustained and grew our successful partnership with the community to equitably manage water and waste resources for today and future generations. 

Our 2021-2026 Strategic Business Plan lays out our priorities as a utility: 

  • Delivering Equitable Essential Services 
  • Stewarding Environment and Health 
  • Empowering Our Customers, Community, and Employees 
  • Strengthening Our Utility’s Business Practices 

The Plan helps us focus our work to better meet the needs of our customers, and it provides them with a predictable rate path that is visited every three years. Here are a few highlights from each of our four Strategic Business Plan focus areas: 

16 colored boxes listing our achievements for 2021: 

1. Delivered 42 billion gallons of clean and safe drinking water to 1.5 million people in the region.

2. Provided more than 21 million reliable residential garbage, recycling, and compost pickups to Seattle customers. 

3. Provided $1.4 million in utility bill assistance to income-qualifying customers through the Emergency Assistance Program 

4. Provides 1,500 sewer pump out services to RVs.  Removed 1.2 million pounds of trash from 29 encampments. Recovered 372,453 needles from 22 community disposal boxes. 

5. Planted 12,000 native trees and shrubs throughout the Cedar River Watershed.  Planted 1,000 trees through the Trees for Seattle Program. 

6. 29,000 waters samples tested and results analyzed showing 100% compliance with WA Department of Health regulations. 

7. Addressed 20,000+ illegal dumping complaints in 10 days or less, removing 2.8 million pounds of material. 

8. Lowered 1 Tunnel Boring Machine underground to begin work on Ship Canal Water Quality Project.  Go MudHoney!

9. Awarded $242,000 to support community waste prevention projects

10. 1 Shape Our Water Community Vision released to guide the future of water and infrastructure in Seattle. 

11. 19,000+ customer and community members participated in drinking water education. 

12. Welcomed 305 new Adopt-A-Street volunteers (the most ever in one year!) 

13. (1) Strategic Business Plan adopted to guide our work. 

14. 20% reduction in SPU's 6 year average rate (lowered from 5.3% to 4.2%) 

15. 12 DWW Apprentices Hired and Trained

16. $50M+ in ratepayer savings over the next two decades due to issued bonds.

The stories behind the data:

These highlights only tell part of the story.  

Behind the data, there are people: staff who are committed to delivering exceptional drinking water, drainage and wastewater, and solid waste services every day. And there are our customers, the reason we do what we do. 

Here are a few stories we wanted to share:  

  • Mona, a customer and single mother who contacted SPU to ask for a little more time to pay her bill, learned she could qualify for the Utility Discount Program, thanks to active listening by our Contact Center. The assistance program cuts bills by 50% for eligible customers. 
  • Rainier Beach resident reached out to thank SPU staff for cleaning up a vacant lot in the neighborhood and improving it with bark and rock. Staff has now increased maintenance activities on SPU-owned vacant parcels to ensure we continue to be a good neighbor throughout the city. 
  • Damariny, arguably the world’s biggest fan of tunnel boring machines, was extremely grateful for the SPU tour to see MudHoney (SPU’s tunnel boring machine for the Ship Canal Water Quality Project) up close. See the heart-warming video here. 
  • A small business struggling to stay open during the pandemic expressed its appreciation for Water crews who quickly restored water during an emergency water outage. Ensuring that all customers have reliable, safe, and clean water for drinking and frequent hand washing, especially in the middle of a pandemic, continues to be the top priority for SPU water crews. 
  • Richard, a customer who contacted a Seattle City Council member about sprawling graffiti on three abandoned, fenced properties in his neighborhood, was elated to see SPU actively troubleshoot the issue. After weeks of trying to locate the owner, staff turned to the bank forcing foreclosure, secured a key to enter the properties and abated the graffiti. Richard was so pleased, he wrote Council again and complemented SPU’s Graffiti Rangers on a job well done. 
  • When a necessary but untimely sewer repair in front of a Pike Place Market grocery store disrupted Thanksgiving dinner pickup during one of their busiest days of the year, SPU staff got creative and set up a load and unload zone so customers could pick up their orders while sewer repairs were made.  

These are just a few stories of support for and appreciation from our customers. We look forward to building on our work as we continue serving our communities in 2022. 

Learn more about SPU’s Strategic Business Plan and our Customer Review Panel on our website: https://www.seattle.gov/utilities/about/plans/strategic-business-plan