Case Study

A MULTI-YEAR WATER QUALITY INITIATIVE

The Problem

As a newly elected Board President in an older condo community with numerous capital projects, I observed some owners were experiencing “aesthetic” water quality problems. The challenge was complex as causality was unknown and inconsistently observed. Many components—including water source and chemistries, treatment equipment, and distribution systems—had to be evaluated.

Action Taken

I first involved the community to define the problem, identify options to resolve, and gain support. After extensive research and debate, we hired engineering expertise to provide technical solutions. In a 2-year journey involving with 3 engineering firms, regulatory agencies, and numerous vendors, we implemented a phased improvement plan based upon empirical evidence.

Outcome

Community complaints were dramatically reduced in the first month, with further progress anticipated as newly installed system components incrementally affect the targeted water quality, aesthetic issues. This phased approach generated optimal improvements at approximately one-third of the cost for total system replacement.

Summary

As a new HOA Board President in 2018, as I listened to the community and recognized a need to expand a key initiative first set in motion by the prior board. Uniquely, the developers of our community elected in 1973 to install a private community water treatment system supported by two wells. Beginning in 2015, a few owners raised concerns about water quality. Although always testing safe, improvements were made but concerns persisted.

Rather than funding additional improvements without understanding the causality of the aesthetic challenges randomly experienced by only a few owners, I formed two ad hoc exploratory committees to define the problem and recommend whether or not the community should re-invest in our existing treatment system or switch to a municipal water source.

Passions were high on both sides of this major initiative. The community invested over two years, thousands of volunteer hours of service, many dozens of committee and board meetings dedicated to understanding the complexities of this issue, and many tens of thousands of dollars with engineers and other consultants. Complex mechanical systems, well and municipal water source chemistries, regulatory agency requirements, and a myriad of technical challenges were thoroughly studied. I and others led various phases of activities, ultimately culminating in a board decision to fund improvements to our existing water treatment system.

This initiative was intensely personal to many in the community. It wasn’t just whether the board would fund a given set of projects or head in a new direction. The community needed to be kept informed, to understand the depth of evidence supporting the board decisions. And the community needed the opportunity to have their opinions expressed and heard. In hindsight, and with major improvements successfully implemented, the massive undertaking by the community to understand the challenges enabled the board to recognize the technical shortcomings in an engineering assessment and understand the outsized importance of a tiny detail in the chemical analysis of our water.

It isn’t always about the Board choosing the least expensive course of action. In this instance, improving our water treatment system was the right choice—to cost-effectively resolve the water quality issues. In another phase, we will likely need to improve the distribution system to further enhance the long-term delivery of high-quality water, but I’m proud of how this community came together to resolve this issue.

Lessons Learned
  • Evidence drives solid project outcomes.
  • Keep the community involved and informed.

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