Anchorage Water & Wastewater Utility Overview
The Anchorage Water and Wastewater Utility
Anchorage residents are accustomed to clean air, sparkling clear streams and a spacious natural urban environment. We often take for granted the one, vital natural resource that is at our fingertips each day - Water!
Anchorage Water and Wastewater Utility is the largest water and wastewater utility in Alaska serving Anchorage, Chugiak-Eagle River, Peters Creek, Eklutna and Girdwood. The Utility collects water from two major surface watersheds, Eklutna Lake and Ship Creek, and several deep underground wells. AWWU has over 52,000 water customer accounts which equates to an approximate population base of 216,800 residents.
After water is used, it must be prepared for its return to Alaska's environment. The Utility's three wastewater facilities serves approximately 52,500 residential, commercial and military accounts. Treated wastewater is discharged into Cook Inlet, Eagle River and Glacier Creek. The public's investment in these treatment plants, water and sewer mains, laboratories and reservoirs is over $700 million.
AWWU employs 260 men and women to operate the Utility and spends approximately $50 million annually to ensure that the water and wastewater systems perform efficiently. Through education, training, certification programs, field experience and longevity of service, the employees of Anchorage's water and wastewater systems are a competent and dedicated team. They include - treatment plant operators, engineers, personnel specialists, laboratory technicians, maintenance craftsmen, accountants, customer service representatives, computer specialists and field service personnel. They are trained professionals who ensure Anchorage's water and wastewater systems operate at their highest possible standards. Service excellence is AWWU's goal. The Utility is financially self-sustaining and its user fees are among the lowest in the state.
Anchorage's Water: Where Quality Is Clear
The story of Anchorage's public water supply is one of foresight, planning and a continual commitment to quality. Some regions of the United States struggle to protect their water sources from pollution. Anchorage is fortunate to be virtually free from such problems. Many states, at times, must ration their water supplies and search for new sources of fresh water to sustain crops and growing communities. Anchorage benefits from pollution free water sources that will meet the Municipality's needs well into the 21st century.
Anchorage's Infinite Supply
Anchorage's water begins with a natural hydrologic cycle that produces a relatively clean source of raw water. The cycle begins with evaporation followed by moisture returning as rain and snow to replenish Anchorage's watersheds high in the Chugach Mountains. These watersheds, Eklutna Lake and Ship Creek, generate 90 percent of Anchorage's public water supply. The remainder of Anchorage's daily water supply is drawn from underground aquifers. AWWU draws water from a series of wells in the Anchorage Bowl, Eagle River and Girdwood. Up to 50 million gallons of treated water can be stored in reservoirs throughout the distribution system.
From Humble Beginnings to Modern Technology
In the 1920s, during Anchorage's early Tent City days, Ship Creek supplied water for Anchorage's first settlers. It was delivered by buckets. Twenty-some years later, the first few miles of wood-stave water mains carried the water to downtown Anchorage. Today, nearly 25 million gallons of water a day (mgd) is delivered to AWWU customers for less than $1 per household. Ship Creek's water is now captured further upstream in the Chugach Mountain foothills, but still remains an important water source for the Municipality of Anchorage.
Ship Creek's Mountain Magic
From spring through fall, The headwaters of Ship Creek can provide up to 24 mgd of water. During the winter, when stream flow is low, the Eklutna Water Treatment Plant and AWWU's deep wells supplement the Ship Creek water supply. Modern technology allows the Utility to deliver water where it's needed each minute of the day. Demands for large quantities of water are as diverse as supplying major industrial users, providing water for the Municipality's flower gardens to flooding outdoor ice rinks.
Sparkling Glaciers Quench Our Thirst
The Eklutna Water Treatment Facility can provide water at a rate of 35 mgd. Combined with the 24 mgd Ship Creek Water Treatment Facility and AWWU's numerous wells, Anchorage's water needs are satisfied well into the next century and ready to support a growing population. The Eklutna Treatment Facility can be expanded fairly easily and its production capacity doubled should the demand become necessary.
Eklutna's water supply originates at Eklutna Lake. The lake is a vast, turquoise-blue body of water that's a drought-resistant natural reservoir. Runoff from the Eklutna Glacier and snow fields drains into the eight mile long lake. The lake has an available water supply of approximately 220 mgd. The water is drawn through a large diameter tunnel that winds through six miles of canyons and hillsides as it travels to the Eklutna Treatment Facility.
Raw water from Ship Creek and Eklutna Lake is first treated to remove bacteria-laden silt and other organic impurities. Automated systems monitor the water's quality at all phases of the treatment process. Prior to entering the distribution system, precise measures of chlorine and fluoride are added. The water's alkalinity and acidity are adjusted to preserve purity of taste and to control hardness and corrosiveness. The water is then distributed to residential, business and commercial customers.
Recycling The Day's Impurities
Enjoying Anchorage's quality drinking water is just one part of AWWU's system. After the day's 25 million gallons of water are used, it is treated before it is returned to the environment.
Treated effluent is discharged directly into Cook Inlet, Eagle River and Glacier Creek in Girdwood. Potentially harmful contaminants are removed prior to being discharged from each plant so as to not adversely impact the environment. That's AWWU's principle measurement of success. The Municipality of Anchorage, and its growing population, benefits from superior operations at all three wastewater treatment plants.
AWWU prides itself on providing a higher level of treatment as well as a more efficient operation. Treatment standards have become more stringent, but the basic wastewater treatment technique has remained simple over time. It's a natural process that has been brought indoors to be speeded up in a more controlled environment. Advances in technology, automation and experience enable AWWU's wastewater operators to deliver this important public service at a relatively stable cost.
AWWU's operators ensure that Anchorage's three wastewater treatment plants do not adversely impact the receiving waters they discharge into. This is possible with AWWU's commitment to invest in the highest and most reliable technology practicable for each of its facilities, especially Eagle River Wastewater Treatment Facility, Girdwood Wastewater Treatment Facility and the John M. Asplund Wastewater Treatment Facility.