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Posted on: September 1, 2023

Commissioners' Corner (Issue 207)


Public utilities operate in a challenging landscape—updating aging infrastructure, adhering to regulatory requirements, managing costs, and exceeding customer expectations. The foundation for overcoming these hurdles lies in Strategic Planning.  Utilities need a roadmap to chart the course forward for present and future operations.  The responsibility to adopt such a plan for Lakehaven Water and Sewer District lies with your elected Commissioners.

At the heart of these planning endeavors are the Comprehensive Water and Sewer System Plans, often referred to as Comp Plans. These meticulously crafted plans represent the culmination of dedicated efforts by our staff and consultants, who invest countless hours in research, modeling, analysis, and preparation. This exhaustive process ensures the District remains firmly on course.

Water Comp Plans undergo an update every decade, evaluating the system beyond a 20-year planning horizon.  By harnessing population data, growth projections, and historical consumption patterns, our planning team anticipates future water demands and evaluates existing sources and water rights. Specialized consultants utilize complex hydraulic modeling software to ensure water is available during peak demands and emergencies.  In-depth review of operational policies, asset management, and emergency response protocols help identify potential gaps.  The analysis manifests into a robust capital improvement plan to address the identified needs.

Similarly, Sewer Comp Plans receive updates, but every six years, adapting to changing development trends within service areas. These updates align with the need to address dynamic regulatory requirements, localized population density, and overall infrastructure upkeep. The effort is particularly crucial as Lakehaven operates two sewer treatment facilities, which are costly to maintain and operate, necessitating thorough long-range planning.

A central aspect of a Comp Plan is the strategic funding of ongoing operations and capital improvements. This is achieved through a financial plan, or Rate Study, which determines the cost of service. The process is a balancing act, iteratively aligning rate study findings with capital improvements to maintain infrastructure while keeping rates affordable and predictable.

Lakehaven must ensure our system plans are compatible and consistent with regional land use planning.  Our team closely collaborates with the cities and counties we serve in to ensure concurrency in addressing growth. Regulatory authorities also play a vital role in the approval of Comp Plans—Washington State Department of Health for water and Washington State Department of Ecology for sewer.  These agencies ensure our plans meet state and federal requirements.   

Lakehaven embarked in the Sewer Comp Plan process last year with a planned completion by mid-2024. The Water Comp Plan began earlier this year and staff anticipates its conclusion by the end of 2025. While the endeavor is substantial, it represents a pivotal stride towards guaranteeing reliable and affordable utility services—today and in the future.

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