Guam Waterworks Authority

The mission of Guam Waterworks Authority (GWA) – “Investing in Better Water Better Lives” – is the public corporation’s promise to the civilian residents of Guam. GWA is responsible for providing drinking water that meets the federal Safe Drinking Water Act guidelines to Guam’s civilian residents, as well as collecting about 60 percent of the island’s wastewater, and treating and disposing of it in compliance with the Clean Water Act.

GWA has an aging water system, and although it requires extensive time and resources to make the necessary improvements, that work is underway. In 2006, the authority set forth a master plan that outlined more than $1 billion in improvements over the next 20 years. Before the GWA could get started on this work, however, the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) announced it was relocating a substantial amount of military personnel from Japan to Guam, which would further stress GWA’s resources.

“The ink was barely dry on the master plan document when our community was informed about the rapid growth to come to Guam,” Acting General Manager John Benavente explains. “Due to the military build-up projections, the call for infrastructure improvements has been greatly accelerated. This is the most overall pressing issue facing our utility today. How to do almost half-a-billion dollars’ worth of improvements in time for the arrival of the increased population, which is supposed to occur between 2017 and 2020? As far as utility projects go, this is not much time.”

Big Plans

Under the 2011 to 2015 plan, GWA’s capital improvement projects fall under four categories: potable water, wastewater, electrical engineering and miscellaneous. Some of the GWA’s largest projects include:

  • Water wells – GWA is constructing eight new production wells, which will produce approximately 2.5 million gallons per day for its own needs; DOD will constructing its own wells but it is not known at this time how many. “Military operational water demands as well as demands from personnel and dependents living on base will be satisfied by existing military operated sources and/or by new sources currently under development by the military,” GWA says. “Water demands for all population residing in all other areas of Guam will be met by GWA sources. Ultimately, the projected demands can be satisfied through a program of line replacements and leak reduction. However, line replacements cannot be accomplished rapidly enough to meet the increased demands that are expected.”
  • Water distribution system pipe replacement – GWA used hydraulic modeling to identify specific pipe replacement projects, but it also needs to address leak, failure and age issues. The authority plans to replace 13,500 linear feet of pipe per year through 2015 – at a cost of $21.95 million – and replace 2,000 feet of pipe per year after that.
  • Water system reservoirs improvements – As part of a $32.2 million project, GWA will construct additional reservoirs to address water storage capacity deficiencies. It also will improve water pressure for its customers and fire supply, GWA says.
  • General plant improvements – To enhance its operations and maintenance capabilities, GWA has a $25.7 million budget to improve its three plants. The project budget also includes improving the system’s water distribution pipes that are undersized or failing because of improper construction, earthquake damage and/or material failures.

Funding for this work comes from a number of sources. Benavente notes that GWA’s ratepayers are taking on part of the burden for these improvements.

“With or without the military build-up, Guam’s population will grow, and we need to improve our water system for our families and friends,” he says. “In November 2010, we closed $118 million in bond financing, which will result in approximately $87 million worth of improvements to our system.

“Our ratepayers helped pay for these improvements, such as line replacements and increasing water pressure in chronic low water pressure areas,” he continues. “These are just a few of the projects that we plan to work on with the $87 million.”

Pride in Workmanship

GWA became a semiautonomous, self-supporting agency in February 1997, but before that, the authority’s services were managed by the Public Utility Agency of Guam (PUAG), which oversaw Guam’s water and wastewater utilities. GWA processes more than 40 million gallons of water each day, and has a customer base of more than 40,000 for water and more than 25,000 for wastewater.

From 2002 to now GWA has reduced its staff from 450 employees to 300, and it has only 22 employees assigned to fix water leaks throughout the entire island. However due to the pending buildup the utility staff is expected to grow in the next decade. Even so, Benavente says, GWA takes pride in exceeding expectations in the customer service that it provides, and consistently works to improve its services to ratepayers.

“Our employees continuously receive various trainings throughout the year to enhance their capabilities to run the system,” according to Benavente. “They also have the tools, equipment and other resources to help them do their jobs more effectively and efficiently. We are all about improving our customer service from all departments.”

Key Partners

GWA’s key partners on this and other projects include JC Tenorio Engineers & Associates Inc. and TG Engineers PC.

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