Indy’s Water/Sewer Ownership Shift Proceeds Smoothly

By Jeff Griffin, Senior Editor | March 2012, Vol. 67 No. 3

It’s been more than six months since operation and ownership of water and sanitary sewer services in Indianapolis transferred from the city to a non-profit charitable trust, but most residential and commercial customers likely have experienced no difference in the day-to-day operation of these services.

That’s the way the city, the previous contract operators of the city’s water and wastewater systems, and managers of the trust, Citizens Energy Group, planned it. The goal of all concerned was to make the shift “seamless.” Transferring the two systems required precise execution of a plan involving complex logistics. Water and wastewater services now are operated as Citizens Water, a division of Citizens Energy Group.

In the transition, Citizens Water assumed operations of the water utility from Veolia Water Indianapolis (Veolia) and took assignment of the city’s contract with United Water to operate the wastewater system. Most city and Veolia employees who served the water and wastewater systems are now Citizens employees. Citizens Water gradually will implement various service enhancements and efficiencies expected to save customers about $60 million annually.

The water and sanitary sewer infrastructures cover approximately 320 square miles and in addition to Indianapolis, also provide services on a wholesale basis to the cities of Beech Grove, Lawrence and Greenwood, the Ben Davis Conservancy District and three outside-the-county development areas.

Proven record
A primary reason for the smooth transition is that the trust already has a successful track record of efficient utility management, providing gas services to more than 266,000 customers in Indianapolis and Marion County since 1887. Citizens also operates the nation’s second largest steam and chilled water distribution system in the U.S., providing heating and cooling to large commercial, industrial and institutional customers in downtown Indianapolis.

“Citizens employees are excited about this wonderful opportunity to expand on the purpose of the public charitable trust to add value and improve the quality of life in our community. Citizens Water is committed to providing safe, high quality water to the people of Central Indiana as we make important investments to ensure system reliability and cleaner area rivers and streams,” said Carey Lykins, president and chief executive officer of Citizens Energy Group.