New public utility business plan would improve services and efficiency

Mayor Murray today proposed a six-year strategic business plan for Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) which maintains and improves essential services while holding annual rate increases — which have averaged almost 7 percent over the past 10 years — to 4.6 percent.

“Seattle needs to have predictable bills for vital utility services —drinking water, sewer, drainage, garbage and recycling — that strike the best balance between keeping bills as low as possible and making our city the best place to live,” Murray said. “I believe this intelligent plan will show us how to invest our customers’ money wisely.”

The mayor said the plan was guided by an independent customer review panel that met 28 times beginning April 2013, and by an efficiency expert who scrutinized SPU’s business practices. The public had a say in the plan, too, through an extensive public outreach process that received input from residents and businesses throughout the city.

In a letter to the mayor, the Customer Review Panel expressed its “strong endorsement” of the plan, which it said, “represents a responsible and important investment in infrastructure and services provided by Seattle Public Utilities, benefiting both current and future generations of customers.”

The Strategic Business Plan trims .5 percent from SPU’s budget through 2020, while at the same time adding a number of important service improvements. Those improvements include:

  • Making significant investments in reducing sewer overflows into the Sound, Lake Washington and other waterways.
  • Accelerating flooding and sewer backup prevention projects in the Broadview and South Park neighborhoods.
  • Increasing sewer pipe inspection, cleaning and rehabilitation to reduce sewer backups and overflows.
  • Preparing for water supply and utility system threats that may occur from climate change.
  • Developing a plan to protect the drinking water system from major, regional earthquakes.
  • Implementing a program so the Utility can achieve carbon neutrality.
  • Improving maintenance and operation of the approximately 60,000 valves in the drinking water system.
  • Expanding existing street sweeping to remove 440 tons of pollutants from our streets and drainage to reduce Puget Sound, Lake Washington and waterway pollution.
  • Improving the quality of drainage and sewer services through accelerated mapping, planning and policy development.
  • Actively ensuring that all communities and customer groups have equal access, service delivery and ability to use services.
  • Constructing a new North Seattle solid waste and recycling transfer station.
  • Centralizing and streamlining the utility permit, service and sales functions for development customers.

The plan will be reviewed by the City Council over the summer. The public is invited to take an online survey or learn more about the Strategic Business at a series of four meetings around the city this month:

More information on the draft Strategic Business Plan is available at