The biggest project of my career at the North Texas Municipal Water District (NTMWD) was the redesign of the organization's website. Working with an outside agency and design team as well as internal subject matter experts, I managed the content development and presentation of the new website. This meant pouring through seven years of content from the old website (including nearly 1500 PDF documents) to reorganize, rewrite and repackage the content to meet our needs going forward. Every word of this website, including the blog, was written and/or edited by me with the approval of the subject matter experts and executive leadership.
Wrote and/or edited and published all blog content between 2015 - 2018. Below is a selection of some of my best work on the blog.
Wrote and/or edited and published all fact sheets between 2015 - 2018. Worked with design team to create new layouts in InDesign to complement the new website design. Rebuilt templates in Canva and MS Publisher so other departments without design skills could work with them.
Worked with design team to create new infographics to assist with data visualization and storytelling. Edited and updated graphics as needed.
We produced several videos this past year, many in partnership with outside agencies and some of our cities and other industry partners. I helped with art direction, script writing and coordinating the on-site shoots, and even produced a few videos myself for our internal communications.
News Stream e-newsletters were sent out monthly to an external audience that included board members, city staff, elected officials, business leaders, chambers of commerce, economic development corporations, NTMWD staff, and were made available to the general public. Project Pipeline was sent out quarterly to the same audience, but also included contractors and consultants. These were created in Constant Contact, then added to the website with an accompanying blog post and social media blast. I managed newsletter content development, writing assignments, graphic design, formatting and layout, distribution and reporting. I also wrote the majority of the content with help from our internal team and subject matter experts.
MEDIA RELATIONS/CRISIS COMMUNICATIONS
As the public relations coordinator, I was part of a team of writers and editors that all contributed to the release of news and information. During a crisis, such as a chemical spill or sanitary sewer overflow, I was assisted with the news release writing/editing and published it online and on social media. I also coordinated media site visits and interviews, and I researched and wrote answers to media inquiries. Occasionally, I acted as spokesperson.
NTMWD News Release Archives
As NTMWD spokesperson
Media request, coordinated story and site visit.
Published in Dallas Morning News
Written by Valerie Wigglesworth
MELISSA — Luke Morrow looked at the 30-foot-tall candlestick flare at the Collin County landfill and saw dollar signs disappearing. "We are burning money, and it's very painful," said the president of Morrow Renewables, which started the final phase of testing earlier this month at the landfill's new gas-to-energy plant. The plant became operational on Dec. 15.
The flare burns off the gas generated by the decomposing solid waste at the landfill. It also helps control landfill odors. But with Morrow's help, that waste stream will now be a revenue stream.
The plant converts landfill gas into renewable natural gas, which will be fed into a pipeline for use at vehicle fueling stations. The technology has been around for some time, but it wasn't until recently that the Collin County landfill produced enough gas to make the project financially feasible.
Landfill gas consists of about 57 percent methane, 42 percent carbon dioxide and 1 percent nitrogen along with other trace components. Morrow Renewables uses a patented process that recovers more than 96 percent of the methane from the landfill.
"We are taking a liability — methane emissions — and turning it into an asset: natural gas," Morrow said.
That's good news because methane is a greenhouse gas that's 20 to 25 times more harmful to the atmosphere than carbon dioxide. The amount that will be harvested annually at the Melissa landfill is the equivalent of the carbon dioxide emissions from 29.6 million gallons of gasoline.
How it started
The North Texas Municipal Water District, which operates the landfill, put the project out for bid in 2015. Midland-based Morrow Renewables was awarded the contract last year. The company, which is owned by Morrow and his brother, Paul, put up the money to build the plant on nearly 2 acres just inside the landfill's entrance off State Highway 121. It also had to secure about 5.5 miles of right of way to connect the plant to the Atmos natural gas pipeline.
Morrow Renewables handles the plant's operations. The water district will earn royalties based on the amount of renewable natural gas produced from the landfill. Initial estimates put the royalties at $500,000 a year. The amount will increase as the plant's production grows. The district plans to use the royalties to offset operational costs for the landfill.
"It's a great opportunity to capture what's going up in flames," said Jeff Mayfield, the water district's assistant deputy director of solid waste.
During the fiscal year that ended in August, the landfill accepted nearly 1 million tons of solid waste from the cities of Allen, Frisco, McKinney, Plano and Richardson as well as private contractors throughout the county and elsewhere.
The landfill has 89 wells that use a vacuum system to extract the gas from the landfill. Another 75 or so wells will be added next year, increasing production levels by about 32 percent. Based on current estimates, the landfill will last another 40 years. The production of renewable natural gas is expected to continue for several decades after the landfill's closing.
Texas leads the nation in renewable natural gas plants at landfills. Morrow Renewables has designed, built and operated six of the state's eight gas-to-energy plants. Several more are in the planning stages. And that's good for the environment.
"As our production increases, so will the equivalent offset of emissions," Mayfield said.
Ghost-writing for Tom Kula, Executive Director of NTMWD
Published in Allen American (Star Local Media)
Clean drinking water is critical to public health and safety. We can’t live without this essential resource that is delivered to north Texas homes and businesses for about a penny per gallon.
That cost pays for much more than the water itself. Behind your faucets is a network of pipes, pumps, facilities and people that take raw water from lakes and other sources, treat it, test it and transport it to your home or business around the clock. The North Texas Municipal Water District (NTMWD) is a non-profit regional provider that supplies treated drinking water to more than 1.6 million people in 13 member cities and over 60 other communities across north Texas. The cost of maintaining and expanding the infrastructure needed to provide this vital resource is increasing, and we must raise the wholesale rate to cover those costs.
In late September, the NTMWD Board of Directors will consider a proposed increase of 25-cents per 1,000 gallons of treated water. The current rate is $2.53 per 1,000 gallons, and if approved, the wholesale water rate will increase to $2.78. Cities set their own rates above that to cover the local costs to store and manage the distribution of water to their customers.
About 85% of the rate charged by NTMWD funds the costs to operate, maintain, upgrade and expand the infrastructure needed to keep the regional system delivering safe, reliable water. The remaining 15% pays for the actual water consumed, including the chemicals and power to treat that water and deliver it to the cities we serve. We are not alone. Across the nation, water rates are going up. And with the rapid growth in our service area, the water system must grow to ensure reliable supplies for the future.
We’re responsibly planning and investing in new water sources to meet future needs. Our largest water project (more than 10 years in the making) is the proposed $1.2-billion Lower Bois d’Arc Creek Reservoir. Federal agencies are reviewing the last permit needed, and NTMWD is preparing for construction to begin in early 2018. Another water supply project under construction is the $120-million Trinity River Main Stem Pump Station and Pipeline scheduled for completion in early 2019. Both projects are critical for the future of north Texas.
The NTMWD wholesale water rate also funds required system improvements. Our original water treatment plant in Wylie, which began operation in 1956, is undergoing significant upgrades. NTMWD is investing nearly $150 million for necessary improvements at all four of the Wylie water treatment plants – increasing capacity, installing new filters and upgrading treatment processes. In the northern part of our water delivery system, more than 11 miles of new pipelines will be constructed as well as a new ground storage tank to maintain system pressure.
NTMWD also provides wastewater conveyance and treatment services to one million people across 24 communities. The regional wastewater conveyance system and 14 treatment plants operated by NTMWD also need over $125 million in upgrades and expansions, including at the Rowlett Creek treatment plant in Plano, the Stewart Creek West plant in Frisco and the Wilson Creek plant in Lucas. Next year, improvements are planned at the Floyd Branch regional treatment plant in Richardson. Each city pays a share of the costs based on its flows into the wastewater systems in addition to charges for water service.
While it may seem like nothing is different about the water flowing in and out of your home, there’s a lot that goes into keeping these essential services “out of sight and out of mind.” Your water rates pay for #MoreThanWater.
For more information about the regional systems operated by the North Texas Municipal Water District, visit www.NTMWD.com.
Guest column for the Texas Chapter of the American Water Works Association
by Amber Freeland
Texas is Growing
Texas is growing and most of our communities are feeling the pressure to keep up. According to the latest reports from the U.S. Census Bureau, nearly half a million people have moved to the Lone Star State since 2015. In fact, nearly 1200 new residents move to Texas each day. So how does it affect the water industry?
Thanks to a number of factors, corporate relocations are bringing more than just their headquarters to our state. Companies like Toyota are relocating to Texas to take advantage of the tax breaks and centralized location, bringing with them thousands of employees and their families. As our local populations grow, so must our water and wastewater systems. Communities in North Texas and across our great state are frequently touted as among the best cities to live in and fastest growing in the U.S.
The Price of Growth
But growth comes at a price. Behind every gallon of water delivered to homes and businesses is a massive system of pipelines, pumps and treatment facilities that must be operated, maintained and funded. Many water systems in the state, including the North Texas Municipal Water District (NTMWD), have pipelines and other facilities built in the 1950’s or earlier. Aging water infrastructure requires maintenance and rehabilitation. Nationwide, there is significant public support for spending on water infrastructure. A poll conducted by the Value of Water Campaign and released last month showed 82% of Americans view rebuilding water systems as extremely or very important. Combined with the increasing cost of regulatory compliance to keep water safe, it’s easy to see why water rates are going up across the country.
If you ask people what their water bill pays for, most assume it simply covers the amount of water they use. The average customer doesn’t know or think about what it takes to get water to their tap. At NTMWD, only 15% of the wholesale water rate covers the amount of water actually used. The remaining 85% is needed to fund fixed costs like operations, maintenance, infrastructure and debt repayments. This also includes funding for planning and constructing major new water sources, like the proposed Lower Bois d’Arc Creek Reservoir, to meet future needs.
Additionally, the crisis in Flint, Michigan highlighted the fundamental importance of water in the community. Water service is a vital aspect of public health, safety, and quality of life. Reliable service is essential to keeping our communities healthy, thriving and safe from threats such as disease and fire.
Water Rates Pay for #MoreThanWater
For too long, Americans have generally taken for granted that water will always flow from their taps when needed. Now, after years of low water rates during a time when populations have increased dramatically, water providers have no choice but to raise rates to provide the same reliable service. Investments are critical to repair aging infrastructure, comply with changing regulations and secure new supplies to support our growing communities. So, how do we face the public outcry over higher costs? We must work together to show consumers that they are paying for #MoreThanWater.
How Are You Sharing Your Water Story?
How can we show residents that water rates pay for #MoreThanWater? Here are some ideas:
The majority of my work with QSI Group consists of managing web design projects from concept to launch, assisting clients with technical or billing issues, and social media strategy and content creation.