Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2012

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Engineering (ME)

First Advisor

Angela Bielefeldt

Second Advisor

Scott Summers

Third Advisor

JoAnn Silverstein


The goal of this research was to provide a comprehensive examination of regional water and wastewater utility collaboration. Water and wastewater utilities continually face new challenges that require unique efforts and solutions to address. Regional collaboration may effectively address these challenges, including new and ongoing issues such as water quality and supply, economic factors, customer service and communication, and disaster response/security. Regional collaboration among water and/or wastewater utilities was evaluated using a national survey of collaborations (conducted in collaboration with the Strategic Management Practices Committee of the American Water Works Association) and a survey of utilities in Colorado. The results from these surveys illustrated several examples of collaboration areas, governance structures, financial management types, benefits, and lessons learned from 150 different regional collaborations. Regional collaborations appear very common, especially in Colorado, where most the utilities surveyed participated in at least 3 collaboratives. Additionally, these collaborations are much older than initially anticipated, with 30% of the collaboratives from the national survey and 63% of the collaborations from Colorado working together for at least 11 years. The key collaboration areas described were legislative/regulatory issues, operational concerns and efficiencies, water supply concerns, and cost reductions. Surprisingly, no particular trends were found comparing collaboration size, age, governance structure, financial management types, or areas of collaboration. There was a great diversity of ideas evident for lessons learned and benefits from regional collaborations. The most common benefits of regional collaboration were cost reductions, regulatory and policy coordination, information sharing and communication, and shared water resources planning. By examining the critical factors for success, challenges and constraints, and roadblocks and barriers described by the utilities and collaborations, other interested parties can get ideas to guide their own collaborations. Regional collaborations are unique and diverse; there are no simple models for developing a successful collaboration. These collaborations yield a wide range of benefits, and all utilities are encouraged to explore the potential to address challenges that they are facing by collaborating with others.