“Only tap water delivers” is the American Water Works Association’s motto, and the St. Charles Parish Waterworks Department couldn’t agree more as it celebrates receiving an honor that drives that point home.
A sample of water taken from the West Bank was named the “best tasting water” in Louisiana at the Louisiana Conference on Water Supply, Sewerage, and Industrial Wastes Inc. in Shreveport.
Waterworks Director Robert Brou said the formula for success is basically the water needs to smell good, taste good and look good.
“We start with a good source of water – the Mississippi River – trying to minimize any chemical and make it as pure as we can,” Brou said. “We want it clean and safe to drink, but no one will want to drink it if has anything objectionable.”
The same sample also placed first in the South Central Region in March. It goes to the regional competition in October with the Southwest Section of America Waterworks Association at its annual conference in Baton Rouge. If it wins there, it goes to the national level in June of next year.
Brou said they’ve competed on the national level (includes Canada) three times.
“It’s a thing of pride,” he said. “I like that we are consistently recognized for it at the local, state and regional levels. It would be really nice to win on the national level. It would be a huge feather in our cap.”
Technology and chemistry makes it good, he added. But there’s always room for improvement and the department remains dedicated to finding those ways, too.
Technically, the parish has two separate systems on the East and West banks although they are connected by pipelines that run under the river, Brou said. This connection allows altering the water flow between the two to ensure the supply is where it’s needed, especially in emergencies. The two systems handle 8.5 million gallons of water a day on average with total capacity at 19 million gallons.
“We needed every drop of it for the freeze event,” Brou said. “It strained everybody’s system, but luckily we had enough and we made it through.”
The system has 21,498 customers (19,705 residential, 1,673 commercial, 119 industrial and the St. John the Baptist Parish municipality that occasionally buys water).
“We’re really in good shape,” Brou said of the system’s ability to meet growth. “The trend is actually less usage per customer.”
Since Brou joined the department in 1985, he’s observed water demand decline with the advent of energy and water efficient devices like low-flow toilets and water efficient washing machines.
“As we grow, this gives us that cushion that we need,” he said of meeting area growth.
Operations Manager Rickey Robert praised all 53 employees of the Waterworks Department for their dedication to serving the parish.
“The reason we fare so good through freeze events or storms is because our employees really go above and beyond,” Robert said. “They make sure the people are taken care of and make sure our system survives.”
Brou added it’s all part of ensuring tap water delivers in St. Charles Parish.