by: Aaron Shroyer, Cookingham-Noll Fellow
The Chartland blog focuses on telling stories about City services through data. In this post, we will investigate the positive relationship between efficiency gains in water main repairs and citizen satisfaction with this service.
The Water Services Department operates and maintains 2,800 miles of water mains and another 2,800 miles of sewer mains throughout Kansas City. Lined up end-to-end, these pipes would stretch from New York City to Los Angeles and back again! With some of the water infrastructure in the historic part of Kansas City dating back to the Civil War era, these mains often need repair and replacement.
The number of main breaks fluctuates depending on weather and seasonal conditions. When the ground conditions around water pipes change, water mains are more likely to break. After peaking at 1,855 main breaks in FY13, main breaks in Kansas City have decreased by over half in the past two years to 855 in FY15 with continued reductions projected into the future.
This reduction in main breaks stems from better management of existing infrastructure and a renewed effort to replace aging pipes. The City as a whole has taken tremendous strides in the past few years to not only increase the number of performance indicators it tracks but also to set targets for future performance. Water Services has especially embraced this challenge, which has led to measurable, significant results.
Although main breaks are inevitable, targets set by Water Services have translated into performance improvements in responding to these breaks. In FY14, the Water Services established a goal to replace 28 miles of water mains per year. This effort targets the mains most in need of repair and therefore most likely to break. The Department has also dramatically decreased its response time for repairs for all main breaks. Over 90% of Code 1 (those causing minimal leakage) and Code 2 (those causing significant leakage) breaks are repaired within 21 days and 14 days, respectively.
Code 3 breaks, which are the most damaging leaks and often cause disruptions of service, are typically the types of major main breaks featured on the news. However, Water Services also recently made the news for their impressive response times to those major breaks. In a recent Kansas City Star letter to the editor, two customers detailed their experience with a water line break in front of their house. After calling 311 at 5:30pm, there was a Water Services representative at their house by 6:30, a crew there by 7:30, and full service restored by 11:30 – a six hour turnaround that fell way below the Department’s 24-hour target.
Events like this one illustrate the type of service that has boosted customer and citizen satisfaction. 311 Customer satisfaction with both the timeliness and quality of service of main break service requests have both gone up substantially over the last three years and are now both consistently above 80%. Overall citizen satisfaction with the timeliness of main break repairs has increased 11% since FY12.
Water Services continues to use data-driven decision-making to improve processes and make services more efficient. This usage of data, analyzed at both the Departmental and City level, through processes like KCStat, produces strong solutions to the issue at hand, as well as positive externalities to related City services.