In parts 1 and 2 of our series about how OCWA helps protect Central New York residents from fires, we discussed our ongoing communication and coordination with local fire departments, as well as our proactive program of inspecting and maintaining the 14,000+ fire hydrants in our five-county service territory.  As the conclusion of our series, this article focuses on the substantial investment OCWA makes in our water system via capital improvement projects.

On average, OCWA invests $10 million per year in capital improvements. In 2018 alone, we are currently underway with $13 million worth of capital improvement projects designed to improve our infrastructure. A critical issue facing many water utilities like OCWA is aging infrastructure. OCWA has proactively dealt with this issue by strategically investing over $132 million in capital improvements funds over the past decade in our system.

These capital improvement projects include rehabilitation, replacement and upgrades to our water treatment, pumping and storage facilities, as well as the major transmission mains within our distribution system. Although all of these capital improvements directly or indirectly aid in fire protection, one we wish to highlight in particular is our System Betterment Projects.

System Betterment Projects focus on replacing small-size diameter water mains throughout our service area. Oftentimes, both the age and small-size diameter (12” and under) water mains can lead to water main breaks – particularly during the winter months. To combat this, our Engineering Department along with input from fire departments can assess and target ‘high risk’ areas by replacing existing water mains with a larger-size diameter in order to establish a better water flow and higher pressure. Targeting these areas to improve flow and yield can be critical during a fire outbreak.

In 2018, we have $3.5 million in funding for System Betterment Projects. These projects involve both time and manually intensive work. Due to the nature of this work, OCWA completes approximately 5 to 7 miles of System Betterment each year.

For more details on both Capital Improvement & System Betterment Projects as well as current projects that are underway, please visit: