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NARRATIVE: The Downers Grove Sanitary District embodies all elements of the Utility of the Future 
model.  While the organization is relatively small, it is configured with personnel focused on continually 
improving resource recovery opportunities, water resource sustainability, and visibility as a leader in the 
community in these areas. 

Three (of the numerous potential) areas for consideration are: 
• 

Ongoing progress towards becoming a ‘net zero’ energy treatment facility,  

• 

Leadership role in the local watershed restoration workgroup, 

• 

Community outreach and communications.  

 
The staff of about 35 is organized into a flat structure with a manager reporting to the Board of Trustees, 
six supervisors, and the remainder hourly workers with responsibility and authority to carry out the 
goals and vision of the organization.  The foundational vision areas are customer service, environmental 
protection, cost-effectiveness, and transparency.  All levels of the organization are engaged in the 
planning, implementation, monitoring and assessment, and identification of further improvement 
opportunities.  This system of Plan, Do, Check, Act puts the organization on a continuum of cost-
effective, manageable change that shifts the organization’s focus from waste disposal to a value-added 
community resource.   

All levels of the organization function to some extent on a professional level, with an ever-expanding 
foundation of knowledge and skills through training and involvement with professional associations 
coupled with rigorous ethical and moral performance expectations.  The advantage of the small, flat 
structure is the ready communication and resulting relationship-building that promotes clear 
understanding among staff of high-level goals and policies, as well as the detailed implications of every 
decision and change, however minor.    

Energy Sustainability 

About 10 years ago, amid spiraling energy costs and the emergence of more modern water-efficiency 
technologies, attention was turned to controlling the 15% bite that energy was taking from the annual 
operating budget.  Various in-plant energy infrastructure arrangements were evaluated, with electricity 
emerging as the preferred medium, with most existing processes being motor-driven.   

Following a complete energy audit, efficiency improvements were systematically identified and 
implemented, from lighting and HVAC, to pump variable speed controls and a complete re-design of the 
plant’s activated sludge aeration system.  Over a period of about 5 years, plant energy use was reduced