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p12 american waterFrom left: Jeff Conklin, vice president, Utilities and Infrastructure Practice and Technology, Media and Telecommunications Practice at J.D. Power; Bruce Hauk, president of Illinois American Water; Mike Smyth, vice president of Operations at Illinois American Water; and Enrique Genao, director, Energy Practice at J.D. Power.By ALAN J. ORTBALS
    Illinois American Water received the J.D. Power award for ranking highest in customer satisfaction among water utilities in the Midwest according to J.D. Power’s 2016 Water Utility Residential Customer Satisfaction Study. The utility also achieved the highest score in the region for price and communications.
    The first-time, national study was based on more than 20,000 responses, representing more than 83 million residential customers of the 84 largest water utilities across the United States.  Residential customers were surveyed in March 2016 and had experiences with their utility within the past six months. The Overall Water Utility Satisfaction Index measures key performance indicators in six areas: delivery (including quality), price, billing and payment, conservation, communications and customer service.   
    “We are honored to receive this award from J.D. Power because it’s a direct reflection of what Illinois American Water’s customers experience with us,” said Illinois American Water President Bruce Hauk. “We know how critical water service is and how personal a service we provide.  We thank our customers for their vote of confidence in our employees, who strive every day to provide safe drinking water at a good value.”
    The year 2016 was the first that J.D. Power has conducted a customer satisfaction study for water utilities. The study ranked U.S. water utilities serving a population of at least 400,000 residents. Utilities were categorized into the Northeast, Midwest, South and West geographic regions.
    According to J.D. Power, the study found that when critical water infrastructure is not maintained, it can cause residential delivery interruptions or create water quality problems such as bad taste and bad smell, the two issues that impact satisfaction the most. The American Society of Civil Engineers says that an estimated $1 trillion in capital spending will be needed across the nation over the next 25 years to replace thousands of miles of pipe, upgrade treatment plants and comply with stricter water quality standards.
    Illinois American Water invests $70 million to $100 million a year on average to ensure high-quality, reliable water and/or wastewater service with 2016 topping out at $130 million.
    “The communities we serve rely on us to not only provide water service that supports public health, fire protection and the local economy, but to make needed investment to ensure reliable service today and in the future,” said Hauk.
    Dealing with old and deteriorating infrastructure is a common problem of utilities across the country, J.D. Power said of its study.