Bill Gaffi Announces Retirement from Clean Water Services
District’s longest-serving General Manager leaves powerful legacy in Tualatin River Watershed
Born and raised in the Pacific Northwest, Bill Gaffi has devoted his career to protecting public health and the natural environment since 1971. After earning a degree in civil engineering from the University of Washington, he went to work for the City of Portland’s Bureau of Environmental Services. In 1990, after rising to Chief of Engineering at BES, he joined Clean Water Services (then known as Unified Sewerage Agency) as Director of Planning & Engineering. In 1994, the CWS Board chose Bill to serve as the fourth General Manager in the organization’s history.
In his nearly quarter-century tenure as the General Manager, Bill Gaffi has transformed Clean Water Services, to the immense benefit of the region and the industry. Milestone accomplishments include:
- 1997 - Lead a robust business process reengineering effort to shift the focus of the utility from performance to customer value. Within five years, the effort saved ratepayers $56 million by streamlining methods, adopting new technologies, consolidating work teams and reducing staffing by 22 percent. Despite increasingly stringent state and federal pollution control requirements and a growing population, Clean Water Services has reduced the number of employees per customer served from a high of nine employees per 10,000 residents in 1998 to fewer than six employees per 10,000 today.
- 2000 - Convened municipal and agricultural water managers to develop the Tualatin Basin’s first-ever Integrated Water Resources Strategy to ensure the region could meet and balance the often competing demands of drinking water, agricultural irrigation and instream flow for fish. The IWRM laid the foundation for the region’s Tualatin Basin Dam Safety & Water Supply Project, which remains under development.
- 2001 - Embedded community values in the organization’s identity through a rebranding from Unified Sewerage Agency to Clean Water Services.
- 2004 - Working with the US EPA and the Oregon DEQ, secured the nation’s first Integrated Municipal Watershed-Based Permit. The new permit reached beyond pollution control alone and recognized the complex interrelationships between water quality (Clean Water Act), water quantity (water supply) and wildlife habitat (Endangered Species Act). The pioneering permit helped streamline and advance water quality programs in ways not possible under the previous regulatory framework, including laying the foundation for the nation’s largest and most successful water quality trading program.
- 2009 - Our Durham facility became the first commercial fertilizer recovery facility in North America when it partnered with Ostara Nutrient Recovery Technologies, Inc., to produce Crystal Green®, later launching Clean Water Grow®, a retail product available in nearly 200 stores throughout the Pacific Northwest today.
- 2010 - Established the Clean Water Institute as a way to get a return on CWS’ innovation investments, share technical expertise globally and fund the next generation of research.
- 2011 - Broke ground on the natural treatment wetlands and water garden at Fernhill in Forest Grove.
- 2014 - Sparked international conversations about water reuse through the Pure Water Brew Challenge, making beer from ultra-filtered water that was recently effluent.
- 2015 - Earned a AA+ rating from Standard & Poors.
- 2015 - The Tree for All partnership, which originally aimed to plant a million trees and shrubs in 20 years, planted twice that quantity in just one year.
- 2016 - CWS is among 61 public and private utilities to be recognized by the inaugural Utility of the Future program.
Bill is known nationally for transforming CWS into a recognized leader in competitive business practices while retaining a long-held reputation for technical excellence. Closer to home, he is a powerful example of the “Washington County way,” which involves working in partnership for thriving cities, rural areas and working lands. Bill’s wide-ranging legacy also includes some of the lowest wastewater/stormwater rates in the region; a high-functioning management team; award-winning water treatment facilities that generate more than a third of their own energy; and a shift from an emphasis on “pumps, plants and pipes” to a focus on the desired outcomes of watershed and public health.
In the spring of 2018, Bill announced his decision to retire. In this next chapter of his life, Bill looks forward to spending more time on the tractor; in the woodshop, canoe and Airstream; and with friends and family. Wherever Bill travels — from vineyard to city, river to campground, on the road and on the river — he will never be far from the evidence of his 47 years of service, more than half of them as General Manager of Clean Water Services.
Government & Public Affairs Manager
Clean Water Services