Posted by Kurt West on Feb 28, 2020 12:37:00 PM
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Developing an asset management plan for water utilities requires a long-term strategy and the engagement of the leadership. This plan will serve as a cornerstone for an effective asset management system for utilities -- a roadmap for your objectives.       

In order for the system to be effective, you must outline clear goals, as well as the elements of a systematic program. There are a few more important factors to consider. 

5 things to consider when creating an asset management plan for water utilities 

A city that struggles to supply water and treat wastewater is a city at risk. 

As critical resources to support a healthy population, water and wastewater organizations must tackle water issues in order to be sustainable and successful. It all starts with your asset management plan for water utilities.    

1. Assess current asset management practices 

Whether you have computerized maintenance or standard operating procedures, you likely have some level of system or procedure in place for your assets. 

Before you create an asset management plan, you need a comprehensive view of your current asset management practices so you can determine your needs, goals, strengths and weaknesses. 

The results from your assessment can be compared to your strategy’s goals to define the utility’s “gap”.

2. Build an asset inventory 

A key to managing assets is to determine which are owned by the utility, as well as the condition of the assets. While you’re assessing your current assessment management practices, you should also build an asset inventory. 

Your asset inventory should include data like the location, size and capacity, construction materials, installation date, condition, life-cycle costs, and remaining useful life. 

Questions to ask to complete your asset inventory: 

  • What assets do you have?
  • Where are your assets located?
  • What is the value of the asset?
  • When was the asset built, bought and installed?
  • What is the expected life-cycle and life-cycle cost of the asset? 

This should be completed and organized on an asset-by-asset basis. The data you collect in the inventory will provide a basis for utility managers to plan and carry out the work that controls, restores or replaces an existing asset, ensuring it reaches its full capacity.  

In order for your plan to be as accurate as possible, you need to calculate the life-cycle cost of all of your assets. This means, not just how much they cost at initial purchase, because there are many opportunities for added costs throughout an asset’s life, like maintenance and even disposal costs. Your asset management plan is only as accurate as your life-cycle costs. 

3. Set levels of service for your assets

Building your asset inventory should get you thinking about the levels of service for your assets. 

Setting levels of service will allow you to outline the overall quality, capacity, function and safety of the different services your assets provide. Start with manageable water and wastewater goals, as well as milestones so you can set ambitious levels of service. 

Questions to ask: 

  • What level of service are you currently providing?
  • What is the annual cost of that service? 
  • How is that level of service expected to change?
  • Is there funding to support the change?
  • Is your current level of service satisfying users?  
  • Can you do anything to improve the service? 

The requirements of maintaining your service will dictate the operating, maintenance and renewal activities for your assets moving forward. 

4. Outline and develop a plan to manage assets 

Asset management is about change management and managing your organization’s infrastructure. Whether you use the U.S. EPA 10-step process or the newly adopted ISO 55000 standard, you must outline and develop a long-term plan for assets. This includes service expectations, timelines, funding, life-cycle costs, risk management and resource requirements. 

5. Implement asset management plan and measure results 

After you outline and develop a comprehensive asset management plan for water utilities, you can set priorities and actions to improve your asset management practices. 

This plan would likely include short-term and long-term actions, assignments, costs, and goals to measure. It should also include a long-term financial plan that will help you determine which of your objectives are attainable, which are important, and which should take priority. 

Like any new process, implementing your asset management plan will impact the culture of the organization, so it’s important to create communication avenues for success.You can do this by creating a way for internal decision makers and external stakeholders to report on asset conditions, potential risks, and more.  

In order to determine the success of your asset management plan and upon implementation, you also need to consider how you are going to measure the results. Some key performance indicators like the number of assets needing audit, inventory accuracy, percentage of planned maintenance work orders, equipment reliability, and more can help gauge your progress. This way, you know which areas need to be improved and which ones can wait.      

Managing risks is also crucial in the success of your asset management plan for water utilities. This means, you need to anticipate any failures in response to economic, social, and environmental impacts. This can include things like repair costs, customer outages, road closures and more.         

AWWA - Strategic Asset Management Plan for Water Utilities  

The American Water Works Association suggests Strategic Asset Management Plans (SAMPs). This encompasses all documented information that specifies how objectives translate into asset management, the approach for developing an asset management plan, and the role the system plays in working towards your objectives. 

Below are the foundational elements of the strategic asset management system that the AWWA suggests. In other words, it’s a roadmap for implementing your new policy.  

  • Assessing risk
  • Engaging stakeholders
  • Establishing roles and responsibilities
  • Designing competency requirements
  • Developing performance management
  • Creating O&M strategies for managing
  • Asset over their life cycles
  • Managing data and documentation
  • Corrective action and risk mitigation
  • Ensuring continuous improvemen

You can learn more about SAMPs here

This is just a simplified list of the elements your strategic asset management should include so you can efficiently implement your utility plan. 

As long as you consider these 5 steps when creating an asset management plan for water utilities, you can outline your approach to implement your plan, reach your objectives, and start measuring your results.                   

Topics: Utility asset management

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