What is water utility asset management?

Water utility asset management is the process of managing the physical assets and infrastructure involved in delivering water utility services. Through strategic management of the costly equipment that keeps water treatment facilities functional, utility companies can ensure the reliable delivery of their services to customers. 

Asset management basics

Proper asset management practices are critical to utility companies. They ensure reliable and cost-effective management of all stages of the equipment lifecycle, including procurement, installation, upgrades, maintenance, replacement, and disposal.

Good asset management for a utility will encompass a thoughtful approach that takes the unique characteristics of each specific utility into consideration. Utilities that need a utility asset management plan include: 

  • Electric utilities
  • Water utility and treatment facilities
  • Waste management 
  • Gas utilities
  • Renewable energy 
  • Telecommunications services

The importance of strategic asset management for water utilities

Water utilities supply clean water for drinking, sanitation, and industry while managing wastewater and stormwater. Their purpose is to provide uninterrupted delivery of safe, potable water and effective treatment and disposal of wastewater to ensure the health and well-being of community members and the environment.

In order for them to provide this critical always-on service, strategic asset management practices are critical. When water utilities keep tight control of equipment maintenance, repair, and replacement practices, they are able to provide better service to their customers and reap numerous other financial and operational benefits.  

Key challenges for the water utility asset management industry

Here are some common challenges water utilities face when creating and executing an asset management strategy:

  1. Continuity of water and wastewater treatment functions: Continuous operation of the equipment that performs water treatment functions allows no room for error. It requires multiple redundancies and the tools, resources, and spare parts to execute emergency maintenance procedures quickly.
  2. Pipeline integrity and leak management: The extensive network of pipes for water distribution and sewage collection requires constant monitoring and maintenance to prevent leaks, breaks, and contamination.
  3. Asset information infrastructure: Quick and easy access to asset data, spare parts information, and standard operating procedures enable critical processes from compliance to emergency maintenance.
  4. Resource conservation and sustainability: Water conservation and sustainable management strategies are required, especially in areas facing water scarcity or quality issues.
  5. Technological evolution: Advanced technologies such as smart meters, remote sensors, and GIS (Geographic Information Systems) offer opportunities for better system monitoring, leak detection, and infrastructure management when used strategically.

Effective water asset management requires a rigorous and efficient proactive maintenance program for treatment facilities, pipelines, and other critical infrastructure. It ensures consistent water quality and system reliability while extending the life of vital assets. Embracing a data-driven approach to maintenance, using technologies like real-time monitoring and predictive analytics helps identify potential issues and optimize resource allocation.

Benefits of proper asset management for water utilities

The obvious benefit of practicing good asset management is to ensure the reliability of services. But there is so much more to be gained from a strategic approach to asset management for water utilities. Here are just a few. 

  • Improved maintenance prolongs asset life, reducing waste, maintenance costs, and the need for replacement.  
  • Faster emergency response times and fewer instances of equipment emergencies.
  • Lower rates for customers due to more efficient operational costs for the utility company. 
  • Improved financial outlook due to lower maintenance and infrastructure costs and increased efficiency.
  • More thorough compliance with regulatory requirements.
  • Better customer satisfaction as a result of improved reliability and responsiveness when issues arise.

How to create a utility asset management plan

Following clear steps for creating a comprehensive water utility asset management plan will position your facility for long-term success and sustainability. Here is a summary of the steps involved.

  • Conduct a comprehensive asset inventory: A comprehensive asset audit is the foundation upon which all other asset management activities will be built.
  • Identify and prioritize asset risks: Evaluating risk enables utilities to focus internal resources on the operation’s most critical assets
  • Assess the current state of assets: A thorough condition assessment of your most critical assets provides valuable insights for prioritizing maintenance activities and planning budgets. 
  • Set asset management goals and objectives: Goals will provide direction for maintenance activities, technology investments, and overall asset lifecycle management.
  • Develop maintenance and replacement plans: Comprehensive maintenance and replacement plans ensure replacements are timely and cost-effective.
  • Implement technology solutions (CMMS, IoT, AI): Technology like CMMS, IoT devices, and predictive analytics helps utilities do a better job of managing and maintaining assets with less effort.
  • Allocate resources efficiently: Plan ahead to ensure all necessary resources are available to handle all of the planned asset management activities.
  • Ensure compliance and documentation: Ensure accountability for the execution of your asset management plan and ongoing adherence to changing regulations. 

Best Practices for Water Utility Asset Management

When developing an asset management plan for a water utility, following the steps above is a great place to start. To ensure your plan succeeds, keep a few best practices in mind that have been proven by numerous other facilities that have done it before.

Use the right technology

Explore the newest technology offerings available, such as IoT sensors to monitor asset condition and Computerized Maintenance Management Systems (CMMS) to enable efficient and effective execution of asset management activities.

Invest in data integrity

Data is a key ingredient in any effective asset management strategy. By ensuring thorough, consistent, and accurate capture of critical asset information and condition data, your team is able to gain key insights that will inform important decisions. 

Leverage the right mix of maintenance strategies

Numerous maintenance strategies have been established over many years of research and optimization. The best approach is one that combines different strategies and applies them appropriately based on the role and criticality of each asset.

Involve the right stakeholders

When developing any asset management strategy, it is essential to involve a variety of stakeholders in the process.  From maintenance technicians to operations managers and finance leaders, a broad perspective will help ensure your plan considers all the ways your organization will be impacted by each asset management-related decision.

Measure and improve

As with any large-scale strategy, planning and optimization are never done. Once implemented, be sure to identify mechanisms to measure the success of your strategy. Whether it is measuring downtime incidents or the cost of maintenance, reporting and looking for trends over time gives organizations the ability to continue improving.

The right tools for an important job

The utility industry is continuously evolving, facing new regulations, infrastructure requirements, and increasing customer expectations. CMMS software is scalable and flexible, allowing it to adapt to any type of utility, ensuring that you are always equipped with the best tools to face the future.

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