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Sustainable Water Infrastructure

Asset Management for Water and Wastewater Utilities

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Overview of Asset Management

Renewing and replacing the nation's public water infrastructure is an ongoing task. Asset management can help a utility maximize the value of its capital as well as its operations and maintenance dollars.

Asset management provides utility managers and decision-makers with critical information on capital assets and timing of investments. Some key steps for asset management are making an inventory of critical assets, evaluating their condition and performance, and developing plans to maintain, repair, and replace assets and to fund these activities.

What is asset management?

Asset management is a process water and wastewater utilities can use to make sure that planned maintenance can be conducted and capital assets (pumps, motors, pipes, etc.) can be repaired, replaced, or upgraded on time and that there is enough money to pay for it.

Asset management is the practice of managing infrastructure capital assets to minimize the total cost of owning and operating these assets while delivering the desired service levels. Many utilities use asset management to pursue and achieve sustainable infrastructure. A high-performing asset management program includes detailed asset inventories, operation and maintenance tasks, and long-range financial planning.

Each utility is responsible for making sure that its system stays in good working order, regardless of the age of its components or the availability of additional funds. Asset management programs with good data—including asset attributes (e.g., age, condition, and criticality), life-cycle costing, proactive operations and maintenance, and capital replacement plans based on cost-benefit analyses—can be the most efficient method of meeting this challenge. 

What are the benefits of asset management?

Examples of outcomes that can be realized by utilities through asset management:

  • Prolonging asset life and improving decisions about asset rehabilitation, repair, and replacement
  • Meeting consumer demands with a focus on system sustainability
  • Setting rates based on sound operational and financial planning
  • Budgeting focused on critical activities for sustained performance
  • Meeting service expectations and regulatory requirements
  • Improving responses to emergencies
  • Improving the security and safety of assets
  • Reducing overall costs for both operations and capital expenditures

What are the elements of asset management practice?

Asset management is centered on a framework of five core questions, which provide the foundation for many asset management best practices:

  1. What is the current state of my assets?
  2. What is my required "sustainable" level of service?
  3. Which assets are critical to sustained performance?
  4. What are my minimum life-cycle costs?
  5. What is my best long-term funding strategy?

EPA's Asset Management: A Best Practices Guide (PDF)(4 pp, 242 K, About PDF) explores the five core questions and best practices for each. This guidebook is for owners, managers, and operators of public water systems, local officials, technical assistance providers, and state personnel.

Who should practice asset management?

Asset management is a scalable approach that can be used by systems of any size. Whether running a small drinking water system serving 50 customers or drinking water and wastewater systems of the largest cities, asset management means putting in place a long-term plan to sustain these systems and the services they provide.

Asset management is also used in other sectors where infrastructure needs to be managed for the long term, such as in the transportation and housing sectors. Some leading communities are adopting cross-sector asset management programs where infrastructure investments are coordinated and prioritized across the different infrastructure areas.

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Asset Management Workshops

Advanced Asset Management Workshop Materials

Web-based Asset Management Training

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Asset Management Resources

EPA Asset Management Resources

Asset Management Partner Resources

The following links exit the site Exit

  • Water Environment Research Foundation's (WERF) Sustainable Infrastructure Management Program Learning Environment (SIMPLE) - A web-based tool to help wastewater plants learn about life-cycle asset management plans. Access is free to WERF members.
  • New Mexico Environmental Finance Center's Asset Management Guide (PDF) (112 pp, 1.1 MB, About PDF) - Provides a practical, hands-on roadmap to implementing an asset management program.
  • Maryland Center for Environmental Training (MCET) - The Center developed an Asset Management Guide for Wastewater Utilities and a Train-the-Trainer Toolkit for Total Enterprise Asset Management Systems (TEAMS) software. The toolkit teaches the principles of asset management and introduces open source software (TEAMS) supporting wastewater utilities.
  • Virginia Tech's Sustainable Water Infrastructure Asset Management Online Non-Degree Program - The Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Virginia Tech, in partnership with EPA, GHD Consulting and Water Environmental Research Foundation (WERF), offers a certificate program in the fundamentals of sustainable water infrastructure asset management.
  • Liquid Assets: The Story of Our Water Infrastructure - A public media and outreach initiative to inform the nation about the role water infrastructure plays in protecting public health and promoting economic prosperity. Combining a 90-minute documentary with a community toolkit for facilitating local involvement, Liquid Assets explores the history, engineering and political and economic challenges of our water infrastructure, and engages communities in local discussion about public water and wastewater issues.

Asset Management in National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Permits

Municipalities across the country face the challenging obligation to manage their aging sewer and stormwater systems at a time of urban population growth, stringent water quality protection requirements, and resiliency challenges. It is often difficult for municipalities to secure funding for infrastructure improvements or replacement, or to maintain existing funding levels. Asset management planning is a proven tool for maintaining and elevating levels of service for wastewater and stormwater systems and planning system renewal and upgrades.

The NPDES program regulates point sources that discharge pollutants into waters of the U.S. and serves to standardize practices associated with operating and maintaining sewer and stormwater collection systems.

Incorporating Asset Management Planning Provisions into NPDES Permits - This document outlines the benefits and basis for addressing asset management in NPDES permits. It also suggests potential language and implementation practices to incorporate into permits.

Case Studies - The case studies examine the experiences of several municipalities in various stages of implementing asset management practices: Folsom California; South Placer, California; South San Francisco, California; San Diego, California; Minneapolis, Minnesota; and Grand Rapids, Michigan.

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