Upcoming Florida Legislation Expected to Push for Better Wastewater Asset Management

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June 12, 2020 | David Totman

July 1, 2020, is the date two new laws are scheduled to take effect in Florida on Environmental Accountability (SB 1450/HB 1091) and more broadly Environmental Resource Management (SB 712/HB 1343).  I will let you read the 50 pages of the Environmental Accountability bill or the 100+ pages of the Environmental Resource Management bill, but it easily gets boiled down to good ol’ fashioned asset management. 

States continue to focus on asset management related legislation

We have seen State asset management legislation pop up before in drinking water with Michigan, Ohio, New Jersey, and then even federally with the America Water Infrastructure Act.  Like these previous pieces of legislation, the Senate Bill Analysis and House Staff Analysis reports highlight the importance of deploying a wastewater asset management system to comply with the regulations. 

We also have precedence with sewer, storm, and flood management systems such as the California Sewer System Management Plan (SSMP) requirements, but these Florida regulations are intense and quite comprehensive.

I can see why.  When I was a groundwater hydrologist in the State of Arizona, depth to groundwater could be in the hundreds of feet.  In Florida, it’s more like six inches.  Anything you spill has a high probability of going directly into the groundwater system and with the Karst topography, the scatter patterns are unforgiving. These unique environmental factors contribute to the need for comprehensive asset management.

What can Florida utilities expect?

Regulations are now making systems responsible for sewer laterals, placing more intense scrutiny on septic systems, waste tanks, and even calling for real-time monitoring to become the norm, chances are high you will violate one rule or another. Yet all can be mitigated with reduced fines if you do your due diligence and implement systems that help you manage, monitor, and optimize water resources.

These regulations suggest that it is time your Basin Management Plan goes real-time (if you have one).  It also calls for utilities to maintain proposed asset renewal projects and 5-year funding plans, reports on costs required for reduction of SSOs, collection/transmission leakages, and I&I, and even that reclaimed water projects for Ocean Outfall utilities are properly prioritized and budgeted.

How does asset management help?

I have long believed that any of these environmental resource management plans are just like asset management plans, or AMPs.  Assets can be built and natural.  Management is both long-term capital planning and near/real-time operational and maintenance activities. 

Colleagues have challenged me on saying that there is no such thing as real-time asset management.  Of course, there is.  Real-time operations can be prioritized with a risk-based decision support system. 

Anywhere there is more need than resources, risk-based prioritization helps you be accountable and transparent in how you make decisions as it is rule-based.  These rules can be tested and audited making you accountable and transparent. I will concede that there is no such thing as real-time Capital Planning.  You do not want to change a funding program based on yesterday’s real-time data feed.

But how can utilities make sure that their asset management plans align with regulations and also local service levels? We may see an increase in adopting water-centric asset management tools as a solution.

What role will technology play?

I can see the eyes about to roll into the back of your heads, but I’m going to say it, meeting the requirements of these Bills is a perfect use-case for a water infrastructure Digital Twin.

Whether you call it a Digital Twin, AI/ML, or an IoT application, an asset performance model goes beyond buzzword promises to deliver the up-to-date planning infrastructure that utilities need. These technologies help to not only meet the requirements of ever-present and pending laws but to ultimately better serve the communities in which they operate.

A Digital Twin mimics a real-world system using mathematical rules and digital constructs.  There are multiple overlays; 1) the physical structure, 2) the operational methods, 3) the behavioral understanding, 4) the real-time inputs and outputs, and more. It even goes beyond CMMS and other enterprise asset management solutions as a water Digital Twin is purpose-built to consider hydraulic performance.

Again, I boil all of these things down to effective asset management.  On July 1st, Florida amps up sewer regulations, and all you have to do is do the best you can by knowing what you have, what you are doing about it now, and how are you going to manage it in the future.  Innovyze is here to help. Give us a call.



Tags: asset management, asset performance management, wastewater, legislation

About the Authors

David Totman

David Totman

VP of Asset Management


Having been a public servant for many years, David's passion for infrastructure is exemplified throughout his experience as the VP of Asset Management at Innovyze and advisory Past-President for the Utility Engineering & Surveying Institute in the ASCE. 

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