Looking to Help Utilities Save Money? Fix These 5 Hidden Asset Management Costs

Asset management challenges for water and wastewater utilities and how to overcome them.

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December 9, 2020

When it comes to asset management, water and wastewater utilities experience many challenges related to asset information management, risk-based prioritization, and budgeting repair and replacements of deteriorating infrastructure.

While some utilities are able to pursue asset management plans on their own, engineering firms have an opportunity to support utility asset management with outside expertise and additional resources. By offering compelling asset management services, firms can help their clients save money by taking a proactive approach to asset performance management, as well as supplementing ongoing operations and maintenance (O&M) plans.

In this blog post, we’ll go over 5 hidden costs that a supporting engineering firm can help resolve with an asset management service offering. This in turn will help firms remain competitive and also provide higher levels of value to their client base.

1. Regulation Fines

With increased focus on encouraging asset management planning at utilities, engineering firms can help clients avoid fines resulting from consent decrees and being out of compliance with local regulations.

By continuously improving their clients’ asset performance models and adapting their plans in order to stay current on regulations, firms can provide an added layer of confidence that a utility will be aligned with regulation and avoid penalty.
For example, if a district is experiencing a high level of sanitary sewer overflows (SSOs) or combined sewer overflows (CSOs), they are at a higher risk of being placed under a costly consent order. By providing a sound asset management framework, a consulting firm can provide a proactive overflow mitigation strategy that will reduce the likelihood of financial penalty.

2. Customer Disruptions from Infrastructure Failure

There was a time when water and wastewater management essentially involved maintenance and replacement strategies. Today, we are in need of asset management practices that are focused on taking the long-term holistic view, maximizing the lifecycle of each asset, as well as mitigating risks and managing expenses.

This makes it quite difficult to plan for and prioritize maintenance and renewal, which leads to unexpected and costly asset failures such as water main breaks and overflow that could otherwise have been avoided if preventive maintenance procedures were in place. This is why water infrastructure networks failure often result in forced outages as well as customer disruptions that contribute to significant economic losses. An engineering firm can offer specific risk-based prioritization plans based on asset failure likelihood and consequence to minimize instances of loss.

3. High Replacement Expenses

Overlooking physical failures in water and wastewater system is a common problem that can become quite severe over time. Engineering firms need to help utilities prioritize the maintenance and renewal of pipes, pumping stations, and water mains to reduce operational expenses and prevent water quality issues.

When such failures go undetected for quite some time, they can result in high replacement expenses, which is the last thing utilities need when they’re already dealing with operational, legal, and public safety costs as well as trying to meet the growing demands of consumers.

4. CIP budgets Are Not Justified

Capital Improvement Planning is essentially a process that generally occurs before the annual budget for a project is updated. These plans identify projects that need to be completed in the next five years and allocate budgets to them accordingly.

Water and wastewater utilities need to maintain a plan to invest in their capital assets because costs associated with capital infrastructure make up a large percentage of their overall costs.

When a lower budget ends up getting approved for a project, it can lead to a plethora of issues in the water and wastewater systems due to a lack of preventive maintenance among other important aspects of asset management. With poor planning, these utilities end up not being able to cover the capital costs when necessary which can result in declining service as well as public health risks.

Long-term planning can help take care of major infrastructure improvements and repairs by spreading the capital costs over the course of a couple of years. This can also significantly help reduce the need to raise rates in a single year in order to cover the cost of an unplanned capital project.

5. Re-surveying the Same Assets Without Any Reason, Increasing Inspection Costs

Asset inspection involves surveying and evaluating the physical condition of the existing systems to obtain data that is then utilized to create an effective asset lifecycle management plan. It’s imperative that firms continuously update asset condition assessment data to maximize the lifecycle of the asset and improve operational performance.

There are many instances where firms end up wasting survey investments by conducting surveys of the same asset for no reason or losing crucial survey data that can result in increased inspection costs. Having a solution at hand that can ensure productive and efficient use of inspections from CCTV and other sources will lead to an improve ROI from inspection and other data capture exercises.

Engineering firms across the globe can help water and wastewater utilities take care of these hidden asset management costs and mitigate substantial risks by implementing appropriate prioritization plans and efficient asset inspection processes.

Innovyze InfoAsset is a full suite of asset management solutions that can help engineering firms across the globe provide better services to their clients, streamline their day-to-day operations, and learn how to save utilities’ money while managing operational risks.

Tags: asset management, water utilities, wastewater, deteriorating infrastructure