For the fourth year in a row, renewal and replacement (R&R) of aging water and wastewater infrastructure has been identified as the top challenge facing US water companies, according to the American Water Works Association (AWWA) State of the Water Industry report.
This year marks the 15th edition of the report and analyzes responses from 967 North American water industry professionals from a range of small, medium, and large utilities.
Renewal and replacement remains top challenge, asset management plans on the rise
AWWA proposes that the reason R&R remains a top challenge is that water systems built and financed by previous generations are reaching, or have exceeded, the end of Useful Life (UL).
Survey responses indicated that within the overarching issue of R&R, infrastructure reliability, justifying R&R programs to ratepayers, access to funding, and emergency resilience are critical aspects to the challenge.
In remediating the problems that arise from increasing R&R needs, AWWA holds that water rates reflect the “full-cost” of service, including R&R expenses. This, unfortunately, can lead to unwanted price increases for ratepayers. When asked if their utility could cover current and future R&R costs, the majority reported that they are only moderately able to do so.
Effective asset management plans (AMPs) can alleviate many of these concerns, and according to the report they are on the rise:
“30% of respondents have fully implemented an asset management plan […] this number increases to 48% of responding utilities that are in progress of implementing a program.” (emphasis added)
Nearly half of the respondents surveyed stated that they are in progress of AMP implementation – an effort that can be made significantly easier with the right tool.
Risk analysis based on Likelihood of Failure (LOF) combined with Consequence of Failure (COF) can facilitate a more accurate understanding of R&R needs and, by extension, a streamlined allocation of capital expenditures for more cost-effective R&R initiatives.
Many utilities and municipalities are taking this step to proactively address system stresses and conduct long-term capital planning accordingly.
Capital improvements, emergency preparedness lead in planning
While asset management planning may be actively pursued by utilities, capital planning and emergency preparedness lead the way in already established utility plans and programs.
According to AWWA’s survey, 62% of respondents have a fully implemented Capital Improvement Plan and 54% have implemented an Emergency Preparedness Plan.
Emergency preparedness planning is made easier and more accurate when there is the capability to run flood emergency scenario simulations – something that used to take hours but has been simplified with advancing storm, sewer, and flood modeling solutions.
SCADA shines for water tech
In discussing latest technological trends and adoption, surveyed professionals stated that they are “all-in” with Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) technology – and AWWA’s survey backs that up with 79% of utilities having full implementation of SCADA tech.
But with a mountain of acquired data, it’s easy to get lost without identifying key action items. To help extract actionable insights from SCADA for proactive decisionmaking, tools like Info360 are useful in providing clear interpretation and intelligence with interactive dashboard reporting.
Rounding out the top three most fully implemented tech were GIS and hydraulic models. Large utilities lead the way in adoption of all three, while small and medium widely use SCADA but are not quite at full implementation of GIS and/or hydraulic modeling.
At Innovyze, addressing the issues put forth by this year’s AWWA State of the Water report is paramount to what we do. Prioritizing R&R needs, empowering better emergency preparedness planning, and elevating technological innovations to help utilities extract actionable insights from harvested data can lead to smarter water system management for utilities.