FEB. 27, 2014

"Making Progress More Apparent" is this year's theme at the AWWA-WEF Utility Management conference, which wraps up today, in Savannah, Ga. This BC Water News Special Edition will focus on three key topics facing utility leaders: Workforce, Optimization and Infrastructure. Each day, we'll feature comments from industry leaders, who will share their progress on each topic. This series is intended to stimulate an exchange of ideas and success stories. You can share your story with us on LinkedIn, or send us an email for inclusion in this forum.


Jeff Theerman
Jeff Theerman
Brown and Caldwell Utility Performance Leader

Although funding and the need for infrastructure reinvestment are ongoing concerns for water and wastewater utilities, we're seeing a strong commitment to address aging infrastructure in proactive and sensible ways using the resources available. That's translating to progress on many dimensions, as well as to better dialogue with the public and policymakers about funding needs. Is this view consistent with how you are approaching your infrastructure issues?


Calvin Farr "The question is which pipelines to fix first. We embarked on an asset management program in 2007, a master planning effort to determine the condition of our pipelines. Once we did that, we could establish a schedule for prioritizing the improvements, renewals, capital projects and also operation and maintenance."
Calvin Farr, wastewater collections group leader
Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission
Laurel, Md.

Our challenge is the size of our system, which is bigger than most. For our network of nearly 5,600 miles of fresh water pipeline and more than 5,400 miles of sewer pipeline, the goal is to handle emergency situations and be proactive.

The question is which pipelines to fix first. We embarked on an asset management program in 2007, a master planning effort to determine the condition of our pipelines. Once we did that, we could establish a schedule for prioritizing the improvements, renewals, capital projects and also operation and maintenance. [The program] helps us with operating and capital budgeting.

Using our asset management principles and taking into account the probability of failure and consequence of failure, we focus on the triple bottom line: the environmental aspect, the financial aspect and the social costs. This is used to come up with what we call a business risk exposure, basically going after the assets that have the most risk and focusing on those.

So far the approach is working, but it'll be a while before we see how well. Ultimately, we're trying to improve service to our residents. It will be a while before we see a reduction in water main breaks, but I do feel confident that we are on the right track.


Dave Taylor "For each water system, we have created a 20-year plan and area assessments, which look at reliable capacity, supply, demand, source options and costs. The plans and assessments are updated regularly and prepared for County Council's annual budget review. With rate and fee projections, the DWS works with the council to implement a balanced approach with annual meter fee and rate increases."
Dave Taylor, director
Maui County (Hawaii) Department of Water Supply

Like water utilities nationwide, the Maui County Department of Water Supply is faced with both aging infrastructure and new development. Growth for the island of Maui is projected to grow 35 percent between 2010 and 2030, or 1.5 percent per year. The largest gains will be in West Maui and South Maui.

To meet these needs, the DWS is evaluating replacement requirements and long-term costs for capital improvement. For each water system, we have created a 20-year plan and area assessments, which look at reliable capacity, supply, demand, source options, and costs. The plans and assessments are updated regularly and prepared for County Council's annual budget review. With rate and fee projections, the DWS works with the Council to implement a balanced approach with annual meter fee and rate increases. By raising both, current and new customers pay for operations, maintenance, replacement and expansion.

The DWS meets with the County Council regularly to go over financial and policy issues. They approve rates, fees and debt, so their understanding and support is crucial. Other policy issues include cost of service, low-cost and high-cost service areas, pricing, drought tolerance, and ordinances. Policy decisions are translated into operational actions within the department.

By actively engaging with the Maui County Council and the advisory Board of Water Supply on policy issues, we can make decisions based on community needs and find community-wide solutions. Working as part of the larger community effort, we can plan for and fund infrastructure needs and growth.


James Herberg "It is imperative that agencies work proactively to understand the community's needs and reach out so the public can understand why the project is necessary and better support our efforts. Collection system projects also have a greater risk related to unknown conditions, which leads to the importance of setting expectations with community leaders, City Councils, Boards of Directors as well as the public."
James Herberg, general manager
Orange County (Calif.) Sanitation District

The Orange County Sanitation District has a 20-year, $2.4 billion Capital Improvement Program. Over the past 10 years, the focus has been to upgrade our facility to meet secondary treatment standards. In 2012, we accomplished that goal and over the past year, our program has been transitioning to more of a rehabilitation and replacement program.

While plant expansion projects are large and complex, in some ways they can be considered easier to manage in terms of risk and cost control compared to rehabilitation projects. These rehabilitation and replacement projects have greater challenges that we have to manage and be prepared to deal with, especially in the collection system.

Collection system rehabilitation projects represent the greatest potential for public impact, unknown conditions, city coordination and increased risk. These are all variables that need to be understood, planned and managed from project inception through delivery. Projects in the collections system can span over extended distances within various city streets, in close proximity to businesses and residents and have many risks of public impacts.

To help mitigate these challenges, it is imperative that agencies work proactively to understand the community's needs and reach out so the public can understand why the project is necessary and better support our efforts. Collection system projects also have a greater risk related to unknown conditions, which leads to the importance of setting expectations with community leaders, City Councils, Boards of Directors as well as the public.

The rehabilitation projects are working on some of the oldest assets in the OCSD's system and pose risk for construction issues as well as risk to the treatment operations. OCSD's engineering staff is focused on mitigating these risks to the greatest extent possible, which will entail a higher level of engineering oversight with more attention to existing conditions and careful planning. When the focus of government agencies is doing more with less and to be as efficient as possible, it is critical that good planning and engineering take place up front in order to reduce overall project costs.

Our agency is working on assets that are nearing 75 years in age. It is our job to ensure our infrastructure is up to par in order to protect the environment and the public health for Orange County and the millions of residents and visitors we serve.


Kevin Campanella "To address not only an aging infrastructure, but also new assets that are more complex and technologically advanced, Columbus has found that modernizing its maintenance practices is necessary, cost-effective, and can lead to safer, more reliable service."
Kevin Campanella, assistant director
Department of Public Utilities, City of Columbus, Ohio

To address not only an aging infrastructure, but also new assets that are more complex and technologically advanced, Columbus has found that modernizing its maintenance practices is necessary, cost-effective, and can lead to safer, more reliable service.

While the thought of wastewater facility maintenance staff pointing an ultrasonic device at a pregnant woman's belly to detect potential birth defects is absurd, their use of ultrasound technology to detect asset defects is revolutionary and a necessity in a modern maintenance program. Partnered with other technologies such as oil analysis, thermography, and vibration, ultrasonics allows maintenance staff to detect asset degradation far earlier than the human senses. In turn, they can prevent minor asset defects from becoming major asset failures.

You wouldn't give an astronaut the flight plan as the rocket leaves the atmosphere. Yet wastewater facility maintenance staff are often handed maintenance plans in the form of printed O&M manuals months after equipment is commissioned in a format that is not useful. Columbus is implementing a process in which project delivery staff provides maintenance plans to maintenance staff electronically for entry into their work management system prior to commissioning.

In addition, processes such as reliability-centered maintenance (RCM) for highly critical asset systems and preventive maintenance optimization (PMO) for moderately critical equipment have been implemented to optimize proactive maintenance plans.

Modernizing these and other aspects of a maintenance program, such as workforce development so staff can operate more complex assets and maintenance devices, or hiring analysts to get value out of the volumes of data we now collect on asset condition and performance, will help utilities address the challenges of aging infrastructure in the future.


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The Series

Part 1: Workforce
What is your agency doing to prepare for upcoming retirements and to develop your organization's future water leaders and professionals?

Part 2: Optimization
What ways have you found to save money and optimize operations in the face of new regulations and ongoing economic challenges?

Part 3: Infrastructure
What progress is your agency making on addressing aging infrastructure challenges?

Resources

News

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