What is Water Utility Asset Management?

Water utilities need an extraordinary number of assets to keep their treatment and distribution network running. There are valves, meters, generators, filtering media, chemicals, pumps, telemetry monitoring systems and often thousands of miles of water mains. If that wasn’t hard enough, consider that a large majority of these assets are either buried or difficult to access. Without asset management tools in place, water utilities cannot properly assess operating or financial risks. They cannot plan for growth nor safeguard the health and safety of existing customers. They are, in essence, operating blindly.

On the contrary, with a good asset management program in place, water utilities can, at any given time, get a snapshot of the location and quality of their assets, schedule repair or replacement, and properly budget.

Benefits of Asset Management for Water and Wastewater Utilities
Asset management plans make particularly good sense for water utilities because most of the assets are out of sight. And when they are out of sight, they’re often out of mind—and that’s not a good thing considering the cost of these assets and the essential services they provide. What benefits come with asset management for the water sector? The service life of assets can be extended, sanitary and safety requirements can be met, costs can be anticipated, assets’ values can be maintained, and risks can be transferred.

Maximize the Service Life of Assets

Knowing the condition, age and location of your assets is critical. It minimizes the disruption to the public, ensures efficient operations and allows for realistic financial forecasting.

It also allows you to extend the service life of your assets. This is true, whether those assets are water mains, concrete storage tanks, advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) networks or another part of the distribution network.

Consider, for example, concrete storage tanks. Most of these structures are uncoated and yet concrete is porous and susceptible to biofilm buildup, resulting in water quality issues, fouling, and structural disintegration. SUEZ’ Concrete Asset Management Program custom-designs plans to meet the condition of each tank. Our innovative program includes the initial rehabilitation of the concrete water storage tank, routine inspections and maintenance, and future refurbishment so that the tank’s lifespan can be extended well beyond the 15 to 20 years of the average concrete tank.

Conduct Preventative Maintenance

Similarly, by focusing rehabilitation and maintenance efforts on the pipes that have the highest likelihood of failure, SUEZ can help customers extend the life of their water distribution system. Doing so will also eliminate many service interruptions. Using extensive data gathering, artificial intelligence analysis and validation, SUEZ can develop a remediation plan for these buried assets that may call for pipe replacement or pipe repair using technologies such as spray-in-place pipe rehabilitation.

Keep Compliant with Safety and Sanitary Regulations

SUEZ asset management tools, available to businesses and municipalities of all sizes, help keep utilities in compliance with safety and health regulations. Asset management reports enable users to generate customized reports at the site or fleet level for proactive asset management and improved compliance. These reports can be scheduled to be automatically delivered, further driving transparency and accountability benefits.

One such tool from SUEZ is InSight, a cloud-based asset performance management tool that uses data and analytics to help ensure water treatment assets operate at optimal performance. Launched in 2010, InSight now has nearly 50,000 active assets under management across more than 4,000 customer sites worldwide. Key industries where InSight is deployed today include chemical processing, power, oil and gas, and food and beverage. Other tools include computerized maintenance management systems that schedule the preventative maintenance of thousands of assets in a network.

Provide Cost Certainty with Consistent Fees

Overlooking the maintenance of aging filter plants, pumping stations and pipes can result in water quality issues and increased operational expenses. An asset management plan makes budgeting easier as initial repair costs can be spread out over a few years if necessary.

The benefits are particularly important to small and mid-sized municipalities. Take, for example, SUEZ’ asset management program for AMI meters, which provide data wirelessly via radio frequencies from a home into the cloud and then to the customer’s billing system. SUEZ’ asset management program covers the meters, transmitters, collectors, and the entire AMI system.

SUEZ maintains that for 15 years, which is typically the lifespan of the meters and the AMI transmitters. Within that period, SUEZ handles any problems with the meters or transmitters for the customer, handles all the software upgrades, and maintains the cellular backhaul communications to cover the data transfer. 

One of the challenges with AMI systems in the early days was that smaller and medium-size municipalities would implement them but not have budgeted for the software upgrades that might be released five to eight years later. SUEZ’ services cover that.

Conduct Risk Analysis of Possible Asset Failure

The first step to managing risks is to identify them. SUEZ will help your organization identify the condition of and costs associated with critical infrastructure assets.

SUEZ can then plan infrastructure investments that are consistent with community needs, anticipated growth, system reliability goals, relevant community priorities and regulator-supported service levels.

Transfer Maintenance Risk to SUEZ

All water treatment and distribution networks are comprised of assets sourced from numerous vendors. Under SUEZ’ asset management plan, SUEZ assumes all the risk of project maintenance and future asset management and provides one point of contact.

 For example, with SUEZ’ treatment plant asset management program, we provide a filter plant asset management program that ensures the routine inspection and maintenance of your plant never falls behind, safeguarding your large capital investment and maintaining water quality.

Maintain the Value of Your Asset

By managing infrastructure capital assets, you can minimize the total cost of owning and operating these assets while delivering the desired service levels. A high-performing asset management program for water and wastewater utilities includes detailed asset inventories, operation and maintenance tasks, and long-range financial planning, so that there is enough money to pay for planned maintenance can be conducted and capital assets.

Good asset management data sets will include the assets’ age, condition and criticality; and capital replacement plans based on cost-benefit analyses.

A preventative maintenance approach supports Government Accounting Standards Board (GASB) 34 compliance, which can significantly lower depreciation costs. The GASB, which works to improve financial accounting and reporting standards for state and local governments, requires government entities to account for infrastructure assets, such as water treatment equipment, in their statement of net assets.

How to Create a Water Utility Asset Management Plan?

Creating a water utility asset management plan is essential to extend the life of your water network, maintain asset value, minimize financial risk, and maintain health and safety standards. Effective asset management plans answer five key questions:

  1. What is the state of the assets? Although it helps to be as detailed as possible, some of this information—for example, for buried assets—may be difficult to assess. Using some of SUEZ’ asset management tools described above can help. As assets are rehabilitated, repaired or replaced, your inventory will become more accurate.
  2. What is the required sustainable level of service? This will be dictated by stakeholders, including customers, public utilities commissions or similar overseers, municipal, county and state governments; and environmental regulatory bodies.
  3. Which assets are critical to sustained performance? Different assets carry different risks. Their criticality needs to be factored into an asset management plan.
  4. What are the minimum life-cycle costs? According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, operations and maintenance, personnel, and the capital budget account for about 85 percent of a typical water system’s expenses. Asset management enables a system to determine the lowest cost options for providing the highest level of service over time.
  5. What is the long-term funding strategy for the water utility and the asset management plan? The two are intertwined. Knowing the revenues generated by your water system and the full economic costs—including the cost of maintenance, repair and replacement of assets—are essential to determine your system’s financial forecast and long-term funding strategy.

Learn More About Asset Management for the Water Sector

SUEZ has global experience and proven tools for asset management in water and wastewater treatment systems for the water sector. See below for contact information for any of SUEZ’ asset management programs. Additionally, information on water asset management can be found through the National Association of Clean Water Agencies (NACWA) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Contact a representative to inquire about SUEZ' water utility asset management services or learn more about asset management here.