Aging Water and Sewer Infrastructure Remains Top Issue Facing Utilities According to Industry Report

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In the third annual Strategic Directions: U.S. Water Industry Report published by Black & Veatch, managing aging infrastructure remains the top concern for North American utilities.

The report polls utilities in a variety of roles from across North America on topics related to the water industry. A graphic of the top five issues from the report can be seen below.

Top Issues B&V Graphic

Along with maintaining aging infrastructure and managing capital costs, long-term sustainability is a significant area of concern for utilities. The report highlights the growing gap in financing water infrastructure renewal as utilities attempt to procure funds for capital programs and asset renewal.

In order to bridge the financing gap, the report suggested that the United States must do a better job of educating utilities on the true cost and value of water services. This is particularly true for buried water and wastewater pipelines, which account for two-thirds of the value of a utility’s assets, according to a report published by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Despite their high value, critical pipelines receive a significantly smaller portion of the renewal funds in capital improvement programs.

The report also found that small utilities – with fewer than 100,000 customers served – lag behind the rest of the industry in the adoption of tools for proactive asset management. These tools allow utilities to determine the most effective use of capital funds by determining which assets should be replaced and when they should be replaced. The two areas where small utilities lack the most are utilizing condition assessment and risk assessment to develop capital programs.

Top Issues B&V Graphic

The report also featured a survey of which asset management tools are currently being used in the industry to manage aging assets. According to the survey, almost 85 percent of utilities are not using deterioration models to make renewal decisions. In addition, almost 50 percent of utilities either do not use a GIS system or have a GIS system that requires improvement in the next two years.

Top Issues B&V Graphic

In order to help utilities manage their assets more effectively, Pure Technologies is using its PureNet™ asset management software to streamline existing utility data. This aids the development of risk and hydraulic models, allowing for defensible rehabilitation decisions. The platform links data from existing utility databases such as billing systems, hydraulic models, workload programs and maintenance management systems.

The system also has the ability to merge data from Pure’s pipeline condition assessment and monitoring technologies with existing utility data, it is fully integrated and extracts the most relevant information from each database, making asset management less complex and time consuming.
Initial case studies of utilities using PureNet show that the implementation of the system within a utility’s pipeline network can increase financial earnings by 3.5 percent.

The platform helps utilities streamline planning and decision making by establishing maintenance priorities, budgets, and planning of future projects, as well as providing information on the condition and useful life of a utility’s buried infrastructure. The software moves utilities from reactive to proactive asset management and bridges the gap between engineering and finance.

By combining pipeline asset management with a proactive condition assessment program, utilities can manage water and wastewater assets efficiently. This combined approach reduces costly pipe failures and Non-Revenue Water, improves operational efficiency and aids long-term planning by prioritizing assets based on risk.

About the Black & Veatch Strategic Directions in the Water Industry report:

The third annual Black & Veatch Strategic Directions: U.S. Water Industry Report is a compilation of data and analysis from an industry-wide survey. This year’s survey was conducted from March 3 through April 4, 2014. A total of 368 qualified water industry participants completed the online questionnaire.

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