News & Events

How GIS Helps Utilities Streamline Asset Management

By Dan Roop, PE

Contributions by Nat Norton, GIS Director

Now, more than ever, communities and utilities are benefitting from asset management programs (AMPs). No matter how simplistic or complex the systems, having instant and remote access to one’s water, wastewater and stormwater asset data has never been more valuable. We are in a time when crew staffing is limited, however, asset maintenance and operations activities must be carried out. Fortunately thanks to Geographical Information Systems (GIS) based asset management, virtual connectivity with assets and communication with operations staff is easier than ever.

Whether working remotely, at the office, or in the field, utilizing GIS-based asset management allows directors, superintendents, managers, operators and other staff to access vertical and horizontal asset inventory records, inspection logs, as-built plans, tie-cards, work orders, maintenance history, and more at their fingertips. This is thanks to GIS-based asset management applications that are accessible on smart phones and tablets.

Asset management helps communities identify and capture what assets they have, where they are located, the condition of the assets, replacement costs, and more. The following table highlights some beneficial uses of GIS-based asset management for drinking water, wastewater, and stormwater systems.

 Daily Operations BenefitsRecords & Planning Benefits
Wastewater• Pump station inspection forms
• Assign and complete work orders
• Manhole inspections
• Remote access to digital record plans, tie cards, photos of repairs
• Prioritizing capital improvements at WWTF
• Capture seasoned workers’ institutional knowledge
Drinking Water• Backflow Preventer Inspection
• Well site & pump station rounds
• Meter Orders
• Records plans and service connections
• Hydrant flushing & valve exercising programs
• Capture institutional system knowledge
Stormwater• MS4 Compliance
• Catch basin cleaning
• Outfall inspections
• Identify areas with frequent flooding
• Prioritize catch basin cleaning based on debris buildup

Using Asset Management Plans for Defendable Risk-Based Capital Planning & Rate Impacts

Risk-based prioritization is an important component of the AMP, where assets are ranked based on consequence of failure (CoF) and likelihood of failure (LoF). Stakeholders perform a risk or criticality analysis to consider the consequences should an asset fail; how many customers will be without service? Will critical infrastructure like bridges or major interactions be compromised? Would travel to/from critical facilities like hospitals or fire stations be impacted? Assets that have a higher risk or criticality score receive increased maintenance/observation and are prioritized for repair or replacement.

Utilities can then consider how this asset maintenance, rehabilitation or replacement activities will impact rates and working capital. User rate increases are justified and defended by the criticality analysis.

Funding Asset Management Plans

Many New England states have funding programs to support the development or advancement of asset management or fiscal sustainability plans. The following table describes some of these programs.

StateUtilityFunding Type & Match RequirementsMaximum Total Project CostProgram Website
MAWater Wastewater
Stormwater
Grant – 60%
In-Kind Services – 20%
Cash Match – 20%
$250k https://www.mass.gov/service-details/asset-management-planning-grant-program
NHWaterGrant with 100% Cash or In-Kind Services Match$40k https://www.des.nh.gov/organization/divisions/water/dwgb/asset-managment/index.htm
NHWastewater StormwaterPrincipal Forgiveness
No Match
$150k WW
$30k SW
https://www.des.nh.gov/organization/divisions/water/dwgb/asset-managment/index.htm
MEWastewater StormwaterPrincipal Forgiveness with 100% Cash Match$100k https://www.maine.gov/dep/water/grants/srfparag.html
CTWastewaterPlanning Grant – 55%Varies https://portal.ct.gov/DEEP/Municipal-Wastewater/Financial-Assistance-for-Municipal-Wastewater-Projects
VTWaterPrincipal Forgiveness
No Match
$50khttps://dec.vermont.gov/water/drinking-water/capacity-dev

As our industry faces the new challenges of social distancing and staffing limitations, Asset Management Plans, and the implementation of GIS technology is key. By assessing risk, utility operators can prioritize maintenance to minimize emergency repairs in a time of limited resources. Using an AMP and the accessibility to records and operations documents creates a streamlined approach to daily operations that takes strain off employees and sets the facility up to serve their communities without service interruptions or water quality issues.

 

Dan Roop is a project engineer specializing in environmental engineering, with a focus on water, wastewater, and resiliency. He is Chair of the NEWEA Asset Management Committee. Dan is passionate about asset management and helping communities win grant funds in order to replace their reactive maintenance plans with proactive risk-based Asset Management Plans for their water, stormwater, and wastewater systems. His current work includes assisting in design and construction services of public and private water and wastewater treatment facilities and pumping stations. Contact Dan at DORoop@tighebond.com.