Toward Demystifying Asset Management: Building a Program from What We Already Know and Do

Asset Management (AM) is one of the hottest topics in the water and wastewater utility industry. Beyond the buzz, utilities are beginning to understand the importance of AM but it hasn’t been easy. Asset Management remains daunting to many utilities because of its innate complexity and comprehensive nature, and the need for copious amounts of data to do it well. Utilities continue to define AM differently, however.

Some utilities assert that they are already “doing AM” and have all of the master plans, projects, and rate studies to prove it. Others perceive a working AM program as a technological approach involving such things as a Computerized Maintenance Management System (CMMS), Geographic Information Systems (GIS), and Customer Information Systems (CIS). In reality, both points of view are valid. Boil it all down and Asset Management is a decision support process based on continuously refining and executing O&M efforts and investment strategies to ensure that desired levels of service and sustainability are achieved. The purpose of this paper is to explore practical approaches to Asset Management, including the shifts that need to take place and the steps that must be followed to implement a sound utility Asset Management program.

Working with leading utilities across North America, EMA has performed hundreds of O&M and asset management assessments. The key to assessing the state of a utility’s Asset Management program is to focus on rating various essential competency elements. EMA has recently completed a comprehensive Asset Management assessment at Columbus Water Works (CWW) in Columbus, GA. This assessment will serve as the primary case study presented here.

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