Successful management of water storage facilities enables a city or utility to maintain a level of service in the most cost-effective manner possible. Specifically, it allows the city or utility to proactively rehabilitate or replace system components on a continual basis, rather than waiting to repair failing or damaged assets when it is considerably more expensive and disruptive to system operations.
While many organizations work to address these challenges—and to maintain reliable and quality services—a majority of their solutions manifest in siloed solution sets, limiting their efficacy to target specific outcomes or consequences. Without specified, nuanced asset management, an organization can fail to address the broad-based root problems facing its water utilities.
The interrelated nature of today’s industry requires a new management outlook. A shift toward holistic asset management and improved facility preservation increases the chance that utilities will survive the economic and social changes brought about by market fluctuations, as well as the ravages of time and climate. Understanding the foundational nature of assets enables truly sustainable operations for the entire utility.
For struggling utilities, sustainability must be understood to encompass the three elements of the triple bottom line: financials, community, and the environment. In order to help improve and sustain utility operations now and in the future, however, the balance between the three elements must reflect the specific conditions of a given community, versus a one-size-fits-all approach.
Newton’s third law of motion provides a metaphor for the current fiscal environment of the water industry and, specifically, water storage facilities: For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. What most utilities fail to realize is that inaction inadvertently can become an unwritten policy, and that reaction to such "policy" is compounded by operational and financial challenges.
The longer inaction goes on, the fewer choices a utility has in financing large capital programs to renew and replace aging water storage facilities that are failing to meet the needs of the community. A policy of action—where utilities seek out and implement the best funding mechanisms for their programs— provides choice and competition that will ultimately benefit the utility, its customers, and the environment.
By implementing a proactive approach to preserving infrastructure, utilities have proven that the typical design life of a steel water tank can be extended for many decades.
A 277,000-gallon standpipe owned by Baraboo City Water Works, for example, illustrates the effectiveness of this approach. Thanks to a successful maintenance management approach, this tank constructed in 1886 still provides potable water and fire protection to the city’s more than 12,000 residents today.
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