The Proposed 2018 Budget Cuts Require Water Systems to Practice Capital Efficiency

In recent years, water systems have been faced with challenges that are unique to modern times. Our nation’s buried infrastructure is reaching a critical juncture in that it is nearing or has reached the end of its useful life, or is in dire need of replacement due to the presence of lead. At the same time, climate change is affecting supplies, while a burgeoning population is creating a larger demand. And as we increase our knowledge about the dangers of additional contaminants in our drinking water, utilities are saddled with increased regulations that require strict compliance by specific deadlines. Obtaining compliance often requires extensive upgrades or completely new infrastructure, all of which come with a high price tag.

And therein lies the problem. While water systems are facing such a complex set of challenges that require significant expenditure, available capital is quickly drying up. Water systems are seeing their budgets slashed while operations and maintenance costs soar. In addition, funding sources have been dwindling, and President Trump’s 2018 budget aims to slash them even further. In fact, Trump’s proposed 2018 budget completely eliminates the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development Water and Waste Disposal Loan and Grant Program. This program “provides funding for clean and reliable drinking water systems, sanitary sewage disposal, sanitary solid waste disposal, and stormwater drainage to households and businesses in rural areas who are not otherwise able to obtain commercial credit on reasonable terms.”1 In other words, lower income rural communities who fully rely on USDA Rural Development grants to fund their water system improvements will no longer have a source of federal funding.

The proposed 2018 budget also budget cuts the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) by 31%, or $5.7 billion. The EPA provides funding to water systems through its Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (DWSRF) and Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF) programs, both of which “provide communities a permanent, independent source of low-cost financing for a wide range of water quality infrastructure projects.”2 Considering that almost all spending on critical infrastructure such as drinking water, wastewater, and transportation is provided by the public sector, these cuts are expected to make a huge impact on available funding for critical water infrastructure projects.

Because working capital is becoming so scarce, it is critical that water systems manage their assets with an eye on efficiency and systematic planning. Asset management is arguably one of the most important strategies for effectively maintaining utilities today and critical to the health and maintenance of water systems. Key components of a utility asset management plan include performing an inventory and condition assessment of the system’s assets, defining level of service goals, identifying critical assets, establishing life cycle costs, and developing a long-term funding strategy. In other words, a successful asset management plan requires a thoughtful, systematic approach that provides for the rehabilitation and replacement of assets over time, while also maintaining an acceptable level of service for existing assets.

Advanced condition assessment for pipeline rehabilitation provides insight into the quality and reliability of a water distribution system.

Today’s stringent budgets demand precise efficiency and cost-effectiveness, and determining which assets should be prioritized can be a challenge. It is no longer economically feasible to create an asset replacement schedule based solely on life cycle and critical components; rather, utilities today must pinpoint assets that are most in need of repair or replacement in order to stretch existing capital and justify new budget requests.

Capital efficiency planning helps to do just that.  Our proprietary Capital Efficiency Plan™ (CEP) methodology combines the concepts of asset management, hydraulic modeling, and system criticality into a customized, comprehensive report that provides utilities with a roadmap for future repair and replacement. The report includes database and GIS representation for each pipe segment within their underground piping system, prioritizes water distribution system piping improvements, and provides estimated costs for water main replacement and rehabilitation. Because each water system has unique characteristics and challenges, our CEP includes a workshop with knowledgeable field staff and managers for each project that helps to fill in data gaps, correct incorrect records, and identify specific issues and critical components that are custom to the system. The results of the workshop provide significant value by improving the quality of the asset data and the accuracy of the hydraulic model. Because the CEP utilizes a highly structured, detailed, and targeted approach, utilities can confidently justify the costs of repairing or replacing those assets most in need of repair or replacement when preparing annual budgets. Our CEPs have assisted numerous utilities throughout New England by providing a practical and easily understandable plan to critical asset repair and replacement, as well as an advantage when it comes to procuring funding.  The same approach can be applied to above ground assets as well as wastewater and stormwater systems.

Land that was once covered by water from the lake is now exposed.

Increasing regulations, climate change, shrinking budgets, dwindling supply, and population growth — these are all challenges that affect the financial capacity of today’s utilities. And with the proposed budget cuts under the Trump administration, water systems will feel even greater fiscal pressure. Competition for SRF funding will intensify, and utilities will be required to definitively justify the reason for their funding request. By combining asset management with hydraulic modeling and system criticality, our Capital Efficiency Plans™ can help utilities to maintain the health and viability of their water systems today so that they can continue to provide safe, clean drinking water tomorrow, and well into the future.



Distribution System Study and Improvements


ABSTRACT: The Town of Paxton, MA was experiencing significantly reduced chlorine residuals in the extremities of the system along with an aging water tank that required extensive rehabilitation. As a result, the Paxton Department of Public Works (DPW) determined the need to create an extended period simulation (EPS) hydraulic model to evaluate the water age and water quality in the distribution system. The study examined the residual chlorine concentrations and water age throughout the distribution system and presented various options to help mitigate these issues, including replacing the aging tank and adding a chlorine booster pump station at the existing site. Construction of the new tank and pump station was completed in the summer of 2016.

Pipe Condition Assessment Whitepaper

ABSTRACT: Pipe condition assessment combined with break data for New England communities allows for continued analysis of problem pipes in distribution systems. This whitepaper outlines the research completed and the data collected to help pinpoint the next problematic pipe cohort.

Infrastructure Week 2017 — #TimeToBuild

There are few – very few – issues that have as much bipartisan support today as investing in our nation’s infrastructure. We all have experienced dodging potholes while we drive, waiting for a bus that feels like it is never going to come, or being packed like sardines in an overcrowded airport for an interminable amount of time. We have all read the stories about the drinking water crisis in communities with neglected pipes, and seen the news coverage of gas pipeline explosions or levees that break during a flood. Infrastructure affects every single American. We all rely on it, and we all know it is time to build something better.

A sinkhole opened up on a San Luis Obispo city street after a water main break in March. (San Luis Obispo Utilities Department photo)

Roads, bridges, rails, ports, airports, pipes, the power grid, broadband — it is all infrastructure. It affects our daily commutes and our summer vacations. Infrastructure determines if we can drink water straight from our taps and flush our toilets. It brings electricity in to our homes and factories. For decades, the country let deferred maintenance bills pile up and looked the other way while other countries invested significantly more in everything from ports to airports, and from roads to rails. But there has been an awakening about the urgency of this issue, and more Americans support investing in our infrastructure than nearly any other issue right now. All we need is a little political courage out of Washington, D.C. to make this idea a reality.

That is why Tata & Howard is participating in Infrastructure Week 2017. We’re joining hundreds of organizations across the country this week, all raising awareness about this critical issue.  

Corroded lead pipe from Flint, Michigan. Photo: Siddhartha Roy /

Every year America fails to adequately invest in our infrastructure, the United States becomes less competitive, our economy grows more slowly, and families and businesses lose valuable time and money. The goods we manufacture cost more when they get stuck on congested highways, rerouted around structurally deficient bridges, and stranded at outdated ports. World War II era radar technology and airports at capacity deter U.S. consumers from travelling, annually robbing the economy tens of billions of dollars.

Decades of underfunding and deferred maintenance have pushed our country to the brink of a national infrastructure crisis. We are desensitized to tragedies as though they are normal. Fatal mass transit accidents, toxic drinking water, bridges collapsing, and rivers contaminated with raw sewage are all actually completely preventable and we, as a nation, should declare them unacceptable.

T&H provided design and construction services for a water main installation in Milford, MA

It is time to say “enough.” We can build something better than this. There are examples around the country and the world that show us that it is entirely possible to build something better than this. During Infrastructure Week, we also want to recognize progress. We want to see more partnership and investment going forward. It is the only way to build us out of this hole.

Closing our country’s trillion-dollar infrastructure investment gap demands a strong federal partner to fund large and transformative projects. We are going to need collaboration between the public and private sectors to create innovative solutions. And leaders at all levels need to commit to building a long-term, sustainable plan to invest in America’s infrastructure.

For more information or to participate, visit

Tata & Howard Celebrates Working Moms This Mother’s Day

Some of Tata & Howard’s working moms

Far more men than women traditionally pursue careers in STEM — science, technology, engineering, and math — and the field of engineering has long been male-dominated. In the early 1980s, only about 5% of engineers in the United States were women, and while that number has improved slightly, it still has a long way to go. Currently, about 14% of engineers and about 18% of engineering college students are women. And, according to the United States Census, those female engineers earn approximately 83% of what their male counterparts earn.

Not so at Tata & Howard. Since the firm’s inception in 1992, Tata & Howard has recognized and rewarded the value of female engineers. Nearly half of the firm’s initial 20 hires were female, and that trend has continued. Today, 34% of our engineering force is female, and about 20% of our total staff are working moms, including our two Co-Presidents, Karen Gracey, P.E. and Jenna Rzasa, P.E. In addition, we place great value on our support staff, many of whom are working moms. This Mother’s Day, we’d like to introduce you to our amazing working moms.

Christine Beliveau, Environmental Specialist, has been with the firm since 2012. Chrissie provides full administrative support to the Environmental Group as well as assists with a variety of other administrative and marketing functions. Chrissie is known throughout the company as the go-to person for any and all things Microsoft Word, and she maintains our company’s resume and project database. When she isn’t working, she enjoys spending time with her husband, adult daughter, and young grandson.

Justine Carroll, P.E., Project Manager, has been with the firm since she graduated from Tufts University with a Masters of Science in Environmental and Water Resource Engineering in 2006. Justine serves as Team Leader for the Hydraulics Group and has expertise in hydraulic modeling. She is certified in WaterGEMS and InfoWater modeling software and holds training certifications in ESRI – ArcGIS Desktop II and III. Even though she is a busy working mom, Justine still finds time to spend with her young daughter and to volunteer as a swim coach for Special Olympics.

Amanda Cavaliere, Project Manager, has been with the firm since 2003, and serves as Team Leader for the Water System Improvements Group. She has specialized expertise in water and wastewater system designs as well as experience with site remediation and surveying. When she isn’t managing projects, she enjoys spending time with her son and daughter.

Karen Gracey, P.E., one of our two Co-Presidents, has been with the firm since graduating from the University of Vermont in 1998. She has specialized expertise in water system design, having completed over 25 hydraulic models and holding certifications in both WaterGems and InfoWater software. She also has extensive experience managing the firm’s Business Development activities. Even though she has a lot on her plate running the firm alongside Jenna Rzasa, she still finds time to bring her daughter to gymnastics and to spend time at the Cape with her family.

Patricia Kelliher, Project Engineer, has been with the firm since she graduated from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, in 2010. At that time, Trish was splitting her time between Tata & Howard and the New England Patriots, for whom she was a cheerleader. Since then, she has retired from cheering, gotten married, and had a daughter, who keeps her on her toes when she isn’t designing water mains.

Maria Maynard, Manager of Human Resources, has been with the firm since 2008, and is responsible for all of our recruiting efforts and employee benefits. With over 65 employees, Tata & Howard keeps her very busy — as do her teenaged sons! Maria is an avid CrossFitter, and enjoys running alongside her beloved Pitbull mix, Ruby.

Carmen Perkins, Senior Administrative Assistant, has been with the firm for 11 years. She handles not only administrative tasks, but also helps out the accounting department. If there is ever a question where something can be found, ordered, invoiced, or mailed, Carmen has the answer! In her spare time, she enjoys spending time with her two adult daughters.

Jenna Rzasa, P.E., our other Co-President, has been with the firm since she graduated from Worcester Polytechnic Institute in 1997 and has specialized expertise in water system design. She is also a financial guru who manages Tata & Howard’s financials and accounting. When she isn’t busy running the business alongside Karen, she can be found watching her son’s track meets or running a few miles herself.

Allison Shivers, P.E., Project Engineer, joined the firm just a few months ago, and is already an invaluable member of the team. She has targeted expertise in wastewater system design, and she splits her time between our Lakeville and Marlborough offices. When she isn’t working, she enjoys spending time with her husband and two daughters.

Evelyn Sistak, Administrative Assistant, joined the firm in 2016. Originally from Florida, she is still getting used to the temperamental New England weather. Evelyn handles all things administrative, and is always willing to lend a helping hand whenever she is asked. When she isn’t at work, Evelyn enjoys spending time with her young daughter, who loves everything pink and purple.

Mary Vermes, Senior Staff Accountant, has been with the firm since 2010 and handles all aspects of the firm’s accounting. She is an integral part of the inner workings of the firm, and if it’s accounting-related, Mary will have the answer! When she isn’t crunching numbers, she is getting ready to welcome her first grandchild.

Heidi White, Marketing Communications Manager, has been with the firm since 2012 and handles the firm’s marketing activities. When she isn’t busy preparing proposals or writing blogs like this one, she enjoys kickboxing and spending time with her husband, two young adult sons, and three Yorkshire Terriers. She is also an avid runner who has run to raise money for the Jimmy Fund for the past six years.

Residential Pipe Care During Drinking Water Week 2017

Pharmaceuticals should never be flushed down a toilet.

As Drinking Water Week continues, Tata & Howard joins the American Water Works Association and water professionals across North America in encouraging householders to care for their homes’ pipes. Many things can unnecessarily clog a home’s plumbing system, including “flushable” wipes, as well as fats, oils, and grease. Each year, these clog pipes, back up systems, and harm the environment when they aren’t disposed of properly.

Specifically, flushable wipes, facial tissue, paper towels, and medications should be thrown away in the trash and should never be flushed down the toilet. Also, fats, oil, and grease should not be dumped down the drain. Instead, they should also be thrown away in the trash.

“Caring for our pipes should be considered maintenance around the home and not just thought of when something goes wrong with them,” said AWWA Chief Executive Officer David LaFrance. “We have to do our part not to clog up our already precarious water and wastewater systems.”

More information on caring for pipes can be found on

About Drinking Water Week

For more than 35 years, AWWA and its members have celebrated Drinking Water Week, a unique opportunity for both water professionals and the communities they serve to join together to recognize the vital role water plays in daily lives.

Don’t Forget to Fix Leaks During Drinking Water Week!

fix-a-leak-weekAs Drinking Water Week continues, T&H joins the American Water Works Association and water professionals across North America in encouraging homeowners to check and fix leaks inside and outside the home.

Consumers are encouraged to quickly and efficiently fix leaks in and around their homes to prevent water waste. To test for leaks inside, customers should shut off everything connected to water and inspect the home’s flow indicator on the water meter. If the indicator continues to move, even with everything off, there’s a leak somewhere in the home.

To check for a leaky toilet, customers can place a few drops of food coloring in the holding tank and wait five minutes without flushing. There’s a leak if coloring appears in the bowl. Also, customers should check all faucets and under the sinks for dripping. To check for leaks outside, customers should inspect the lawn for wet spots or pools of water around spray heads. Brown or muddy spots would also indicate there is a leak in the irrigation system.

“We are each personally responsible to conserve water in and around our home,” said AWWA Chief Executive Officer David LaFrance. “Checking for and fixing leaks is an easy way to do our part in preventing water waste.”

More information on household leaks can be found on

About Drinking Water Week

For more than 35 years, AWWA and its members have celebrated Drinking Water Week, a unique opportunity for both water professionals and the communities they serve to join together to recognize the vital role water plays in daily lives.

Get the Lead Out During Drinking Water Week 2017!

As Drinking Water Week continues, Tata & Howard joins the American Water Works Association and water professionals across North America in encouraging households to identify and replace lead-based water pipes and plumbing. Lead presents health concerns for people of all ages, particularly pregnant women, infants, and young children. In children, low exposure levels have been linked to learning disabilities, behavioral problems, and other issues.

Water leaving treatment plants and traveling through water mains is almost always lead-free. However, lead is sometimes present in pipes connecting older homes to the water system or in fixtures and home plumbing. A licensed plumber can help to identify lead service lines and other materials such as lead fittings and solder. Households can find out more about their water quality by having it tested by a certified laboratory.  Information on other sources of lead contamination in homes is available from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

“Water utilities can adjust water chemistry to minimize the possibility of lead dissolving into tap water, but communities and households also play an important role in keeping drinking water safe,” said AWWA Chief Executive Officer David LaFrance. “Together, let’s get the lead out.”

More information on lead:

Lead in Drinking Water of Our Nation’s Schools

Lead-Free Kids for a Healthy Future

Water Crisis in the United States: Lead in Drinking Water

About Drinking Water Week

For more than 35 years, AWWA and its members have celebrated Drinking Water Week, a unique opportunity for both water professionals and the communities they serve to join together to recognize the vital role water plays in daily lives. Additional information about Drinking Water Week, including free materials for download and celebration ideas, is available on the Drinking Water Week webpage.

Getting to Know and Love Tap Water During Drinking Water Week!

Tata & Howard, the American Water Works Association (AWWA), and water professionals across North America are kicking off Drinking Water Week today with the theme “Your Water – To Know It Is To Love It”.

T&H, AWWA, and the water community will celebrate Drinking Water Week by recognizing the vital role water plays in daily lives. Focus will be placed on ways in which water consumers can take personal responsibility in caring for their tap water and water infrastructure at home and in the community. To commemorate the week, water utilities, government entities, environmental advocates, schools, and other stakeholders will celebrate drinking water through public presentations, staff events, and community festivals, and provide information on how water consumers can understand and appreciate their water.

“This year’s Drinking Water Week will motivate water consumers to be actively aware of how they personally connect with water,” said AWWA Chief Executive Officer David LaFrance. “We should all know how to find and fix leaks, care for our home’s pipes, and support our utility’s investment in water infrastructure.”

About Drinking Water Week

For more than 35 years, AWWA and its members have celebrated Drinking Water Week, a unique opportunity for both water professionals and the communities they serve to join together in recognizing the vital role water plays in daily lives. Additional information about Drinking Water Week, including free materials for download and celebration ideas, is available on the Drinking Water Week webpage.