Our annual company outing was held at Hopkinton State Park on Saturday, June 24, and the weather could not have been any more perfect! The day started with Paul Howard and Jenna Rzasa cooking different types of burgers for everyone, while employee-owners brought all types of dishes to share. After everyone ate their fill, we headed out into the field to play some lawn games. The hit of the day was Kubb, brought and taught by Steve Landry. Kids (of all ages, even the grown ones!) then enjoyed some frozen treats from the Kona Ice Truck. Around 2:30, Fran the Magician arrived to put on a show for the kids. There were lots of laughs and smiles, and even a couple of cute animals for the kids to pat. The day was filled with fun, food, and festivity, and was a great way to spend some time together outside of work.
Each municipality and utility is responsible for making sure that its assets, including water, wastewater, and/or stormwater systems, stay in good working order, regardless of the age of its components or the availability of additional funds. This requirement makes properly maintaining and monitoring assets paramount. With limited resources, an asset management plan can help municipalities and utilities maximize the value of their capital as well as their operations and maintenance dollars. Asset management is a scalable approach that can be utilized by all types of systems, of any size.
A Nation’s Infrastructure in Crisis
The 2016 Canadian Infrastructure Report card states that over one-third of Canada’s municipal infrastructure is in fair, poor, or very poor condition, and at risk of rapid decline. With the support of the federal government, Ontario municipalities are embarking on an unprecedented renewal phase of these critical assets, recognizing that Canadians rely on this infrastructure for their quality of life. The Ministry of Infrastructure released its guide to asset management planning and has made funding available to small, rural, and northern municipalities in Ontario to develop and implement asset management plans.
In addition, as part of the New Building Canada Plan, the renewed federal Gas Tax Fund (GTF) was announced in the 2013 Economic Action Plan as a long-term, stable source of funding for municipal infrastructure. Implemented as a means of addressing the infrastructure funding gap, the GTF will provide $10.4 billion to Canada’s municipalities through 2018. Because Canada recognizes the criticality of an up-to-date asset management plan, the renewed GTF prioritizes long-term capital planning and asset management. The Province of Ontario has moved a step further, actually requiring each municipality to build and implement an asset management plan.
Setting Rates Based on Sound Financial Planning
It is apparent that financial planning for municipalities and utilities must be based on sound asset condition projections from an engineering and operations perspective – not just financial assumptions. Customers are often adamantly against rate and tax increases; however, these sometimes-unavoidable increases are easier for customers to understand — and accept — when they are backed up with clear data showing exactly what system improvements are needed and why. There are many costs associated with municipality and utility operations and maintenance. One of these is the cost of asset ownership, a cost element not currently present in the audited financial statements of many municipalities and utilities. An asset management approach can aid municipalities and utilities in understanding the true costs associated with ownership and operation along with complying with government regulations.
Budgeting Focused on Critical Activities
An asset management program helps to identify exactly what maintenance and repair work is necessary, eliminating guesswork. Targeting municipalities’ admittedly limited funds to pipes, roads, structures, and other critical assets that are most in need of rehabilitation or replacement, rather than randomly selected assets, allows municipalities to stretch their infrastructure dollars and to proactively avoid critical asset failure. This methodology also creates the opportunity to utilize the savings to accomplish other system goals. Examples of the opportunities are as follows:
Meeting Consumer Demands with a Focus on System Sustainability
Finding and detecting failures such as leaks in the system can prevent water loss as well as reduce energy consumption of treating and pumping water that never makes it to the customer. Reducing water loss eases demand on water systems, allowing for smaller, lower cost infrastructure and reducing water shortages. Also, reduced energy consumption allows systems to run greener and more cost-effectively. Thoughtful investments in critical assets can extend the life of those assets by several years, providing a significant return on investment. And by maintaining critical assets rather than prematurely replacing them, customers enjoy better, more consistent service for lower cost.
Better Data Management
Through accurate data collection, municipalities and utilities can expect significant benefits from an asset management approach. Collecting, sharing, and analyzing data about a distribution system helps utilities make better informed decisions on maintaining, rehabilitating, and replacing aging assets. Utilities can also use this data to better communicate with their governing bodies and the public. In addition, asset management helps communicate information across departments and coordinate planning and decision-making related to infrastructure needs and improvement plans.
There is a difference between a cost and an investment, and asset management is a true investment in municipalities’ and utilities’ future. It helps systems to provide better service at a lower cost with reduced risk and improved financial planning options. Asset management results in better decision-making and supports the long-term success of a municipality or utility’s mission, goals, and objectives. With Ontario’s groundbreaking legislation, municipalities and utilities now have an unprecedented opportunity to improve and rehabilitate crucial assets with the full support of local government.
Rhonda E. Harris, P.E., MBA, WEF Fellow, IAM Certified
Vice President and Global Director of Asset Management
Rhonda has over 40 years of experience in managing and administering a variety of facilities and programs in the water environment industry. She has been actively involved on an international level in addressing issues of water and sanitation through leadership and participation in the top water professional organizations in the world. As a Past President of WEF, an elected member of The International Water Academy (TIWA), an Honorary Member of the American Water Works Association (AWWA), a member of the Executive Committees of LakeNet and The Inter-American Water Resource Network (IWRN), and participant in a number of additional non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in the water sector, she has worked for change and improvement of the global water environment for many years. She holds a B.S. degree in Civil Engineering from the University of Texas at Arlington, and an M.B.A. degree in Business Administration from Southern Methodist University.
Rhonda can be reached at 214-697-0109 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The summer months often go hand in hand with increased water demand and decreased supply. An influx of tourists combined with summer drought and increased outdoor water usage often leaves water systems feeling the pinch. Traditionally, water conservation has been limited to water use restrictions. However, increasing water efficiency is another way to address limited water supplies, with the added boon of providing economic and environmental benefit.
Efficiency = Conservation
Water efficiency reduces water usage that is unnecessary or wasteful. Rather than focusing on limiting the minutes per day a homeowner can water his lawn, efficiency focuses on accomplishing water objectives by utilizing only as much water as is needed. For example, we now know that flushing a toilet is just as effective with a 1.6 gallon flush as it is with a 3.5-7 gallon flush. Further, we know that water that drips out of a leaky faucet can waste up to 20 gallons per day, and that leaking municipal pipes waste exponentially more water. Increasing efficiency and reducing waste are two major ways in which we can all help to conserve water.
Considering that 10-30% of our nation’s clean, treated drinking water, or seven billion gallons per day, is “lost” before it ever even reaches the consumer, municipal efficiency is best accomplished by conducting routine water audits. Water audits help to identify the causes of water loss and develop strategies to reduce this loss — and recapture lost revenue. Most utilities in the U.S. conduct infrequent water audits and are likely suffering substantial losses without even knowing it. Repairing our nation’s hidden underground infrastructure will also increase water availability, lower operation and maintenance costs, reduce the need for new sources and costly treatment plants, and diminish impacts from drought and climate change. But repairing and replacing pipes is costly, so utilities require a methodology by which they can accurately pinpoint the most problematic areas in the distribution system, thus investing their limited infrastructure dollars where they are needed most. Water audits, which consider both real and apparent losses, are the most efficient, cost-effective way to accurately assess and address lost water.
Residential water usage is also a key factor in water conservation. The biggest residential outdoor water guzzlers are summer activities such as lawn and garden watering, car washing, and water-based recreation, while the biggest water indoor guzzlers are, in order, toilets, washing machines, showers, sinks, and leaks. One of the keys to successful conservation is to stop thinking about limiting water usage as “going without” and to start thinking about it as doing the same — or more — but with less. Challenging ourselves to accomplish our water-based tasks with less usage will naturally lead to a more water and cost efficient household. The best part is that conservation doesn’t just ease our wallets, but also provides endless benefit to the environment and our community.
When seeding a lawn, select a turf mix that matches your site conditions and climate, and improve the health of your lawn by regularly aerating, dethatching, and adding compost. Mow lawns to the highest mower setting so that the roots are shaded and help the soil to retain more moisture. And speaking of water, water deeply but infrequently, and only in the early morning to avoid evaporation. This will encourage drought resistance and deep, healthy plant roots.
Choose native, drought-resistant plants and group plants with the same watering needs together, preventing over- or under-watering as well as minimizing the need for supplemental watering. Also, mulch around plants to help the soil retain moisture and to reduce evaporation. Finally, think about installing a rain barrel to be used to water non-edible plants.
Maintenance and Recreation
Clean walkways and driveways with a broom, not the hose, and inspect all outdoor water fixtures for leaks. Check pools and spas for leaks, regularly service pumps, and cover them when not in use to reduce evaporation. Finally, don’t leave the hose running when washing vehicles, or better yet, drive through a car wash. Commercial car washes use less water than washing the car at home, and are legally required to manage their gray water runoff to avoid pollution.
Install water efficient toilets that use only 1.6 gallons per flush, and regularly check toilets for leaks. Leaky toilets are most often fixable by simply installing a new flapper. Try taking shorter showers and install water efficient showerheads. Only run the laundry or dishwasher when completely full, and consider replacing older models with newer, more water efficient ones. Repair leaking faucets and install water efficient faucet aerators to reduce water usage, and wash fruits and vegetables in a pan of water rather than running the faucet. Bonus: use the spent wash water to water house plants.
Summertime is a time for family and fun, and water restrictions shouldn’t put a damper on summer activities. Conscientious residential water usage combined with consistent, well-implemented municipal water audits results in a more cost-effective and environmentally friendly water system. Water conservation and efficiency benefits both consumers and municipalities, and provides a more sustainable water system for future generations.
Donald J. Tata Engineering Scholarship Awarded to Marlborough High School Senior
MARLBOROUGH, MA, June 27, 2017 – Tata & Howard is pleased to announce the awarding of the inaugural Donald J. Tata Engineering Scholarship to Kimberly Konar. The scholarship is presented to a graduating Marlborough High School senior who is attending a four-year college or university to pursue a degree in engineering, and was instituted this year in memory of Donald J. Tata, P.E., co-founder and former CEO of Tata & Howard, Inc., who passed away in March of this year.
“We had many well qualified applicants for the inaugural Donald J. Tata Engineering Scholarship, but Kimberly’s academic achievements and numerous extracurricular activities really made her stand out,” stated Jenna W. Rzasa, P.E., Co-President of Tata & Howard. “We were thrilled to present her with the scholarship, and are excited to see what the future holds for this accomplished young woman.”
A member of the National Honor Society, Ms. Konar also excelled in indoor track, softball, and volleyball, and won numerous awards for her participation in concert band, jazz ensemble, and marching band. She also won an award from the Tri-M Honor Society for outstanding community service.
“Kimberly’s work ethic and positive attitude are traits on which we place high value here at Tata & Howard, and are in line with our core values,” added Paul B. Howard, P.E., Senior Vice President of the firm. “We are impressed with Kimberly for her exemplary high school record both on an academic and personal level, and know that Don would have been proud to recognize her for her outstanding accomplishments.”
Ms. Konar plans to attend Clarkson University in Potsdam, New York this fall, and is majoring in engineering.
We are constantly growing, and are thrilled to welcome several new hires as well as some summer interns. Interested in working with us? Visit our careers page for more info!
Our Connecticut office welcomes Natalia Close and Tatiana Prevalla to the team. Natalia has joined the firm as an Engineer after graduating from University of Connecticut this past May with a B.S. degree in Environmental Engineering. Tatiana is interning this summer and just finished up her sophomore year at University of Connecticut where she is majoring in Civil Engineering.
Stan Welch, P.E., has joined our Vermont office as a Project Engineer. Stan earned his B.S. degree in Civil Engineering from the University of New Hampshire and has over nine years of engineering experience.
Our corporate office in Marlborough, Massachusetts is excited to welcome five new hires! Brian Biagini graduated in May with a B.S. degree in Civil and Environmental Engineering from University of Massachusetts, Amherst (UMass) and has joined the firm as an Engineer. Ethan Peterson is majoring in Finance at UMass and is interning with the T&H finance department this summer. Jenna O’Connell graduated in May with a B.S. in Chemical Engineering from Worcester Polytechnic Institute and has joined the firm as an Engineer. Jack Garrett just finished up his junior year at UMass and is working toward a degree in Civil and Environmental Engineering. He will be interning this summer. And finally, Justin Waters is currently studying Environmental Engineering at Worcester Polytechnic Institute and has just finished up his junior year. He will also be interning this summer.
This year, there is just one word for what we want to make World Environment Day: epic. The aim is for celebrations to be bigger and better than ever and to call on people to show their love and affection for our shared natural world.
About World Environment Day
World Environment Day is the United Nations’ flagship day for encouraging worldwide awareness and action for the environment. Over the years, it has grown to be one of the largest global platforms for public outreach celebrated by over a million people in well over 100 countries.
It is the ‘People’s Day’ for doing something positive for the environment. Its aim is to harness individual actions and transform them into a collective power that has a legacy of real and lasting impact on the planet. From Bahrain to Bangkok,
the day is celebrated in countless ways with everything from beach clean-ups and tree planting to petitions and photo competitions, with thousands of children getting involved through their schools. The beauty of the day is in this diversity. It’s when people across the world collectively act, care, and show their love for the planet.
Why celebrate World Environment Day?
This year we want to see if we can beat the highest number of activities celebrating the day with over 4,000 events taking place, over 20 million people hearing about the day online, and over 1.5 million people getting involved. So, here are three reasons why you should celebrate World Environment Day:
Inform: It’s a great moment to demonstrate what your business/organization is doing to act in support of the environment.
Inspire: It’s a way to inspire staff within your organization and partners/suppliers about how to get involved and be more environmentally friendly at work and at home.
Have Impact: For businesses and organizations, World Environment Day is a great moment to reflect on the progress that has been made and what more could be done to further the environmental objectives of the organization/business.
2017 Host Country and Theme
Hosted by Canada, this year’s World Environment Day has the theme Connecting People to Nature, and the slogan, “I’m With Nature.” The idea that underpins this is that in our modern world, few of us take enough time away from our daily lives to appreciate and engage with our magnificent natural world.
By celebrating World Environment Day surrounded by this beauty, we can rediscover the importance of caring for the environment so that it can care for us. With this in mind, Canada will ask its citizens to celebrate the day in a number of amazing ways:
Find your nature: Canada is issuing passes giving anyone free entry to all its National Parks for the whole of 2017.
Get adventurous: Canada is inviting families and school children to get together in parks to record as many different forms of wildlife as possible as part of a “Nature Blitz”.
Learn to love the natural world: Learn to love the natural world: Schools across the country will prioritize the environment in their lessons to deepen their students’ understanding of why nature is so important to human well-being.
We hope that you will participate in World Environment Day, and will spread the word that our world needs our help. How are you participating? Share what you’re doing using the hashtags #WorldEnvironmentDay and #WithNature and let the world know that we all make a difference when it comes to the environment!
Courtesy of World Environment Day. For more info, please visit https://worldenvironmentday.global/en.