Enhancing Asset Management and Pipe Condition Assessments with AMI Integration

Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) integration is a phenomenal tool that offers utilities a wide variety of transformative benefits, particularly when it comes to asset management and pipe condition assessments.

But how?

Before we get to that, let’s take a quick detour into the basics of asset management and pipe condition assessments.

Asset Management: The Basics

Asset management is a fairly straightforward concept; essentially, it’s a strategic process utilities use to manage their assets. (See? Straightforward.) Utility assets can range anywhere from pipelines and power lines to the people themselves servicing them. At its core, asset management was developed for utilities, such as water, gas, electricity, etc., to reduce their operational costs while still providing consistent, efficient, and cost-effective service.

For water and wastewater utilities specifically, this approach means maintaining and upgrading utility infrastructures throughout their life cycles, including pipes, pumps, and treatment facilities. This kind of continuous maintenance, or “lifecycle evaluation” as many call it, is dependent on making time-sensitive decisions on when to replace, repair, or refurbish assets, which is key when trying to mitigate the risks of leaks or contamination.

One of the cornerstones of an efficient asset management system is proper documentation and record of all assets, their locations, specifications, maintenance history, and present condition. (If it can be recorded, it should be.) Asset management can provide utilities with the opportunity to implement a chain of custody, ensuring the safety, efficiency, durability, and reliability of their assets while simultaneously maximizing their investments.

But none of that can happen without a solid paper trail of the asset’s history and specifications.

For a more detailed overview of asset management, read our blog, The Crucial Role of Utility Asset Management: Providing Reliable Operations and Sustainable Infrastructure.

Pipe Condition Assessment

Pipe condition assessments are another critical aspect of water utility infrastructure maintenance, playing an important role in asset management. Proper pipe condition assessment typically includes visual inspections, acoustic monitoring, pressure testing, and flow monitoring, among other kinds of testing. By evaluating the condition of water and wastewater system pipes through these tests, utilities can get up close and personal with their infrastructure. In doing so, they have more knowledge and data and are therefore better equipped to make more intentional and sound judgments regarding maintenance and management. They can also identify problems before they become serious, mitigating the risk of corrosion, cracks, blockages, and leaks.

To put it succinctly, asset management and pipe condition assessments are two forms of predictive maintenance.

Capitalizing on Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI)

AMI is a system made up of smart water meters, data management systems, and communication networks. The purpose of AMI is to provide two-way communication between water utilities and their customers — all in real-time. By combining asset management, pipe condition assessments, and AMI, utilities can completely revolutionize the game.

With this communication fast-track, utilities gain far more insight into their customers’ water usage and are able to manage their assets proactively. Instead of having to wait for routinely scheduled assessments, utilities have continuous access to the infrastructure and system’s historical data, meaning they’re able to detect anomalies — like pressure drops or leaks — more quickly and have faster response times.

This level of constant surveillance and two-way communication can also be used for instant customer consumption readings, allowing customers the autonomy to monitor their own consumption and be alerted in the event of leaks or other issues. With the ability to detect these issues in real-time, utilities can swiftly make the necessary repairs or replacements. In doing so, they make way for accurate customer billing and more robust leak protection, reducing water loss and saving customers money. Talk about a win-win.

By shifting the focus from a reactive to a more proactive approach, utilities can take their continuous influx of data and use it to predict potential issues or failures. This kind of preparation allows them to better schedule their assessments based on critical needs rather than a routine calendar schedule. With this kind of forecasting, utilities can allocate better resources, reduce unneeded service interventions, and better extend the lifespan of their infrastructure.

There are a multitude of benefits from integrating AMI into a water and wastewater utility’s asset management process. But there’s one other crucial benefit we haven’t touched on: environmental and regulatory compliance.

Since AMI integration helps water utilities reduce their water loss and improve efficiency all around, it also guides them towards complying with regulations aimed at water conservation and environmental protection. Thanks to its robust reporting capabilities, AMI integration systems are able to gather accurate and timely compliance data, helping utilities demonstrate their adherence to regulatory standards.


There’s no denying the benefits of integrating AMI with asset management and pipe condition assessments. The partnership among the three allows for real-time data collection and analysis, early leak detection and water loss reduction, predictive maintenance, improved resource management, and, of course, environmental and regulatory compliance. By adopting AMI technology, utilities can ensure the longevity and reliability of their infrastructure, enhance customer satisfaction, and achieve regulatory compliance, ultimately providing better service while conserving our world’s most valuable resource.

Navigating the Complicated Maze of Funding Opportunities for Water and Wastewater Projects

Navigating the complicated maze of funding opportunities can be, well, complicated; there’s the time it takes to research applicable programs, time to understand them and their application guidelines, then there’s organizing your own initiatives and keeping track of deadlines. Municipalities also have to weigh the pros and cons of choosing a public or private program (or maybe a hybrid!) or if they should venture into federal initiatives or state-specific programs.

Combined, all of these decisions can make a necessary task a daunting one.

Each source of funding comes with its own set of requirements, benefits, funding parameters, and other considerations. By taking the time and care to properly research the available opportunities, water and wastewater utilities can secure the critical resources they need in order to deliver better outcomes for their communities.

But where do you start? Right here!

While this is by no means an exhaustive list of all of the funding opportunities available to us in New England, it’s an informative and comprehensive starting point.

State Revolving Funds (SRFs)

Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF)

The Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF) is a federal-state partnership program with the EPA that provides funding to projects focused on reducing water pollution and protecting our vital water sources.

Eligible projects include, but are not limited to, ones with a focus on constructing or repairing existing sewer systems, creating green infrastructure, mitigating nonpoint source pollution from runoff and urban stormwater, and other water management projects. In the form of zero percent interest to low-interest loans (and a 20% match by the state), the CWSRF is able to help municipalities upgrade their wastewater treatment facilities, which is crucial in removing contaminants and providing residents with clean, safe, and accessible drinking water.

Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (DWSRF)

The Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (DWSRF) is another federal-state partnership program that provides funding for municipalities needing to make crucial improvements to their infrastructure, specifically those in small and economically disadvantaged communities.

Funding is given in low-interest loans and grants to eligible projects that are in need of repairing and upgrading wells and storage tanks to mitigate contamination, connecting multiple water systems, replacing broken or damaged pipes, building water treatment plants, or creating entirely new systems. In doing so, the DWSRF helps municipalities also fall in compliance with the EPA’s Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) by not only promoting public health but also ensuring residents can have access to clean, safe, and reliable drinking water.

It’s important to note that a stipulation of the funding is that eligible states must be able to match 20% of the grant.

Compared to the CWSRF, the DWSRF mainly aids projects with a focus on the safety and reliability of our drinking water. Whereas the CWSRF focuses on addressing wastewater infrastructure needs head-on, However, both are critical funding opportunities that focus on maintaining and improving our nation’s water infrastructure, protecting public health, and fostering environmental sustainability.

To read more information about these two SRFs, you can read our previous blog.

Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA)

The EPA’s WIFIA is a federal initiative that provides funding for eligible water and wastewater infrastructure projects. The funding is long-term and in the form of low-cost loans for projects that require substantial financial assistance on both a regional and national level. What is particularly great about this act is that the WIFIA funds are able to cover up to 49% of eligible project costs, meaning this kind of funding can make a serious impact on local municipalities that are in great need.

WIFIA is open to eligible projects that are also eligible for the Clean Water SRF, Drinking Water SRF, and other water facility energy efficiency projects. Other projects like desalination, aquifer recharge, water recycling, and drought mitigation, among others, are also eligible. More information on WIFIA can be found here.

Emerging Contaminants in Small or Disadvantaged Communities Grant (EC-SDC Grant)

The EC-SDC Grant is a great resource for small or disadvantaged communities that are in critical need of improving their drinking water. With the funding, eligible municipalities can develop projects and activities in response to emerging contaminants, including PFAS. In doing so, they have the necessary tools to provide their citizens with continuous, clean drinking water. It should be taken into consideration that only municipalities with a population of 10,000 or less are eligible for this grant.

By focusing on communities with limited resources, this grant is able to better bridge the gap we often see in water quality and public health protection compared to more privileged communities, while supporting critical infrastructure improvements and instilling environmental justice across the state.

United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)’s Water and Waste Disposal Loan and Grant Program

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) supports rural water and wastewater utilities through its Water and Waste Disposal Loan and Grant Program. This initiative focuses on only rural areas and small towns with populations of 10,000 or fewer, which, as we know, are often in need of financial assistance to take care of their critical infrastructure needs.

Funding is in the form of long-term, low-interest loans and can be used for acquiring, building, or improving drinking water systems, sewer systems, solid waste management, and stormwater systems. The program also covers other areas of the project, such as legal and engineering fees, land acquisition, permits, equipment, start-up operations, etc., that are vital for public health and environmental sustainability.

In addition to federal programs, there are funding opportunities for each state. States often have their own grant and loan programs that are tailored specifically to their own unique regional challenges and priorities. For example, you can find more information on water resources grants and other financial assistance for projects such as drinking water, wastewater, septic systems, wetlands, and watersheds within the Commonwealth here.


Remaining proactive in the hunt for water and wastewater financial assistance is not for the faint of heart. But it is evident that there are a range of options out there that are often able to be combined. Navigating federal programs, state-specific funds, private grants, and public-private partnerships can be overwhelming, but they provide communities with the robust framework they require in order to take the next steps in addressing their infrastructure needs.

By prioritizing these opportunities, utilities can not only overcome financial barriers, but they can also gain the necessary tools to find long-term solutions while completing their goal of providing their communities with accessible, clean, and safe drinking water.

You can also read more about other funding opportunities by visiting our previous blog, Funding 101: Where to Find Money for Critical Water and Wastewater Projects.

Tata & Howard Team Members Present to Elementary Students

Tata & Howard Senior Project Manager James Hoyt, P.E. and Project Manager Molly Caruso, P.E., gave their annual water and wastewater presentation to the third grade students of Stanley Elementary School in Waltham, MA. The students there have learned about the water cycle and the importance of being mindful of their water use and interaction with the environment.

The 90-minute presentation included a PowerPoint presentation and a treatment demonstration. The PowerPoint followed the water cycle, how we all interact with the water cycle every day, and how water and wastewater engineers use math and science to help us safely interact with the water cycle and our environment. James and Molly spoke about making the water we use safe to drink and how we clean our dirty water before putting it back into the environment. They also spoke about how the availability of water differs in Massachusetts and in Rwanda, with a brief talk about Tata & Howard’s experience with the Water for People trip to Rwanda.

For the treatment presentation, the students made their own wastewater with materials found around the house that can end up down the drain like dirt, food, soap, oils, and even plastics. The group then used a clarifier for primary treatment and a sand filter for additional treatment. They ended with a demonstration where they used granular activated carbon to remove dye from the water, turning it clear again.

James and Molly enjoyed working with the kids and are looking forward to going back next year.

ERP Training: Planning for a Safer Future

Over time, the need for robust emergency response planning has become increasingly apparent. Whether because of the frequency and severity of natural disasters or the ever-present threat of man-made incidents, the impacts these emergencies can have on public health, safety, and the environment have become impossible to ignore.

In light of these challenges, the importance of having a robust emergency response plan (ERP) and training has become increasingly evident, serving as not only a critical tool in safeguarding our water supply and quality but also in safeguarding the lives of those we serve, physical property, and our environment.


An ERP is exactly what it sounds like: a plan to use in an emergency. More specifically, it’s a thoroughly researched and meticulously created manual of strategies, plans, and resources to use in the case of a crisis or incident. An ERP is a powerful tool that allows water utilities to mitigate incidents, both man-made and natural, such as main breaks, localized floods, hurricanes, system contamination, and essentially any incident that can threaten life, property, and the environment.

ERPs are such powerful and critical tools that the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) mandates them for all public water suppliers that serve populations of more than 3,300, in accordance with America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018.

An ERP typically includes, but is not limited to, the following:

  • Utility information, such as personnel information, utility overview, key local services, etc.
  • Communication strategies on how best to notify the public and stakeholders
  • Contingency plans for alternative water sources, if needed
  • Distribution methods
  • Detection strategies, and more


Now that we’ve covered what a water utility ERP is, it’s time to cover who it’s for — and that really encompasses a range of various people and roles. It may seem obvious, but ERPs are primarily for, well, us. You and me. Our neighbors and community. They’re for anyone and everyone, as any incident doesn’t just affect one person or utility department; it affects us all.

First and foremost on the training roll call are the management and operational staff of the water utility. They are the ones on the battlefield frontlines, ready to take on whatever obstacles stand between them and their service. From there, it’s the local government officials and agencies that are responsible for water management, as the role they play is pivotal in coordinating resources and providing support.

Emergency response teams are also involved since they are equipped with specialized skills and equipment and are trained to mobilize swiftly and efficiently in the face of an emergency. Regulatory bodies are also involved, as they are the ones ensuring compliance with safety standards and can even provide guidance throughout the process.

Combined, all of these stakeholders play a critical role in forming a comprehensive network that is essential for safeguarding water supply systems and protecting public health during emergencies.


ERPs are designed for us whenever an emergency situation affects water supply or quality. In order for ERPs to be effective and up-to-date, they need to be consistently and meticulously updated and reviewed. In some parts of the United States, it’s mandatory for all water utility employees to complete a minimum of ten hours of ERP training annually. By being prepared to act at a moment’s notice, water utilities can minimize the impact of emergencies, protect public health, and maintain the resilience of their infrastructure.

Before suppliers that service communities of more than 3,300 people can even submit their ERPs, they must file theirrisk and resilience assessment (RRA). An RRA evaluates the utility’s vulnerabilities, threats, and foreseen consequences from potential risks and precedes the ERP. Once the RRA is filed, the utility then has six months to file their ERP with the EPA. After that, they must submit recertification every five years.

Of note: since PWSs serving over 3,300 people were required to complete their RRAs and ERPs in 2020-2021 in accordance with America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018, they are due for their five-year renewal in the coming year or two. This means that the WHEN for these PWSs is imminent and these utilities should be working on their RRAs and ERPs now in order to meet the submittal deadline.


ERP training, specifically, can take place in various settings, ranging from traditional classroom environments to virtual sessions. Depending on the scope and size of the utility operations and the geographical area they serve, training can be completed onsite by internal trainers or outsourced to external consultants with expertise in ERP systems.

For where you can find more information, visit the EPA website. They have a plethora of resources where water utilities can find information pertaining to RRA and ERP filing schedules, how to certify their RRAs and ERPs, compliance information, and even an ERP template for both drinking water and wastewater utilities.


By now, the “why” is pretty clear: to ensure the safety, accessibility, and consistency of our water supplies and to protect public health. An ERP allows water utilities to explore vulnerabilities, make critical improvements, and establish emergency protocols that can ensure the safety and continuity of our water supply, protect public health, minimize property and environmental damage, and lessen liability.


As we know, ERPs are a compilation of strategies, plans, and resources for water utilities to use in an emergency. But where do you start?

  1. A preliminary assessment of the utility’s needs, processes, objectives, and goals, as well as potential weaknesses or vulnerabilities. For example, a utility that services a coastal town may view hurricanes as a significant risk, so that must be taken into consideration.
  2. Regulatory mandates vary from state to state and must comply with the EPA, requiring consultation from those regulatory bodies we mentioned earlier. Complying with the proper regulations can not only streamline the ERP process but also ensure the safety and well-being of individuals, communities, and the environment.
  3. In addition to bringing in those regulatory bodies, the utility must collaborate with other emergency response plans and teams in their community to create a symbiotic relationship. When an emergency arises, time is of the essence, so everyone involved needs to be on the same page and have clear action items.
  4. This coordination also extends to other important stakeholders, like local government officials and agencies, as they can greatly assist in collecting resources and expertise and providing communication channels.
  5. Once the above steps are completed, the training programs are then meticulously crafted and delivered to not only equip employees with the knowledge and skills needed to effectively utilize the ERP system in their day-to-day operations, but also to create a culture of continuous improvement. This culture is key to driving optimization and innovation within the ERP environment, further enabling water utilities to adapt to evolving needs and industry standards effectively.


ERPs and robust training both play pivotal roles in providing organizations with the knowledge and skills necessary to navigate the complexities of modern-day emergencies. By investing in comprehensive training initiatives, utilities can empower their employees to harness the full potential of ERP systems, paving the way for a safer, more resilient future.

Have questions on ERP implementation? Reach out to us today — our team has expertise in ERP training and would be happy to answer your questions.

Earth Day: Environmental Stewardship of Water Engineers

As Earth Day approaches, it serves as an essential reminder to recognize the tireless efforts taken behind the scenes to protect our planet’s most precious resource: water. Our work at T&H isn’t just a profession, nor does it end once we clock out; it’s a calling and a duty. It’s a passion and responsibility to uphold the very principles of environmental stewardship and sustainability every day.

But how exactly do we uphold environmental values year-round?

Striving for Sustainable Solutions

As we continue to experience rapid environmental transformations due to climate change and pollution, we have no other option than to make the fight for economic and resource conservation take on a more aggressive approach. At Tata & Howard, we continue to be industry leaders on sustainability, placing environmentalism at the forefront of every project we take on. Whether it’s providing an innovative and effective water and wastewater Capital Efficiency Plan™ (CEP), providing site stormwater management and funding assistance, designing efficient solutions that incorporate green initiatives with the future in mind, or any one of our many services, our goal remains to minimize environmental impact while meeting societal needs.

Compliant with Environmental Regulations

However, we can’t do our part successfully without recognizing the pivotal role environmental standards and regulations play. By fostering a deep understanding of the intricacies of environmental regulations and standards, we are able to meticulously navigate this maze and ensure that every project is compliant. Since we’re conducting thorough environmental assessments, like water audits or utility asset management, monitoring pollutant levels, and implementing best practices, we are able to better safeguard water quality and environmental health while checking each mandated box.

T&H also continues to be proactive in implementing federal and state stormwater management programs, such as the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s NPDES Small Municipal Separate Storm Sewer Systems (MS4) program and its Multi-Sector General Permit (MSGP).

Conservation Advocacy

As it stands today, the world loses approximately seven billion gallons of water a day. (Yes, a day.) So while we know that striving for sustainable solutions and compliance with environmental regulations both play large roles in our environmental efforts, we recognize that conservation advocacy is also crucial.

Given our tenure in the industry, we’re able to use our experience to create efficiency plans for businesses and communities, support water preservation and accessibility campaigns, and educate our community on the value of water conservation efforts, among other things. Through educational programs, community projects, and collaborative partnerships, we have the power (and duty) to empower communities to embrace water-saving behaviors, implement water-efficient technologies, and promote mindful resource usage.

Conservation advocacy isn’t just one component of our work; it’s a cornerstone that drives our efforts to protect our planet’s most precious resource for future generations.

ESOP Culture

At T&H, we wholeheartedly believe that together, we can build a brighter, more sustainable future for all. It’s why we are proud to be 100% employee-owned. Our status as an ESOP gives our approach to environmental efforts a bit of an edge. Each and every one of our team members is invested in our success and long-term viability as employee-owners. Because of this shared ownership, departments are able to collaborate and communicate openly, exchanging ideas and insights. As a result, we have an abundance of collective knowledge and experience that we use to our advantage when developing more creative and practical solutions for the communities we serve. Employees with ESOP status are encouraged to go above and beyond in their job and increase our potential to implement greener initiatives that meaningfully contribute to protecting the future of our world by leveraging the power of knowledge and collaboration.

Water Engineers’ Role as Guardians of Public Health

While water engineers are the backbone of ensuring safe and sustainable water management practices, they’re also most likely to be some of the more passionate environmentalists you’ll meet. Every day, water engineers work tirelessly to preserve and defend our waterways, taking painstaking care to ensure each drop is protected and used responsibly.

Given that they spend their careers preserving our waterways, it’s fair to say that water engineers embody environmentalism at its core. Water engineers are exceptional at sourcing, designing, and implementing sustainable solutions and systems that not only meet the needs of our communities but also minimize environmental impact. Whether it’s implementing cutting-edge water treatment technologies, integrating green infrastructure to manage stormwater, or advocating for water reuse initiatives, their goal remains the same: to provide clean and accessible water to all.


As we continue to plan for the future of our water systems, we remain committed to our mission of supporting Earth Day and its principles every day. Through our dedication to sustainability, advocacy for conservation, and adherence to regulatory compliance, we strive to make a positive impact on the health of our planet and the well-being of future generations.

At T&H, we know that together, we can ensure that every drop of water is treated with the respect and care it deserves. Water is the essence of life, and our commitment to preserving it and making it accessible for all guides everything we do. From designing state-of-the-art water treatment plans to implementing innovative stormwater management solutions, our projects are driven by a deep-seated calling (call it destiny) to play our role as global citizens.

Smart Capital Planning for Water and Wastewater Utilities

For a waterworks system to ensure reliable, long-lasting services, it’s critical that a fundamental component be efficient resource allocation. By incorporating capital efficiency plans, master plans, and a methodical capital planning process, utilities are able to navigate the complexities of their industry, not only by enabling them to strategically allocate resources and address dire infrastructure needs but also by meeting the persistent demands of evolving environmental regulations.

As we forge ahead, smart capital planning remains the compass that guides utilities towards a future where access to clean water is not just a necessity but a sustainable and well-managed reality.

Capital Efficiency Plans (CEPs): The Blueprint for Resource Organization

Capital Efficiency Plans (CEPs) at T&H follow a standard Venn diagram method. For every water main segment, there are three sets of evaluation criteria: key components, asset management, and hydraulic modeling.

With each set comes its own set of unique drawbacks, and it’s where the three overlap that the system’s weak points are put on display. If it seems that the weaknesses meet more than one set of criteria, then they are swiftly prioritized above the others as they require the most attention. By choosing this type of visual method, CEPs can quickly and justifiably pinpoint areas of criticality, allowing utilities to make a targeted plan of attack.

To put it simply, CEPs are a vital element of smart capital planning because they provide utilities with a strategic roadmap leading them towards the treasure trove of resource optimization. CEPs prioritize resource allocation by identifying the projects that will offer the greatest impact on efficiency (in other words, the ones that require the most attention), while also evaluating any potential risks such as regulatory changes and environmental challenges.

By streamlining capital investments, utilities can ensure cost-efficiency while also maintaining and improving their service standards and mitigating any potential, unforeseen issues.

Master Plans: The “What, When, and How” for Sustainable Development

A water master plan is essentially what it sounds like: a blueprint for sustainably managing and using water resources within a specific region. Diving deeper, a water master plan is a detailed framework that takes a variety of factors into account, like evaluating the current water supply, demand forecasts, infrastructure development, conservation tactics, financial planning, and environmental impact evaluations, to name a few.

Water, after all, is our lifeblood; without it, we could not sustain ourselves, our ecosystems, or our industries. It’s no secret that water utilities are often the ones on the front lines battling mitigation efforts, a lack of funding, and a complex web of other responsibilities. This juggling act often means that they need to know the “what, when, and how” as soon as possible: what do they need to do? When do they need to do it? How are they going to pay for it?

A water master plan has three main components: infrastructure assessment, data collection and analysis, and long-term goals. The first step is an infrastructure assessment that will evaluate the current water systems and infrastructure, including a review of pipelines, treatment plants, distribution networks, storage facilities, etc. This comprehensive evaluation will also be able to identify any infrastructure needs, such as maintenance, upgrades, or expansions.

The second step in any effective master plan is data collection and analysis. The master plan is constructed by using the initial assessment’s findings as its foundation—everything from demographic trends to industry developments can provide crucial information that can lead the plan down the path of success or failure. This step is important because it will influence the master plan. After all, bad data equals bad resource allocation. Thirdly, water master planning needs to extend far beyond the immediate needs; long-term goals are absolutely critical in ensuring the future of sustainable water management and utilization.

The heart of a water master plan is straightforward: ensure that water resources are allocated fairly, address critical issues like population growth and climate change, and establish a robust, accessible, and dependable water delivery system. Because at the end of the day, a water master plan promotes long-term water security, the health of people and ecosystems, and effective water management by integrating technical, economic, and environmental concerns.

Capital Planning

Utilities use the capital planning process, a structured methodology, to identify, prioritize, and allocate resources for capital projects. By addressing present demands and preparing for upcoming obstacles, this strategy helps utilities to align investments with strategic objectives. It starts with a thorough evaluation of the state of the infrastructure, which paves the way for the identification of priority projects that solve short-term issues and support long-term objectives.

An essential part of the planning process is estimating the price of proposed capital projects. Utilities use financial analysis to evaluate project viability and pinpoint possible funding sources, and a detailed risk assessment is carried out in order to identify and minimize any issues that could affect the success of capital projects. Investment resilience is increased by proactive risk management.

A financial analysis can help utilities determine just how feasible their projects are and aid in the search for funding by assessing their weaknesses in order to foresee any challenges that could impact the project’s success. Important stakeholders are then consulted to ensure the process takes into account a variety of viewpoints and community requirements. This cooperative and collaborative strategy not only promotes transparency, but it also has the power to greatly increase stakeholder trust.


In the face of a constantly evolving environment while meeting complex regulatory and social dynamics, there is no denying that smart capital planning is essential for the sustainable development of water and wastewater utilities. To put it succinctly, in order to have sustainable development, management, protection, and distribution of water and wastewater utilities, extensive planning is non-negotiable. Combined with ever-changing technology, utilities are further empowered to adapt and thrive.

By incorporating capital efficiency plans, master plans, and a methodical capital planning process, utilities can navigate the complexities with far more ease and effectively meet the needs of their communities.

Knowledge is Power: Understanding PFAS and the Role of Water Utilities

Often in times of innovation, we as a society face unintended consequences. One that has held our attention for quite some time is the presence of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in our water sources. PFAS are commonly found in everyday products and have made their way into our water supplies, posing a significant threat to public health.

In the ongoing battle against PFAS, water utilities have found themselves on the front lines, battling mitigation efforts, a lack of funding, and a complex web of responsibilities.

Understanding PFAS

PFAS are manufactured compounds that are characterized by their strong carbon-fluorine bonds, making them resistant to heat, water, and oil. (So right off the bat we know that we don’t want these anywhere near our water supply.) While these properties have led to widespread use in manufacturing, they have also led to contamination in our water supplies thanks to industrial discharges, firefighting activities, and the destruction of consumer products.

Despite being in use for the past eight decades, these synthetic toxins are still categorized as emerging contaminants. For context, emerging contaminants are grouped into eight main categories: pharmaceuticals, PCPs, hormones and steroids, disinfectants, flame retardants, herbicides and pesticides, industrial additives, and gasoline additives.

This classification represents the lack of necessary regulatory limits for how much of these compounds can legally be in public drinking water. Since it is virtually impossible to destroy them (and it can be even harder to completely avoid them), the possibility of producing adverse side effects over time is high, with the potential to cause severe complications in both the environment and within the human body.

So, where can PFAS most commonly be found today?

  • Soil, water, and/or PFAS-containing equipment and materials from PFAS-grown agricultural products.
  • Drinking polluted groundwater from stormwater runoff near landfills, wastewater treatment plants, and firefighter training facilities.
  • Household items such as nonstick products (e.g., Teflon), polishes, waxes, paints, cleaning agents, and fabrics with stain and water repellency.
  • Firefighting foams expelled at airports and military bases during firefighting exercises.
  • Industrial facilities that utilize PFAS when manufacturing chrome plating, electronics, and oil recovery.

Mitigation Efforts

The role water utilities play in mitigating PFAS contamination simply cannot be overstated. In order to protect the community from contamination, utilities require a robust toolbelt: a combination of advanced technologies, vigorous monitoring and reporting systems, and extensive regulatory frameworks.

There’s also the option for more advanced treatment technologies, like activated carbon filtration and ion exchange, that can be used when trying to eliminate these toxic, persistent substances. Activated carbon filtration is when water passes through a bed of activated carbon particles that aid in absorbing PFAS contaminants. Ion exchange is another similar method that instead replaces the PFAS ions with less harmful ones, helping to reduce contamination levels.

Utilities take it one step further by conducting routine monitoring and testing at the sources, as it is crucial to being able to identify contamination early on and act fast. Combined with ongoing research, utilities are able to keep themselves on top of their mitigation practices and existing technologies.

Funding Difficulties

Now, we know that water utilities receive very limited funding and are the ones left behind to clean up the mess (pun intended). While grants can be incredibly helpful, they’re not guaranteed and can be far and few between.

In the summer of 2022, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) introduced new health advisories related to PFAS contamination in public drinking water. This act aligned with President Biden’s initiative to provide clean drinking water to the American people, alongside an initial $1 billion grant, which was part of a larger $5 billion initiative. The grant was extended nationwide and was designated for comprehensive water testing, technical support, contractor training, and other essential action items. In addition, President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law invests $9 billion over five years to help communities that are on the frontlines of PFAS and other contamination reduce levels in drinking water.

However, $1–9 billion simply won’t cut it.

The insufficient amount is hardly enough to supply testing on a national scale, a necessary feat in rectifying almost 100 years of damage from PFAS contamination. Water utilities are then forced in between a rock and a hard place, leaving them with limited funds and ill-equipped to fix the contaminated waterways. The responsibility, unfortunately, falls onto utilities, when in reality, it should fall on the corporations that originally introduced PFAS, given the years of profiting from these compounds.

We’ve entered a time where it is now up to these corporations to contribute to the cleanup of our land and water, especially considering that public water systems are often the ones burdened with the financial repercussions.

Role of Manufacturers

Manufacturers, who have historically utilized PFAS in their products, play a significant role in addressing the contamination crisis. Even while advancements in alternative chemicals are currently underway, the responsibility to rectify the issue should really fall on to those who have played a hand in its creation. (Essentially, you break it, you buy it!)

As we know, the costs of detecting, treating, and preventing PFAS contamination place a hefty burden on water utilities. Manufacturers can help alleviate this financial strain. And besides, if manufacturers can express transparent acknowledgment of their past actions and make a full commitment to not only rectifying their wrongdoings but fronting the bills, it would build trust among the consumers and communities affected, making it some sort of a win-win.


In the face of PFAS contamination, knowledge is indeed power. Water utilities are armed with an understanding of the issue and have accepted their mission as the bodyguards of public health.

However, the challenges they face, including a lack of proper funding and the need for cooperation from manufacturers, often put a spotlight on the complexity of the issue. It is crucial for us as a society to recognize the shared responsibility in addressing PFAS contamination, making the intentional effort towards collaboration between stakeholders to make sure the burden does not disproportionately fall on those working diligently to provide safe and clean water to communities.

Through collective efforts and informed decision-making, we can pave the way for a sustainable and PFAS-free future.

Water Utilities: Working Toward a Healthier Future

In today’s modern world, it’s fair to say that water utilities operate as the guardians of public health, constantly staying vigilant against threats to water quality, safety, and accessibility.

While their efforts may often go unnoticed by the general public, behind the scenes, water utilities are continuously improving their systems and operations to enhance safety and health standards for the public. From infrastructure upgrades and quality testing to innovative solutions and emergency preparedness, all are instrumental in enhancing the overall well-being of our community.

Infrastructure Upgrades

Water utilities’ relentless pursuit of minimizing leaks, contamination risks, and disruptions in water supply are at the forefront of modernization, specifically when it comes to the upgrading of pipelines, treatment plants, and distribution system components. With these crucial infrastructure updates, often a product of the combined efforts of water audits and utility management, utilities are able to decrease the need for new sources, treatment plants, facility upgrades, and expansions and reduce the number of entry points for disease-causing pathogens.

Through these passion-fueled, robust efforts, these upgrades become the backbone of a resilient and reliable water infrastructure, further increasing the safety and accessibility of public water.

Quality Testing and Monitoring

Ensuring the safety of water begins with a commitment to quality testing and monitoring. Water utilities that conduct meticulous lead inventories and testing procedures are able to swiftly identify potential risks, because as we know, lead is not our friend. By vigilantly tracking water quality, utilities safeguard communities from the harmful effects of these contaminants. They also maintain a constant awareness of the condition of our public infrastructure, gaining insights into both successes and areas that require improvement.

According to the World Health Organization, one million people die every year due to lead poisoning. Whether it’s from industrial settings, like mining and smelting, or paint and plumbing in older homes, lead poisoning maintains its spot as a high risk that can be mitigated by routine replacement of lead service lines.

Innovative Solutions

The relentless pursuit of improvement and modernization embraced by Tata & Howard helps water utilities further pave the way towards embracing more cutting-edge technologies and innovative solutions. In addition, Tata & Howard is a 100% Employee Stock Owned Plan (ESOP) company, meaning that the collaborative nature of the client-ESOP firm relationship allows for both parties to explore and embrace more unconventional, innovative solutions: solutions such as advanced filtration systems and real-time monitoring, both of which can also be catered to our customers’ specific and individual needs.

Emergency Preparedness

As “guardians of public health,” water utilities also serve as sentinels, always prepared for the unexpected. The level of preparedness in their Emergency Response Plans (ERPs) allows for a swift and coordinated response to natural disasters, industrial accidents, or disruptions in the water supply.

In fact, all public water suppliers are required to have ERPs in place. Public water systems in Massachusetts are also obligated to conduct a minimum of 10 hours of Emergency Response training each year for their employees which plays a crucial role in enabling water system managers and staff to identify vulnerabilities, implement improvements, and establish effective procedures to be followed in case of an emergency.

The (mandated) preparation, continuous updating, and execution of a response plan are essential for strengthening system security, reducing property damage, minimizing liability, preventing illnesses, and saving lives.


As water utilities continue to evolve and collaborate on the continuous efforts of upgrading infrastructure, embracing innovation, and prioritizing emergency preparedness, the more secure they — and we as a community — are in the vital role they play in ensuring the availability and accessibility of clean and safe water.

Amidst the challenges we face as we navigate the modern world, let us not forget to acknowledge the relentless dedication of these guardians – the water utilities that quietly, yet profoundly, secure the health and safety of the communities they serve.

ESOP Culture: A Spirit of Philanthropy

Within the dynamic world of business culture, the idea of philanthropy has transformed beyond the conventional ideas of charitable giving. One unique shape the spirit of corporate philanthropy has taken on is in the form of Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP) companies. These kinds of organizations grant their employees a stake in the ownership of the company and often exemplify a commitment to shared success and community impact.

Tata & Howard is proud to say that we have been 100% employee-owned since 2014.

Philanthropy: A Pillar in the ESOP Foundation

A profound way in which ESOPs embody philanthropy is through the empowerment of their team members. By granting employees ownership stakes and allowing them a seat at the table, these companies provide a direct link between individual effort and collective success. For employees, having a sense of ownership can inspire a strong work ethic and a shared commitment to the company’s success, ultimately resulting in increased productivity and innovation (not to mention high retention rates and overall morale!).

Even more, the philanthropic spirit within ESOPs often extends far beyond the workplace and into the broader community. As employees witness the positive impact of their collective efforts, a culture of giving back often emerges, with many ESOP companies actively engaging in community service, charitable initiatives, and support for local causes. The idea of shared ownership naturally paves the way to a shared responsibility for the well-being of the community at large, embodying a model of corporate philanthropy that goes beyond just monetary donations.

Philanthropy: The T&H Way

At the heart of T&H lies a profound belief that resonates with the very essence of ESOP companies: the unwavering conviction that every individual should have the right to access clean drinking water.

In the water and wastewater industry, the impact on the environment and public health is profound. ESOPs, like T&H, recognize this impact and actively engage in initiatives that prioritize ethical considerations, environmental sustainability, and community well-being, with these actions often reverberating far beyond profit margins.

Water for People

One of T&H’s favorite charities is Water for People.

Water for People’s mission is as straightforward as their name: to provide everyone with sustainable, clean drinking water. With this partnership, T&H staff members have the ability to donate straight from their paychecks, with the company matching 100% of each dollar donated. As a water engineering firm, we know firsthand the hardships disadvantaged communities experience due to a lack of clean drinking water. As it stands today, there are approximately two billion people worldwide who do not have that necessary access.

Through their efforts, Water for People ensures that donated funds reach families, clinics, and schools alike, bridging access to safe water, sanitation, and hygiene services for those living in Guatemala, Honduras, Peru, Bolivia, Uganda, Rwanda, Malawi, Tanzania, and India. In 2022 alone, Water for People and their supporters have successfully brought improved water sources to over 220,000 people across over 500 different communities.

HopeWell Services

Every holiday season, T&H partners with HopeWell Services, an organization that provides disadvantaged children with gifts along with so much more. Each T&H team member has the opportunity to select an ornament from a giving tree that holds a child’s holiday wish list. The team member then shops accordingly, and then all gifts are delivered to the children.

Both T&H and HopeWell recognize the transformative power of collective action and shared prosperity, with the goal of bringing everyone the right to access clean water and joy during the holiday season. Together, our combined initiatives highlight the profound impact that can be achieved when organizations, irrespective of their nature, come together with a shared vision of making a positive difference in the lives of their local community.

Worcester County Food Bank

As an ESOP, T&H is deeply committed to shared ownership and responsibility, even mirroring the ethos of the Worcester County Food Bank (WCFB) in addressing critical needs. Each Thanksgiving, T&H drives a collaborative, company-wide initiative to donate to the WCFB, one of only three Feeding America member food banks in the entire state of Massachusetts. In fact, in 2018 alone, the WCFB was able to distribute nearly 6.1 million pounds of food to approximately 75,000 people throughout the county.

October was ESOP Month, a month dedicated to recognizing their significance in the corporate world, their role in fostering innovative corporate philanthropic efforts, and the people who make these kinds of companies sustainable. As part of the month-long celebration, T&H initiated a month-long food drive for the WCFB — and as always, employee-owners stepped up to the plate in a big way.


As steadfast advocates for sustainable water practices, we recognize the transformative power of shared ownership embedded in the ESOP model. This kind of unique approach to corporate structure cultivates a sense of collective responsibility among employees who are not merely contributors but beneficial owners. Through our alignment with the principles of ESOPs, we contribute to a narrative of shared responsibility, where the right to clean water and other basic human rights is not just a belief but a collective endeavor that transcends the boundaries of business to foster a resilient and caring community and create a lasting, positive impact.

Benefits of Working with a Small Engineering Firm

According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, small businesses operate 84.8% of establishments while employing 54.3% of workers. So, what is it about small businesses that attract over half of the workforce and make up the majority of establishments? For employees seeking a meaningful career and for clients in search of personalized and effective solutions, working for and with a small firm provides a myriad of benefits that often rise above the conventional expectations that come with larger corporations.

Let’s explore the dual joys of being an employee in a small firm and a client seeking the unique advantages we as a small firm bring to the table.

For Employees

Ability to Embrace Innovation through Varied Roles and Responsibilities

Working for a small business or firm provides employees with a unique opportunity to wholeheartedly embrace innovation and creativity. When embracing this level of ethos, small firms are able to foster an environment where every voice is heard. This mindset empowers employees to don multiple hats, as each person joining the team has their own set of skills, perspectives, and expertise that they can bring to the table.

Each day brings a new set of challenges, creating a dynamic and engaging work environment that offers employees the opportunities to not only lean back on their past experiences, but also learn new skills and provide a “new set of eyes” when interacting with said challenges. These multifaceted roles not only broaden the team’s skillset but also provide a more holistic perspective, inspiring creative and innovative problem-solving, whereas larger corporations and firms may experience more constraints.

Opportunities to Make an Impact

At the heart of our small team lies a collective dedication to a fundamental service: providing communities with clean water. This shared purpose fosters a profound sense of meaning, creating a workforce that is driven by a commitment to our public’s well-being.

Since we are a small firm, our employees and clients are able to consistently make a bigger impact due to having direct access to key decision-makers. Having the opportunity to quickly run new ideas by a key stakeholder allows our team to work more efficiently due to the lack of “hoops” many larger firms often have to jump through, further encouraging innovation and creativity.

This accessibility to decision-makers cultivates a culture of open communication, cutting down on decision-making time. This empowers employees to feel a sense of ownership over their projects, encouraging them to think creatively about solutions and leading them to spend their time working on value-adding tasks and projects.

Added Benefits of ESOP Small Business

And speaking of ownership, all Tata & Howard employees are actually owners, creating even more of an ownership mindset in our organization. Being a 100% Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP) provides unique benefits not only to clients who appreciate the effort, attention, and pride of work that comes with ownership, but also to employees who enjoy the financial rewards of ownership.

For Clients

Personalized Service and Direct Communication

There’s a distinct advantage to choosing to work with a small firm, often in the form of more attentive, personal, direct, and customized service. The more intimate nature of small firms can be quite challenging to find in larger corporations, with many lacking direct communication.

With a small firm, direct communication with decision-makers is not only a hallmark, but it also ensures clients that they are more than just another transaction; they are in fact valued partners. This kind of intentional accessibility allows both firm and client to foster a deep understanding of each other’s needs and preferences, making way for service with a level of laser precision that can often go far beyond the standardized solutions larger firms offer.

It’s this level of commitment to customer service and satisfaction that is often ingrained in the ethos of small firms that results in returning customers and more collaborative partnerships.

Cost-Efficient Partnership

Selecting a small firm as a client often means a more cost-efficient partnership compared to working with larger corporations. Small firms often operate with lower overhead costs as they typically have streamlined operations and are laser-focused on efficiency, meaning they can offer more competitive prices.

But, how is that possible?

Small firms can afford to be more flexible, allowing themselves to work around and cater to the specific needs of each client, tailoring services to meet these individual requirements. Unlike larger corporations that may offer standardized solutions at a premium, small firms can provide these services at a more affordable rate.

This level of dependability, innovation, and dedication to going the extra mile when providing a fundamental service allows small firms like T&H to build strong, lasting relationships with satisfied clients.

Entrepreneurial Spirit Leading to Innovative Solutions

It’s not just small firm employees that can benefit from embracing innovation and creativity; clients are encouraged just as much to immerse themselves in a firm’s entrepreneurial culture. The collaborative nature of the client-small firm relationship allows for both parties to embrace more unconventional ideas and solutions, while larger firms may be bound by established processes. The lack of these constraints combined with the fostering of innovation and “out of the box-ness” allows small firms to take more calculated risks when solving problems, which can lead to a more dynamic and proactive approach.


When working for a small firm — particularly an ESOP — employees are valued for their contributions and are empowered to actively participate in the decision-making process. In partnering with a small firm, clients are not just mere recipients of a service but are also active participants in their own problem-solving.

This dual experience of working for and with a small firm invites all parties to a world where innovation, creativity, and collaboration are not only welcomed and encouraged but embraced wholeheartedly. It’s with this level of dedication and prioritization that small firms are able to carve a niche area for themselves, providing a level of service that many large corporations are unable to fulfill.