The Crucial Role of Utility Asset Management: Providing Reliable Operations and Sustainable Infrastructure

From large power plants to water distribution networks, utility assets form the backbone of our modern-day society. They provide us with the essential services we rely on daily, from electricity to clean water and beyond. However, the sheer scale and complexity of these assets demand a systematic and strategic approach to maximize their optimal performance, safety, and longevity.

This is where asset management comes into play. Utility asset management is not only about providing smooth operations and reliable service delivery, but it also plays a pivotal role in building sustainable, future-ready systems that can withstand the challenges of a dynamic world.

So, let’s get into it!

The Basics: What is Asset Management?

Utility asset management is a systematic process in which utility companies can manage and maintain their physical assets, such as water, gas, electricity, and their corresponding infrastructures. These infrastructures can range from pipelines and power lines to meters and transformers, even staff, encompassing any essential utility delivery service and technology.

Utility asset management takes into account the entire lifecycle of an asset, from acquisition or construction to decommissioning or replacement. This type of “lifecycle evaluation” includes decisions on when to repair, refurbish, or replace assets based on specific factors, such as technological advancements, regulatory changes, and cost-effectiveness.

These programs provide utilities the opportunity to maintain accurate and up-to-date records of all of their assets, including location, specifications, maintenance history, and current condition. All of these factors contribute to an effective plan for the safety, efficiency, durability, and reliability of these assets, while also maximizing the value of their investments over the asset’s lifespan.

Now that we’ve covered the what, let’s evaluate the why.

Why is Asset Management Necessary?

Knowledge is Power: A Predictive Maintenance Mindset

Try to think of asset management as a type of predictive maintenance: with asset management, utilities — like water works — can be proactive by utilizing available life cycle data and industry experience to anticipate just when maintenance is needed. These predictions further optimize maintenance schedules and can substantially reduce downtime and operational costs. Additionally, these programs allow for more sustainable infrastructure opportunities by offering details on potential issues, deterioration, or future risks, and provide other guidelines on how to prevent unexpected failures while simultaneously allowing for timely maintenance and/or repair.

High Scalability Meets Compliance Regulations

Asset management has a high scalability, making it a critical tool for all water, wastewater, stormwater, and public works systems, regardless of their size. Due to the adaptiveness of the program, utilities need to align their asset management efforts with relevant industry regulations and standards for optimal safety, environmental compliance, and public welfare. Like any kind of public works, utilities are subject to various environmental regulations that govern emissions, waste disposal, and resource usage.

What may be surprising to some is that utilities must also consider data security and privacy regulations. Protecting sensitive information related to assets, maintenance, and operations is essential to complying with data protection laws and other compliance regulations. (Yes, there’s loads of personally identifiable information on utility bills!)

Utility operations require permits and licenses from regulatory authorities, which are all collected during a preliminary assessment. Since asset management procedures involve tracking and renewing these permits, utilities can rest assured knowing that all necessary legal requirements are met.

By incorporating regulatory compliance into utility asset management, utilities receive continuous monitoring of regulatory changes, and often collaborate with legal and regulatory experts. Integrating compliance considerations into asset management strategies assists utility companies in maintaining operations that are lawful, safe, and environmentally responsible.

Endgame Goals

So, what is the end goal when implementing utility asset management? That’s easy: to continuously improve the reliability, safety, efficiency, and longevity of these assets while also optimizing costs and delivering high-quality services to customers.

Essentially, an effective utility asset management program results in (but is not limited to) the following:

  • Reduced operational costs
  • Improved service reliability
  • Minimized downtime
  • Enhanced customer satisfaction
  • Better resource allocation
  • Infrastructure stability
  • Operational resiliency
  • Community sustainability

How Can Tata & Howard Help?

At Tata & Howard, we start off a client’s asset management program by conducting a preliminary assessment of above and below ground infrastructures, staffing, and condition of assets. We review all existing documentation, records, drawings, and reports prior to the preliminary assessment. Once the pre-preliminary assessment has been completed, a site visit is arranged to review all of the utilities’ infrastructures and assets, and data is collected pertaining to equipment type, installation dates, capacities, manufacturers, model and serial numbers, and more; all of which is vital in providing our clients an in-depth and effective report.

So, what happens after our assessment? For starters, we provide utilities a full report on recommendations for prioritizing funds for individual asset replacement based on the criticality of the replacement, the current condition of the asset, its age, and any potential risks. Included is a Five-Year Asset Replacement Plan that includes an estimate of potential construction costs. Our findings and reports help utilities to allocate resources effectively by identifying which assets need immediate attention, which ones can be deferred, and which new investments will bring the most value in terms of performance improvement or cost savings.

In Conclusion

In summary, asset management planning is absolutely critical to the current and future health and maintenance of our utility supplies. It requires a combination of data-driven strategies, technological integration, and informed decision-making so that utility assets perform optimally throughout their lifecycle. At Tata & Howard, our team specializes in comprehensive utility asset management solutions. With years of experience, our team of experts is dedicated to delivering exceptional utility asset management services that empower water, wastewater, and stormwater utilities and companies to operate efficiently, meet regulatory requirements, and contribute to the well-being of the communities they serve.

Engineer, Water/Wastewater – Waterbury, CT

Job Description

Tata & Howard has an opportunity for entry-level Civil and / or Environmental Engineers with a strong interest in municipal water and / or wastewater design.  Experience in hydraulic modeling, asset management, and dam safety work a plus.  Responsibilities include project design, site investigations and surveys, analysis of data, interaction with clients, and developing engineering reports, models, and calculations related to the design of water / wastewater and stormwater collection / distribution systems. Additional responsibilities include developing familiarity with government, client, and industry local codes, regulations, and standards; health and safety requirements; and environmental concerns.

Requirements

  • Minimum qualifications include Bachelor of Science degree in Civil or Environmental Engineering or related field.
  • Successful candidates will be adept at applying engineering principles to develop effective solutions, and must possess strong technical and business writing skills.
  • Ideal candidates should have some experience with design and development of water and / or wastewater engineering solutions, AutoCAD, and Microsoft Office applications.
  • Candidates must be able to work well independently and in teams.

Please note that Tata & Howard does not sponsor applicants for work visas.

Capital Efficiency Plan for the Win

Providing a Roadmap to Successful, Affordable Infrastructure Improvement

It seems that every day there is an exciting new product on the market to make every task that much easier and faster. A new tip on how one can achieve maximum productivity in their career, workouts, cooking, and how to achieve maximum energy saving capabilities in your homes — you name it, if there’s a will to optimize productivity, there’s a way for efficiency.

The same goes for your local water, wastewater and stormwater system.

The Tata & Howard Capital Efficiency Plan (CEP) helps you do just that. Our CEP method is an accelerated and progressive approach to asset management. Our program allows municipalities, with the assistance and guidance of expert field staff and project managers, to do the following: (1) identify areas of their water, stormwater, and wastewater systems that are in need of repair, replacement, and/or rehabilitation; and (2) create a prioritized plan of action that is easily justified. In addition, the entire plan is conducted and completed in a way that makes the most bang out of municipalities’ limited infrastructure bucks.

What’s the Plan?

Our CEP uses a three-circle, Venn diagram method. The three circles each represent a set of evaluation criteria for each water main segment: hydraulic modeling, asset management, and critical components. Each set comes with its own set of weaknesses. As with a typical Venn diagram, there is some overlap between the three circles, and the overlaps highlight the problem areas in the system. If a weakness appears to fall into more than one criteria set, they are given a higher priority than the others. By using this visual approach, our CEP easily and concisely identifies areas of criticality that allows systems to then create an action plan.

Once the plan is completed, systems receive their CEP report, complete with Geographic Information System (GIS) representation for each pipe segment within their individual underground piping system, along with a database. Each report will detail what issues are critical and should be prioritized, and includes estimated costs for the repairs, replacements, or rehabilitations that need to be made, so critical and less-critical projects alike can be part of the conversation when preparing annual budgets.

Road Blocks

In their 2021 Report Card, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) gave wastewater an embarrassing “D+” grade due to the existing infrastructure being in desperate need of repair and replacement and drinking water a “C-“. Stormwater came in with the lowest grade of “D”.

It has been no secret that federal and state funding has been on a steady decline for several decades now, starting in the mid-1970s. With already limited funding, state and local governments are unable to meet full capital expenditures and to prioritize projects, and are frankly falling behind, leaving their residents to bear the burden of crumbling infrastructure.

Our plan allows systems to implement clear, concise, and systematic plans of action, have more detailed agendas for each project, and to better allocate their already limited funding while providing critical repair, replacement, and/or rehabilitation of their water, wastewater, or stormwater system. CEP’s also provide a roadmap for a better plan for future work, resulting in tackling more capital improvement projects, all while using fewer funds. It is a win across the board, as evidenced by the following systems:

Asset management planning is absolutely critical to the current and future health and maintenance of our water supplies. This highly structured, three-circle approach to capital planning is one of the most effective ways for systems to conclusively prioritize those that are in most need of repair, replacement, or rehabilitation. Each CEP approach is specifically tailored to each project, as each system and project have varying needs.

By participating in our Capital Efficiency Plan and actively working towards better capital planning, systems can achieve better capital efficiency. Our plan will give its participants the security knowing that their annual budgets are better allocated to the most critical projects, and provide a sigh of relief knowing that their repair-to-do lists are getting shorter. And, most importantly, systems can rest assured knowing that their residents have access to safe, clean drinking water via updated water distribution systems.

It truly is a win-win for all.

Water / Wastewater Engineer – Marlborough, MA

Job Description

Tata & Howard has an opportunity for entry-level Civil and/or Environmental Engineers with a strong interest in municipal water and / or wastewater design.  Experience with AutoCAD a plus.  Responsibilities include project design, site investigations and surveys, analysis of data, interaction with clients, and developing engineering reports, models, and calculations related to the design of water / wastewater and stormwater collection / distribution systems. Additional responsibilities include developing familiarity with government, client, and industry local codes, regulations, and standards; health and safety requirements; and environmental concerns.

Requirements

  • Minimum qualifications include Bachelor of Science degree in Civil or Environmental Engineering or related field.
  • Successful candidates will be adept at applying engineering principles to develop effective solutions, and must possess strong technical and business writing skills.
  • Ideal candidates should have some experience with design and development of water and / or wastewater engineering solutions, AutoCAD, and Microsoft Office applications.
  • Candidates must be able to work well independently and in teams.

Please note that Tata & Howard does not sponsor applicants for work visas.

Charles River Clean-Up 2022

Team Tata & Howard joined 3,000+ volunteers participating in the 23rd Annual Earth Day Charles River Cleanup! It was a beautiful Saturday to get out of the house and lend a helping hand to Mother Nature!

Our team picked, tugged, lugged, and hauled away litter around the Upper Falls Playground. We even made a new friend, neighbor Barry Soroka, who lives close to the park; looking forward to seeing you next year, Barry!

Location: Upper Falls Playground, Newton Upper Falls, MA

Scholarships In Motion

TATA & HOWARD, INC. (T&H), founded in 1992, is a 100% employee-owned water, wastewater, and stormwater services engineering firm. We are dedicated to consistently delivering the highest quality and innovative engineering solutions in the water environment.

As an industry leader in the Northeast, we believe the key to quality engineers for the future begins with education. Together with industry associations, high schools, and colleges, we demonstrate that belief through our scholarship programs. T&H scholarships recognize outstanding, graduating high school seniors who maintained an overall GPA of at least 3.0, excel in math or science, and will be enrolled full-time at a college majoring in engineering.

To learn how you can apply for consideration, check out our current programs.

Patrick S. O’Neale, P.E. Engineering Scholarship Award
Click here to learn more

Donald J. Tata Engineering
Scholarship Award
Click here to learn more

Donald J. Tata Engineering
Scholarship Award

Click here to learn more

Donald J. Tata Engineering Scholarships

Check Out More
T&H Scholarships in Motion.

Donald J. Tata Engineering Scholarship Awarded to Marlborough and Natick High School Seniors

TATA & HOWARD, INC. announced it’s 2018 Donald J. Tata Engineering Scholarship winners.  Graduating seniors from Marlborough High School, Igor De Moraes and Amanda Vilensky; and seniors from Natick High School, Kevin Zheng and Rebecca McCue, each received the $1,000 scholarship sponsored by TATA & HOWARD, INC. and the Tata family. Learn more

TATA & HOWARD, INC. Announces Paul E. Cote Engineering Scholarship Nomination, Jared Hamilton.

Jared Hamilton, an A.P. Scholar, graduated from Ellsworth High School with high honors and is a recent graduate of the University of Maine, B.S. in Civil Engineering, with a dual concentration in water resources and structural design.  Jared recently passed the Fundamentals of Engineering Exams (F.E.). He is a member of the Maine Section of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) and a past member of the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity.

Jared commented on his “Greatest of All Time” (G.O.A.T.) engineering experience – while observing the construction of a substation as an intern – “I could see the foundations, forms, rebar, etc. and I knew then I had chosen the right career path.” Jared recently took a full-time position with an engineering company in Maine, setting his goal to obtain engineering knowledge through hands-on experience. – Jared, the TATA & HOWARD team congratulates you and wishes you much success!

Patrick S. O’Neale, P.E. Scholarship

Patrick S. O’Neale, P.E. Engineering Scholarship Award

Tata & Howard, Inc. is pleased to co-sponsor the Patrick S. O’Neale, P.E. Engineering Scholarship Award through the Massachusetts Water Works Association (MWWA).

Patrick had a passion for quality control, quality assurance, and the development and protection of Massachusetts water supply and water infrastructure. He held a B.S. in Civil Engineering from Southeastern Massachusetts University and served as president of MWWA. His twenty-year career at Tata & Howard, Inc. served in many leadership roles, with his final position as Sr. Vice President. 

This award is open to students pursuing a Bachelor of Science degree in Civil or Environmental Engineering at an accredited academic institution in the United States,  with preference given to those candidates whose programs of study are related to waterworks practice. 

Click here to learn more about applying for the O’Neale Scholarship Application through MWWA. Deadline: June 1st of each year. 

Donations, if you wish to donate to this fund, please click here.  

Meet Joseph Diaz – our first Awardee

Joseph Diaz
Merrimack College
Civil Engineering | 2022
Joseph is pursuing his master’s degree in engineering management. Scholarships In Motion – check out our interview with Joseph.

Asset Management Grant Program Available in MA

Calling All Water Utilities!

The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) and the Massachusetts Clean Water Trust (the Trust) are currently promoting Asset Management Programs (AMPs) by offering subsidized State Revolving Fund (SRF) financing for communities looking to improve one or more of their water-related utilities.

With the help of Asset Management Programs, water, wastewater, and stormwater utilities are poised to make beneficial financial decisions for the future. The goal of AMPs is to achieve long-term sustainability and deliver the required level of service in a cost-efficient manner. Financial decisions surrounding asset repairs, replacements, or rehabilitations, as well as the development and implementation of a long-term funding strategy can only help a utility.

Through the Asset Management Grant Program, MassDEP and the Trust are encouraging water utilities to focus on AMP development, maintenance, or improvements. This program is also aimed at helping communities and their utilities meet the Engineering Plan and Financial Sustainability Plan requirements for SRF construction loans. With that, the program will award grants with a maximum award of $150,000 or 60% of the total eligible project cost (whatever is less).

If awarded a grant, the recipient will be required to supply documentation of a full appropriation of funding mechanisms for the entire cost of the project to qualify. There are no requirements on the size or scope of the project. MassDEP will favor proposals that include a clear description of the applicant’s current asset management status and goals, and those that demonstrate a strong commitment to participate in their AMP.

Apply Today!

Tata & Howard encourages all MA utilities to apply for this special grant funding. Proposals and Project Evaluation Forms are due on August 23, 2019 by 12 pm.

For more detailed information concerning requirements and deadlines, please view the Guidelines for Proposal Submittal and Project Selection provided by MassDEP.

Asset Management

As one of MassDEP’s pre-qualified consulting engineering firms, Tata & Howard provides industry expertise in both Asset Management and funding assistance. For more information on Asset Management or how Tata & Howard can assist with your grant application, visit our website or contact us directly. We are happy to assist.

New Law Affects Small Community Water Systems

Effective October 1, 2018, Connecticut’s Department of Public Health (DPH) is requiring all small community water systems to complete Fiscal and Asset Management Plans by January 1, 2021 and update them annually. This new law effects small water companies that regularly serve communities of at least 25 but not more than 1,000 year-round residents.

The Fiscal and Asset Management Plan must include:

  1. A list of all the system’s capital assets;
  2. The asset’s (a) useful life, based on their current condition, (b) maintenance and service history, and (c) manufacturer’s recommendation;
  3. The small community water system’s plan for reconditioning, refurbishing, or replacing the assets; and
  4. Information on (a) whether the small community water system has any unaccounted-for water loss (i.e., water supplied to its distribution system that never reached consumers), (b) the amount and cause of such unaccounted-for water loss, and (c) measures the system is taking to reduce it.

Under the new law, each small community water system must also complete an initial assessment review of its hydropneumatic pressure tanks by May 2, 2019 on a form developed by the DPH.

Failure to complete or update their fiscal and asset management plans on or before January 1, 2021 maybe subject to civil penalties by DPH.

Compliance Concerns?

Tata & Howard has extensive experience with all facets of asset management planning and programming. Our services focus on condition assessment and analyses of critical capital assets, as well as operational evaluations, water audits to reduce unaccounted-for water, and long-term capital planning.  Initial hydropneumatic pressure tank inspections can be also be performed in time to comply with the DPH deadline of May 2, 2019.

In addition, Tata & Howard can help secure financing through grants, such as those available through the USDA Rural Development Water and Environmental Program.

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Asset Management

Tata & Howard has assisted numerous Water Companies with their Asset Management Planning.  Please contact us for more information.

State Revolving Fund Loan Program

The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP), is now accepting Project Evaluation Forms (PEFs) for new drinking water and wastewater projects seeking financial assistance in 2019 through the State Revolving Fund (SRF).  The SRF offers low interest loan options to Massachusetts cities and towns to help fund their drinking water and clean water projects. PEFs are due to the MassDEP Division of Municipal Services by August 24, 2018, 12:00 PM.

Water Main ReplacementFinancing for The Clean Water SRF Program helps municipalities with federal and state compliance water-quality requirements, focusing on stormwater and watershed management priorities, and green infrastructure. The Drinking Water SRF Program, provides low-interest loans to communities to improve their drinking water safety and water supply infrastructure.

This year, the MassDEP Division of Municipal Services (DMS) announced the following priorities for SRF proposals.

  • Water main rehabilitation projects which include full lead service replacement (to the meter) – this is a high priority for eligibly enhanced subsidy under the Drinking Water SRF.
  • Reducing Per- and polyfluoroalkyl (PFAS) contaminants in drinking water.
  • Asset Management Planning to subsidize Clean Water programs.
  • Stormwater Management Planning for MS4 permit compliance and implementation.

In addition, Housing Choice Communities will receive a discount on their SRF interest rate of not less than 1.5%.

Summaries of the Intended Use Plans (IUP), will be published in the fall, which will list the project name, proponents, and costs for the selected projects. After a 30-public hearing and comment period, Congress will decide which programs may receive funding from the finalized IUPs.

To Apply for SRF Financing

Tata & Howard is experienced with the SRF financing process and is available to help municipalities develop Project Evaluation Forms along with supporting documentation, for their local infrastructure needs.

Please contact us for more information.

The MassDEP Division of Municipal Services are accepting Project Evaluation Forms until August 24, 2018 by 12:00 PM.

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We Can Help

For more information on the MassDEP State Revolving Fund and assistance preparing a PEF contact us.