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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1 rd.usda.gov
2 epa.gov

 

Water Distribution Systems in New England

Introduction

first-gummed-stamp-america
On July 1, 1847, Brattleboro postmaster Frederick Palmer had the idea of putting adhesive on the back of stamps, and so he produced and sold the first gummed postage stamp in America, now known as the 1847 Brattleboro Postmaster’s Provisional stamp.

New England is one of the oldest and most historically rich areas of the nation. Famous events such as the pilgrims founding Plimouth Plantation and Paul Revere’s midnight ride took place in Massachusetts. New Hampshire planted the first potato in America, Maine introduced the nation’s first sawmill, and Vermont produced the nation’s first gummed postage stamp. Connecticut has the most “firsts” of any state in the nation including the first newspaper, submarine, and hamburger, while tiny but mighty Rhode Island was the first colony in the nation to declare independence from Britain. New England also boasts another first: it is home to the nation’s first water distribution systems.

A Brief History

wood-water-pipe-boston
Wooden pipe and fire plug from colonial Boston on display at the Waterworks Museum, Boston, MA.

Boston, Massachusetts became home to the nation’s first waterworks in 1652. Distribution pipes at that time were made of wood, constructed from bored-out logs from the area’s plentiful hemlock and elm trees and attached together with pitch, tar, or iron hoops. While this rudimentary distribution system did supply some of the area’s residents, it was mainly used for fire protection as homes during that time — constructed of wood and heated with fireplaces —were particularly prone to fire.

wooden-pipes-new-england-chart

It was over a century before other New England cities began installing wooden distribution pipes. Providence, Rhode Island, Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and Worcester, Massachusetts all laid wooden pipes during the late 1700s, and several other cities followed suit in the early 1800s. Contrary to some urban myths, wooden pipes are not still in use in any areas of New England today. The high pressure from modern water systems would instantly split any existing wooden pipes. Wooden pipes that are occasionally unearthed during some construction projects were disconnected years ago.

iron-pipes-new-engljand-chart

Wooden pipes were problematic for many reasons including warping and sagging, insect infestation, rotting, taste issues, and splitting. As iron became increasingly available during the early 1800s, cities began installing iron pipes. The first iron pipes in New England were installed in Portland, Maine in 1812, followed by Montpelier, Vermont in 1820, and in both instances the pipes were lead. Many other cities followed suit throughout the 19th century, utilizing wrought iron, cast iron, and lead pipe. In the 1950s, ductile iron piping was introduced and boasted the longevity of cast iron with the addition of increased strength, flexibility, and safety. It became widely used in the 1970s and it is still the material of choice throughout New England today.

Distribution Systems Today

water-main-break
Destruction caused by a water main break. Photo copyright Erin Nekervis

New England can be considered a pioneer of our nation’s water infrastructure. After all, distribution systems have grown from a few wooden pipes in Boston to the intricate, complicated underground infrastructure that we enjoy today. However, because much of the area’s infrastructure was laid so long ago, it has reached the end of its useful life. Water main breaks occur daily and are not only inconvenient to customers, they can also be dangerous, as evidenced by the November 2016 water main break in Boston, Massachusetts that caused manhole fires and forced evacuation of the area. Maintaining and updating our distribution systems is critical to the health and safety of our nation, its people, and the economy. But with limited budgets and resources, where do we start?

water-main-install
Tata & Howard provided design, bidding, and construction administration for a water main replacement in Milford, Massachusetts, identified in a Capital Efficiency Plan.

Strategically prioritizing improvements is imperative to today’s water systems, as the rehabilitation and replacement of our nation’s buried infrastructure is an ongoing task. Asset management provides a roadmap for utilities, allowing them to maximize their limited infrastructure dollars by planning for the replacement of critical infrastructure over time. Tata & Howard’s Capital Efficiency Plan™ (CEP) methodology takes it one step further by combining the concepts of asset management, hydraulic modeling, and system criticality into a single comprehensive report. The final report provides utilities with a database and Geographic Information System (GIS) representation for each pipe segment within their underground piping system, prioritizes water distribution system piping improvements, and provides estimated costs for water main replacement and rehabilitation.

elevated-water-tank
Tata & Howard provided water system distribution evaluation as well as design, bidding, and construction administration for a water tank replacement project in Paxton, MA. 

Since the firm’s inception in 1992, Tata & Howard has remained a niche firm with deep experience and expertise in the water environment, and has provided CEP and hydraulic modeling services for countless municipalities throughout New England. Tata & Howard has one of the largest pipe asset management databases of any consulting engineering firm in New England. In fact, we have data on over 5,000 miles of New England pipe, providing utilities with critical information about their systems such as condition and probability of failure of certain pipe cohorts.

In Conclusion

Water distribution systems have come a long way since the days of hollowed out logs providing fire protection to colonial Bostonians. The underground network of distribution pipes has grown astronomically and now incorporates safer, stronger, and more cost-effective materials. As distribution systems are updated and expanded, it is critical that accurate, up-to-date information is available to water systems so that they may invest their limited capital wisely.

Meeting Wastewater Utilities' Needs Through Capital Efficiency

restrooms-300x200Wastewater. It’s something that will always exist, and will always require collection and treatment. Just like improved water, improved sanitation is one of the key contributing factors to a developed nation, significantly improving public health, educational opportunity, and workforce viability. And while the United States boasts nearly 100% improved water and sanitation, there is still cause for concern.

In the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) 2013 Report Card, wastewater received a “D” grade. Why? Because our existing infrastructure is in desperate need of repair and replacement, and a significant funding gap exists. This gap can be attributed to the fact that funding has been declining while regulations continue to increase.

Pic1-TotalPublicSpending-300x200In March of 2015, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) published a report on annual government expenditures on infrastructure, titled Public Spending on Transportation and Water Infrastructure, 1956 to 2014. The data, collected from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for federal expenditures and from the Census Bureau for state and local government expenditures, indicates that federal, state, and local governments in the United States have been investing LESS in water and wastewater infrastructure than ever before. From 1956 to the late 1980s, total government spending increased in real dollars by approximately 3%-4% per year, and then from 1%-2% through 2009. These expenditures include both capital and operations and maintenance (O&M) costs. However, from 2010 until present, total government spending has actually decreased by 8%.
Pic3-OMvsCapital-300x200To further complicate matters, capital expenditure has decreased at a faster rate than O&M expenditure. From 1956 to 1980, public spending was basically split between capital expenditures — to build or replace water and wastewater systems —  and O&M of the systems. However, since 1980, O&M spending continued to grow at an annual rate of 4%-6% to the 1990s, and then at an annual rate of 1%-3% through 2009, since when it has remained flat. In contrast, capital spending grew at an annual rate of only about 1%-2% since 1980, and has declined at an average annual rate of 4% since 2009. Governments now spend twice as much on O&M of their existing systems than on capital expenditures to repair, rehabilitate, or replace existing assets or for the installation of new infrastructure. In addition, state and local government is now saddled with nearly the full burden of capital expenditure, as federal spending has been steadily on the decline since 1976.
Clearly, municipalities are faced with the almost insurmountable task of staying up to date with all current regulations while also improving outdated and failing systems. Because wastewater collection and treatment is such a crucial aspect of modern day society, it has become paramount that municipalities find cost-effective and efficient ways of maintaining and updating critical infrastructure.
Dollar sign sink in clear blue water
One of the most effective ways in which municipalities can intelligently allocate their limited infrastructure dollars is by implementing a clear and systematic plan of action for capital improvement projects. Typically, asset management is considered to be the standard by which wastewater utilities address capital assets. Defined by the EPA as managing infrastructure capital assets to minimize the total cost of owning and operating them, while delivering the service levels customers desire, asset management certainly plays a key role in smart capital planning. However, asset management should only be part of the equation. Hydraulic modeling and system criticality are two equally important aspects which should be examined when planning long-term capital expenditure.
Tata & Howard’s Wastewater Capital Efficiency Plans™ identify those areas of your wastewater systems needing rehabilitation, repair, or replacement that make the most efficient use of your limited infrastructure dollars by combining the concepts of hydraulic modeling, system criticality, and asset management into a single comprehensive report. Each report is tailored to the individual utility distribution system and provides utilities with a database and Geographic Information System (GIS) representation for each pipe segment within their underground piping system. The CEP report then prioritizes system piping improvements and provides estimated costs for replacement and rehabilitation.
Our three circle approach includes the following:
Three Circles WASTEWATER 515-finalHydraulic modeling

  • Model verification if available
  • Compare flows with design carrying capacity
  • Hydraulic deficiencies
  • History of SSOs
  • High infiltration/inflow rates

Critical Components

  • Interceptors
  • Trunk sewers and force mains
  • Residential sewer mains

Asset Management

  • Establish score for each pipe segment based on blockages/collapses, I/I rates, installation year, soil corrosivity, PACP structural and maintenance ratings, and other criteria.

A comprehensive CEP provides a utility with not only a prioritized list of logically thought out infrastructure projects, but also a justifiable and defendable plan of action to present to town administrators when planning budgets.
Manhole_cover_sewer_closeup-300x200To continue as a leading industrialized nation, our wastewater utilities must not only remain safe and functional, but also progressive and up to date with current and future regulations. Because funding is declining while costs and population are increasing, it is more important than ever for wastewater utilities to methodically prioritize and plan all repairs and improvements. Only through the implementation of a well-researched and systematic course of action will utilities be prepared to provide safe and dependable wastewater services both now and in the future.
Subscribe-to-our-newsletter1

Meeting Wastewater Utilities’ Needs Through Capital Efficiency

restrooms-300x200Wastewater. It’s something that will always exist, and will always require collection and treatment. Just like improved water, improved sanitation is one of the key contributing factors to a developed nation, significantly improving public health, educational opportunity, and workforce viability. And while the United States boasts nearly 100% improved water and sanitation, there is still cause for concern.

In the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) 2013 Report Card, wastewater received a “D” grade. Why? Because our existing infrastructure is in desperate need of repair and replacement, and a significant funding gap exists. This gap can be attributed to the fact that funding has been declining while regulations continue to increase.

Pic1-TotalPublicSpending-300x200In March of 2015, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) published a report on annual government expenditures on infrastructure, titled Public Spending on Transportation and Water Infrastructure, 1956 to 2014. The data, collected from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for federal expenditures and from the Census Bureau for state and local government expenditures, indicates that federal, state, and local governments in the United States have been investing LESS in water and wastewater infrastructure than ever before. From 1956 to the late 1980s, total government spending increased in real dollars by approximately 3%-4% per year, and then from 1%-2% through 2009. These expenditures include both capital and operations and maintenance (O&M) costs. However, from 2010 until present, total government spending has actually decreased by 8%.

Pic3-OMvsCapital-300x200To further complicate matters, capital expenditure has decreased at a faster rate than O&M expenditure. From 1956 to 1980, public spending was basically split between capital expenditures — to build or replace water and wastewater systems —  and O&M of the systems. However, since 1980, O&M spending continued to grow at an annual rate of 4%-6% to the 1990s, and then at an annual rate of 1%-3% through 2009, since when it has remained flat. In contrast, capital spending grew at an annual rate of only about 1%-2% since 1980, and has declined at an average annual rate of 4% since 2009. Governments now spend twice as much on O&M of their existing systems than on capital expenditures to repair, rehabilitate, or replace existing assets or for the installation of new infrastructure. In addition, state and local government is now saddled with nearly the full burden of capital expenditure, as federal spending has been steadily on the decline since 1976.

Clearly, municipalities are faced with the almost insurmountable task of staying up to date with all current regulations while also improving outdated and failing systems. Because wastewater collection and treatment is such a crucial aspect of modern day society, it has become paramount that municipalities find cost-effective and efficient ways of maintaining and updating critical infrastructure.

Dollar sign sink in clear blue water

One of the most effective ways in which municipalities can intelligently allocate their limited infrastructure dollars is by implementing a clear and systematic plan of action for capital improvement projects. Typically, asset management is considered to be the standard by which wastewater utilities address capital assets. Defined by the EPA as managing infrastructure capital assets to minimize the total cost of owning and operating them, while delivering the service levels customers desire, asset management certainly plays a key role in smart capital planning. However, asset management should only be part of the equation. Hydraulic modeling and system criticality are two equally important aspects which should be examined when planning long-term capital expenditure.

Tata & Howard’s Wastewater Capital Efficiency Plans™ identify those areas of your wastewater systems needing rehabilitation, repair, or replacement that make the most efficient use of your limited infrastructure dollars by combining the concepts of hydraulic modeling, system criticality, and asset management into a single comprehensive report. Each report is tailored to the individual utility distribution system and provides utilities with a database and Geographic Information System (GIS) representation for each pipe segment within their underground piping system. The CEP report then prioritizes system piping improvements and provides estimated costs for replacement and rehabilitation.

Our three circle approach includes the following:

Three Circles WASTEWATER 515-finalHydraulic modeling

  • Model verification if available
  • Compare flows with design carrying capacity
  • Hydraulic deficiencies
  • History of SSOs
  • High infiltration/inflow rates

Critical Components

  • Interceptors
  • Trunk sewers and force mains
  • Residential sewer mains

Asset Management

  • Establish score for each pipe segment based on blockages/collapses, I/I rates, installation year, soil corrosivity, PACP structural and maintenance ratings, and other criteria.

A comprehensive CEP provides a utility with not only a prioritized list of logically thought out infrastructure projects, but also a justifiable and defendable plan of action to present to town administrators when planning budgets.

Manhole_cover_sewer_closeup-300x200To continue as a leading industrialized nation, our wastewater utilities must not only remain safe and functional, but also progressive and up to date with current and future regulations. Because funding is declining while costs and population are increasing, it is more important than ever for wastewater utilities to methodically prioritize and plan all repairs and improvements. Only through the implementation of a well-researched and systematic course of action will utilities be prepared to provide safe and dependable wastewater services both now and in the future.

Subscribe-to-our-newsletter1