How Asset Management and Preventative Maintenance Help Municipalities Thrive During Wet Weather Season
As we head into summer in the United States, we also head into wet weather season. For municipalities, this is a time of concern as they eye the various challenges that are making storm and waste water management more difficult than they have been in years past.
Although wet weather can be intimidating, especially given the intense flooding experienced in recent years, municipalities that are aware of their assets and opportunities for improvement can continue to provide their customers with top quality service. To do so, it’s important to have a clear picture of the challenges that face municipalities, and how to mitigate them.
What are the biggest challenges facing municipalities this wet weather season?
As wet weather seasons settles in, there are three main challenges that municipalities need to contend with, if they’re going to continue to offer excellent service to their customers.
- Aging Infrastructure. Cities struggle to find the best way to repair, replace, or improve upon existing water delivery systems while continuing to supply customers with basic necessities.
- Limited Funding. As cities across the country struggle to manage their budget, public utilities are trying to balance immediate needs and long-term imperatives.
- Climate Change. Unexpected and unprecedented weather events are increasing around the world. Areas which historically have not been concerned about flooding are experiencing huge amounts of wet weather, which they are not equipped to handle.
How can cities and municipalities manage these challenges without sacrificing service?
What’s the next step for municipalities?
- Gather information
There’s a saying that you can’t manage what you don’t measure, which is especially true in asset management. The first thing municipalities need to have is a clear and accessible understanding of the current state of each of their assets. Without that, making a plan for ongoing maintenance, life-cycle upgrades, and emergency maintenance, is impossible.
- Learn from other cities
Whether it’s Washington State University coming up with an inexpensive way to keep Puget Sound salmon safe from pollution or Baltimore City installing innovative storm drain screens to keep trash out of the waste water system, municipalities need to share information about what works and what doesn’t for their population. Partnering with research entities to find innovative solutions helps both researchers and cities.
- Prioritize programs over projects
Projects sound like short-term events; they’re planned, funded, and completed. When a particular asset needs to be upgraded, that is a project.
But when a city needs to change the way it approaches the delivery of public utilities in order to respond to a changing climate, efficiency demands, and aging delivery systems, a long-term approach is needed. Implementing a program means that an organization is changing the entire way it approaches a problem.
When a city implements a program of measurement and management, for example, it is making a commitment to finding better ways to make long-term decisions for the organization. Asset management can:
- Help organizations objectively see when an asset begins to require more frequent maintenance, giving the city time to plan for replacement.
- Provide insight into how assets affect each other, making it easier to plan for load sharing during repair and replacement.
- Reveal clear organization of who is working on what to prevent confusion and reduce wasted time.
In the face of rapid change, fluctuating budgets, and aging assets, cities that thrive are likely to need the ability to respond to immediate needs as they arise, the foresight to build in replacement and life cycle funds into their budgets, and the wisdom to advocate for ongoing data collection and careful analysis of current needs to make the best possible choices for their community.