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Asset management program helps water and wastewater systems prepare for the future Posted on January 10, 2023

Water and wastewater systems are made up of many assets that work together to provide drinking water and wastewater disposal in communities every day. Assets, or equipment, like pipes, tanks, pumps, wells, and other components require maintenance and upgrades over time. To maintain these assets in a cost-effective way, a new funding opportunity from the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) is helping utilities create asset management plans to prepare for the future.

Because smaller utilities typically have fewer resources and staff to dedicate to long-term planning, the TWDB developed the Asset Management Program for Small Systems (AMPSS) to provide guidance on decisions regarding operations, maintenance, and capital improvements.

The TWDB received 178 applications in summer 2022 from systems across the state during the first AMPSS solicitation period. The applications were scored and ranked based on such prioritization criteria as the number of service connections, annual median household income, and whether the system supplies water to rural areas. Twenty systems were selected and paired with a pre-qualified contractor at no cost to create a comprehensive plan to help them more efficiently manage their water or wastewater systems and get the most value out of their assets.

When maintenance on water and wastewater infrastructure is ignored or delayed, several issues can arise and negatively affect communities. Infrastructure damage can lead to costly and disruptive repairs as well as boil water notices, interruptions to water service, squandered water, and more.

“Water and wastewater infrastructure is not always on the top of people’s minds until there’s a problem. By doing this type of planning, utilities may be able to identify issues before they affect the general public,” said Patrick Kading, AMPSS Coordinator at the TWDB. “The program promotes planning for projects down the road but also maintaining systems’ current infrastructure and improving staff knowledge.”

A key component of AMPSS is a system evaluation that will provide a full inventory and assessment of the water or wastewater system’s assets, including each asset location, date of service, and approximate age. This process will help systems identify and prioritize necessary repairs and develop an appropriate timeline and budget to make future improvements. The program will also help systems develop operations and maintenance manuals to guide staff on scheduling and performing preventative and general maintenance to maximize the life of the assets.

Another program deliverable is an emergency preparedness review of the system, which will identify the assets that are critical for operation and determine their ability to remain functional in adverse weather and prolonged electrical grid outages.

City of Midway's filtration system and ground storage tank

Janet Boone is the licensed operator for both the North Zulch Municipal Utility District and the City of Midway, Texas, two of the systems selected to participate in the first cycle of AMPSS. She knows firsthand how important it is for utilities to keep up with emerging technology and to better plan for the future to ensure clean drinking water and safe collection and disposal of wastewater in their communities.

“Small system operators don't have the manpower to spend on long-term planning. We are usually wearing many different hats, and it is a big help for an expert with planning knowledge to help us get assessed and set up a planning system that is simple and easy to follow and update,” said Boone.

Funding for AMPSS is generated through loan origination fees from the Clean and Drinking Water State Revolving Funds administered by the TWDB. While there is no financial match required of the systems, they are required to contribute at least 80 hours of their staff time toward the project. AMPSS also aims to prepare the systems for accessing State Revolving Fund programs for financial assistance in the future.

The current AMPSS projects are scheduled to begin this month, and the TWDB anticipates opening another solicitation period in the future. To learn more about AMPSS, visit the TWDB website.

Map of AMPSS selected participants

This article is posted in Financial Assistance .