Maintain Assets for Best Return on Investment

Maintain Assets for Best Return on Investment

JANUARY 17, 2019

So, you just spent $25,000 on a brand-new vehicle that you want to last 300,000 to 400,000 miles. In order to keep it this long, you need more than just an oil change at regular intervals. You have pay attention to the suggested maintenance schedule and adjust based on your driving conditions. You check your tire pressure, have tires rotated, tires replaced, align it, fluids changed, belts adjusted, electronics checked, brakes replaced, and alignment checked. If you do all the advised maintenance and observe and address any performance changes, you may be able to drive that car for 20 years or more.

Now, what if you spent $25 million on a new or upgraded wastewater treatment facility (WWTF) that you will be paying for over the next 30 years? Municipalities and Districts should approach new infrastructure in the same manner one would care for a new vehicle. Preventative maintenance and proactive upgrades are key to getting the most out of an investment of this scale and under-investing in maintenance is a common mistake. 

Creating a practical plan to maintain operational status

Many municipalities have been triaging their wastewater facilities rather than preventing failures to happen. Mostly, this is due to budgetary restrictions and lack of funding for ongoing maintenance and repairs prior to system failures. However, with practical planning, departments operating water or wastewater treatment facilities can hopefully keep the system running without major incidents or emergency expenditures. 

When the Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRRDA) amended the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF) in 2014, it began requiring loan recipients to prepare a fiscal sustainability plan (FSP). Creating an FSP to receive funding has been met with skepticism as it feels overwhelming and impractical to many. However, if done well, an FSP should be scaled appropriately to assist in planning for system maintenance and budgetary demands. 

At a minimum, an FSP contains an inventory of assets with condition and performance evaluations, a plan for maintaining, repairing, and/or upgrading each asset along with an estimated cost for such work. This data can in turn be utilized to assess longevity of each asset, likelihood and consequences of failure, plan for ongoing maintenance, and prioritize expenditures based on risk. The FSP allows for goal setting based on policy decisions that determine infrastructure investment and transparency for rate payers, as well as establishes a path for planned capital expenses.

Implementing a preventative maintenance program

While it would be nice to sit back and let new infrastructure do its job, preventative maintenance needs to start from day one. Utilizing the catalogue of assets and spreadsheet of data, departments must implement a plan for preventative maintenance. Whether that is using a paper calendar, shared electronic calendar, or rolling to-do list, it is best to create a system of accountability and means for tracking maintenance to ensure upkeep is on track. Whatever you choose, it needs to be a system you can easily manage and interact with daily. 

Some communities choose to feed FSP data into a Computerized Maintenance Management System (CMMS) in order to manage asset information, improve workflow, and prioritize limited resources. A CMMS provides for compiling assets and developing preventative maintenance plans, while also, easing the transfer of knowledge and process of capital planning. When it comes to advocating for a maintenance and capital improvement budget, the more organized and thoughtful plans win support. At the very least, you need to use an FSP to establish an annual maintenance calendar to have a comprehensive overview of critical assets in need of attention. 

Ongoing regular maintenance work to a treatment facility will help it serve the community for the long haul, without surprises just as regular attention to a new vehicle will keep it running past 300,000 miles. 



Senior Client Manager
Government & Institutional

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