EPA, Water Associations Seek To Ensure Water Infrastructure Through 'Effective Utility Management'

EPA, along with six leading water and wastewater utility organizations, announced a statement of intent that seeks to ensure the long-term viability of the nation's water systems and formalizes the collaborative effort to promote effective utility management.

The joint effort will focus on improved water and wastewater utility performance through education, management tools and performance measures, officials announced on May 3.

The six trade associations signing this statement of intent are: the Water Environment Federation; National Association of Clean Water Agencies; American Water Works Association; Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies; American Public Works Association; and the National Association of Water Companies.

"Our existing network of treatment facilities, distribution and collection systems are significant public assets worth an estimated $1 trillion," said Bill Bertera, executive director of the Water Environment Federation. "Huge additional investments and adoption of new management practices will be needed over the next generation in order to maintain these aging assets and the gains we have made in public health and environmental protection. Legislators, ratepayers, and individual citizens need to know that utility managers are acting as good stewards of these assets if they are going to support this vital investment."

This statement of intent will facilitate cooperation, collaboration, coordination, and effective communication among the signatory organizations, leading to improved utility management and performance, officials said.

While each association has existing programs and services related to utility management, this is the first time that such a broad group of organizations has formally agreed to cooperate with each other and EPA on this topic.

"Based on the shared acknowledgment that effective management can help utilities enhance the stewardship of their infrastructure, improve performance in critical areas, and respond to other challenges, NACWA is pleased to join with other associations to facilitate cooperation, coordination, and effective communication among our organizations and with EPA," said Ken Kirk, executive director of the National Association of Clean Water Agencies.

Over the next 12 months, EPA and the associations will work with utilities to identify the key attributes of sustainable management. They also will develop measures to use in gauging utility effectiveness, and develop a strategy to promote widespread adoption of sustainable management practices across the water sector. Additional contributions will be solicited through focus group meetings and other communications with individual utilities.

"Many water utilities employ exemplary management practices - meeting high levels of efficiency, cost of operation and quality of service - while maintaining their infrastructure and ensuring future water supplies, but this level of performance is not consistent across the industry," said Diane VanDe Hei, executive director of the Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies. "This collaboration allows us to encourage the use of best management practices at systems throughout the nation."

"Smart and efficient management of water systems serves each customer and protects public health," concluded Jack W. Hoffbuhr, executive director of the American Water Works Association. "This agreement to collaborate underscores the importance of sound management practices today and in the future."

More information on asset management can be found at http://epa.gov/owm/assetmanage. The Web page also has more information on an Advanced Asset Management Collaborative Working Session the agency convened on May 5-6.

This article originally appeared in the 05/01/2006 issue of Environmental Protection.

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