Report: Asset Management Programs in Use, Savings Not Seen Yet

On Sept. 27, the U.S. Conference of Mayors released a national survey that examines the status of asset management programs in water and sewer services in major cities. The report was released at the Mayor's Annual Water Summit in San Francisco and shows how cities use asset management programs, which offer cost-efficient ways to acquire, operate, maintain and rehabilitate water and sewer systems.

Some of the survey's major findings are:

  • Roughly 75 percent of drinking water and wastewater treatment plants employ comprehensive or partial asset management practices.
  • More than 90 percent of cities have conducted full or partial inventories and condition assessments of their water and sewer pipes, and more than 70 percent have implemented a full or partial asset management program for their water and sewer pipes.
  • Water main breaks continue to be a major concern, and repair and replacement cycles can exceed 100 years.
  • Most cities support using asset management programs but are opposed to a congressional mandate that would make it a prerequisite to receive federal financial assistance.
  • Some cities are achieving capital cost and operating cost savings from implementation of asset management programs, but 50 percent to 60 percent expect to achieve savings in the future.

While providing water and sewer services are considered a "government enterprise" the federal government share is minimal, according to the group. The federal government spends about 1 percent for water and 5 percent in wastewater services, while local governments are responsible for more than 95 percent of all investment in water and sewer services and infrastructure in the United States.

In 2005, local governments spent $82 billion on public water and sewer services. Overall spending was greater than $841 billion from 1991 to 2005. The U.S. Conference of Mayors estimates that local government spending for water and sewer services will increase to $110 billion annually by 2010. This figure does not include added climate change impact on water resources that are certain, but yet unknown. With water and sewer rates continuing to increase to meet the rising costs of maintenance and improvements, cities are finding it harder and harder to keep pace.

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