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How to Choose the Best Method of GIS Data Collection for Water and Sewer Systems

Infrastructure Asset Management: Business Principles to Maximize Government Revenue Returns

This post is an excerpt from an article we published in the June 2017 issue of Borough News magazine entitled “Strategic Asset Management: Optimizing Your Borough’s Dollars.”

We hear a lot these days about the virtues of running government like a business, but what does that mean?

Any profitable business owner can tell you that success doesn’t happen by accident. Managers spend a good bit of time and money studying the environment in which they operate, identifying opportunities and threats, and planning the best ways to maximize growth while minimizing risk.

Though these efforts cost money, prudent managers know it is an investment in the company that will pay higher dividends over the long-term.

Part of a businessman’s overall strategic planning effort involves cataloguing his assets and maximizing their value. Assets can be wide-ranging: from people to trucks to buildings. The goal of asset management is to optimize the way you spend your budget dollars in order to make sure they are providing the biggest return: reducing the life cycle costs while maximizing the service each asset provides.

Who needs to optimize the way they spend their budget dollars more than cash-strapped municipalities under pressure to keep taxes low while obligations increase?

Most municipalities are grappling with aging infrastructure. Take water systems, for example: The American Society of Civil Engineers estimates that the cost to keep our water and wastewater system functioning over the long term is more than $1 trillion. While there is plenty of work to be done, there is simply not enough funding for communities to do it all at once. Therefore, ASCE recommends assessing the condition of every pipe and valve to determine the risks of failure and properly allocate funds where they are needed most. Asset management and capital improvement planning can help you target your limited budget dollars most effectively in all types of infrastructure: roadways, bridges, stormwater management systems and more.

For example, new technology is making it possible for municipalities to extend the life of their roadways through roadway management systems. Cameras and laser-scanning technology can be mounted to trucks that record the conditions of a municipality’s entire roadway system: noting cracks, pot holes, wheel rutting, and more. Doing this work manually would’ve been too labor-intensive and cost-prohibitive for communities in the past, but now, thanks to technological advancements, municipalities can collect better data at a lower cost without road closures or detours!

Once the data is collected, the municipality can work with an engineer to analyze it and prioritize a list of maintenance, repairs and reconstruction needs. A roadway management program like this emphasizes cost-effective, preventative maintenance activities to prolong the life of a roadway in good condition. By making well-timed, proactive investments, the municipality can enjoy better service from the roadway at a lower lifetime cost.

Silver Spring Township Roadway Management Program

HRG has designed a roadway management program for Silver Spring Township that is helping them save money and better position themselves for grant funding. Learn more

The same asset management and capital improvement principles can be applied to bridges, as well. Typically, this is done at the county level since they own more bridges than municipalities, but the process is similar. When Dauphin County first embarked on its bridge management program, 1/3 of its bridges were structurally deficient. They carefully catalogued the condition of each bridge and prioritized repairs and replacement contracts. Today, they have successfully eliminated all load-posted, structurally-deficient bridges in the county. The program has been so successful it’s generated a surplus of liquid fuels funding, and the county has been able to funnel that into a subsidized loan program for its municipalities to address their own infrastructure needs.

Duke Street Ribbon Cutting

Thanks to careful planning and a wise use of funds, Dauphin County recently completed the replacement of its last load-posted, structurally deficient bridge. Now they can use their Liquid Fuels money for an innovative infrastructure bank that is helping municipalities and the private sector improve local communities. Learn more

Asset management programs can be very important to municipalities looking to meet their MS4 stormwater obligations, as well – particularly if they are considering the implementation of a stormwater fee. Aging infrastructure and growing MS4 permit obligations are compelling municipalities to upgrade their stormwater systems. Though legislation allows them to charge a stormwater fee, they must be able to justify it, which means they must conduct a thorough inventory of their facilities and document the work that must be done to keep it functioning (along with cost estimates for that work). These are crucial facets of an asset management system.

Mobile GIS Development for MS4 Inspections

Municipalities will need a thorough inventory of their stormwater facilities and their condition in order to keep up with the increasing burden of MS4 permitting. Learn about a GIS application HRG created for Hampden Township to help them meet MS4 inspection and reporting requirements.

 

What is asset management?

Asset management is a systematic approach to minimizing the cost of owning, operating, and maintaining your infrastructure at acceptable levels of service.

It is not a computer system or GIS, though these are often valuable tools employed in an asset management program for record-keeping and data analysis.

A proper asset management and capital improvement program will help a municipality identify areas where money is not being spent wisely and reallocate those funds where they can be most beneficial.

It will also help you recognize and evaluate options for keeping your assets functioning for a longer period of time, so that you don’t need to invest in expensive upgrades or replacements as frequently.

It is a circular process that never ends.

Circular Nature of Asset Management

Many things change over time: the condition of your assets, regulations and the business climate you operate in, the number of users you serve, etc.  A good asset management and capital improvement program helps you plan for these changes in advance and respond proactively before they become threats to your bottom line.

 

What are the benefits of infrastructure asset management?

As we’ve already stated, an asset management and capital improvement program helps you identify exactly what maintenance and repair work is necessary without guesswork. This approach has multiple benefits:

Minimizing Risk
Knowing which infrastructure is most likely to fail (and correcting deficiencies before it does) can save you major expenses later. Knowing which failures would be the most catastrophic helps you target money toward their prevention as a first priority.

Maximizing Returns
Asset management and capital improvement planning is all about proactively investing in measures to extend the life of your infrastructure.  These small investments can extend the life of an asset by several years.

Optimizing Service and Satisfaction
Proactively maintaining your assets ensures they function at peak performance for a longer period of time and are replaced before they fail. This means your constituents receive top quality service without disruption and are happier for it. In addition, many asset management solutions include optional customer service applications that make it easier for residents and business owners to submit service requests and track them to completion.

Justifying Your Tax Rates or Fees
Rate increases are never popular, but they are easier for people to accept when they are backed up with clear data showing exactly what improvements are needed and why.

Accessing grants and loans
Competition for funding is fierce, and government agencies are under pressure to make sure the money they invest is used wisely. As a result, they’re more likely to award funds to municipalities who have clear documentation of the project need, its benefits, and a plan for getting it built, operating it, and maintaining it at optimum levels over time.

Improving your worth
Many municipalities have been considering the option of leasing or selling their assets as a response to growing financial obligations in the public sector. A comprehensive asset management system provides documentation of the value of your assets, so you can ensure you are in a position to negotiate the best possible deal for you and your constituents.  Potential investors will be more comfortable making a significant investment if they fully understand the value and the risks they’re assuming.

But asset management can benefit your financial picture even if leasing or selling is not on the horizon.

Under GASB standards, governments can either subtract a standard portion of their infrastructure’s value each year to account for depreciation (the traditional approach), or they can regularly assess the condition of the infrastructure, invest in maintenance to keep it in good condition, and then report the amount of money they have invested in maintenance (the modified approach, which is similar in scope to a typical asset management program).  Using the modified approach, the assets don’t have to depreciate in value like they would in the traditional approach.

A recent article in Governing magazine showed how investors appear to prefer trading bonds from governments that use the modified approach:

“Governments that use the modified method trade at much narrower price ranges compared to bonds from governments that depreciate. In other words, when a government uses the modified approach, investors are much more likely to agree on how to price its bonds. For governments, this can ultimately translate into lower bond interest rates.”

(excerpted from “Selling Your Sewer’s Story – Financial statements can make the best case for public works investors”)

 

The truth is, you’re going to have to invest in maintenance and repair anyway. If you invest in an asset management program, you can take a proactive approach to determining what maintenance is needed and then plan and budget for it in advance. This means you can target your maintenance dollars where they’re needed most and make sure you have the funds available to do the work before infrastructure failure brings even greater costs to bear on your budget.

Publicly-traded companies are held accountable to their shareholders. They must demonstrate that they are making good decisions for the future health of the company and maximizing the value of the shareholders’ investments. Taxpayers are coming to demand the same sort of accountability from their government, wanting proof that their tax dollars are providing a good return, as well. Municipal managers that can prove the value of their decisions will enjoy broad support of their constituents while improving the long-term financial stability of their community.


Adrienne M. VicariAdrienne Vicari, P.E., is the financial services practice area leader at Herbert, Rowland & Grubic, Inc., a civil engineering firm that serves local governments and authorities in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia. Ms. Vicari has assisted numerous municipalities and water and sewer authorities with the creation of asset management programs that have created increased value and lowered costs for her clients.

 

Carlisle Borough Uses Infiltration/Inflow Data to Devise Long-Term Plan for Infrastructure Repair and Replacement

Like many municipalities, Carlisle Borough is grappling with the challenge of aging infrastructure. Its sewer system features infrastructure that is more than 100 years old.  Since replacing it all at once is not possible from a financial perspective, borough officials needed to a way to narrow down exactly where investment should occur.  Which projects would provide the most value to Carlisle residents and business owners?  Infiltration and inflow data provided the answer.

Why infiltration and inflow data?

In the words of Carlisle Borough staff, “Inflow and infiltration is really just a symptom of failing infrastructure.” By figuring out where extraneous flow is entering the system, we get a hint as to where cracks or defects in the infrastructure may be located.

Josh Fox recently authored an article in the April/May/June issue of Keystone Water Quality Manager magazine on this project with the borough’s director of public works Mark Malarich, P.E.

The article discusses how HRG’s engineers evaluated infiltration and inflow data to determine what infrastructure needed repairs or replacement the most. First, the borough implemented a 16-week metering program to identify dry weather flow for comparison to wet weather data for the borough’s 21 sewer basins.

We then used the data to calculate peaking factor and total infiltration volume for each of the basins and ranked the basins accordingly. After analyzing the data, we determined that some basins had high peaking factors but infiltration dropped off quickly once the wet weather dissipated (like Area 1C in the figure below).  Other basins saw high infiltration volumes for several days after a wet weather event (like area 4 in the figure below).  This suggested that a high groundwater table was contributing a sustained flow via defects in the manholes, sewer mains and sewer laterals.  Therefore, total infiltration volume provided the best data for assessing the overall condition of the infrastructure.

 

Infiltration-Inflow-Data-from-Two-Basins

Taking our analysis one step further, we prioritized the basins with the highest total infiltration volume for further investigation and compared the total volume of infiltration/inflow in a basin to its size. By calculating the total infiltration per foot of pipe, we were able to more accurately estimate the severity of damage in each basin.  (For instance, two basins may have had similarly high total infiltration volumes, but one was significantly smaller than the other.  This suggests a higher severity of defects in the smaller basin for that much water to infiltrate in a smaller space, during the same time period, after the same wet weather event.)

Prioritized Basins by each factor

Using this data as a guide, HRG worked with the borough to devise a 20-year capital improvement plan for addressing the highest priority needs in the system.  HRG also helped the borough create a financial strategy for addressing these needs.

Rehabilitation of the highest priority basin is being completed in the spring of 2017 and is expected to come in almost $1 million under budget.

Read more about this project in the April/May/June 2017 issue of Keystone Water Quality Manager magazine.

HRG has written a great deal of advice on asset management and long-term infrastructure planning for water and wastewater systems. Read similar articles below:

 

 


Josh Fox, P.E.Josh Fox, is the regional manager of water and wastewater system services in HRG’s Harrisburg office.  He has extensive experience in the planning and design of wastewater collection and conveyance facilities, water supply and distribution systems, and stormwater facilities.

 

Could infrastructure asset management improve your municipal bond performance?

Financial Reports

If you’re a frequent reader of our newsletter and postings, you know we believe strongly in the benefits of infrastructure asset management. (This is a sampling of our prior articles about infrastructure asset management.) By regularly assessing the condition of your infrastructure and proactively planning its maintenance and replacement, you can reap many benefits. Most importantly, you will increase the useful life of your infrastructure for a lower long-term cost than the typical reactive approach many governments and authorities take.

A recent article in Governing magazine gives another good reason why investing in asset management can be beneficial: it just might lower your cost of borrowing through bonds. In this article, Justin Marlowe discusses the benefit of using the modified approach for calculating the value of infrastructure required in annual GASB reports.  Under GASB standards, governments can either subtract a standard portion of their infrastructure’s value each year to account for depreciation (the traditional approach), or they can regularly assess the condition of the infrastructure, invest in maintenance to keep it in good condition, and then report the amount of money they have invested in maintenance (the modified approach).  Using the modified approach, the assets don’t have to depreciate in value like they would in the traditional approach.

Marlowe cites research he’s conducted that shows investors appear to prefer trading bonds from governments that use the modified approach:

“Governments that use the modified method trade at much narrower price ranges compared to bonds from governments that depreciate. In other words, when a government uses the modified approach, investors are much more likely to agree on how to price its bonds. For governments, this can ultimately translate into lower bond interest rates.”

(excerpted from “Selling Your Sewer’s Story – Financial statements can make the best case for public works investors”)

 

He goes on to state that very few governments at the state and local level actually use the modified approach, so with a lower supply, the demand for such investments would likely be stronger yet.

The truth is, you’re going to have to invest in maintenance and repair anyway. At HRG, we believe that, if you invest in an asset management program, you can take a proactive approach to determining what maintenance is needed and then plan and budget for it in advance. This means you can target your maintenance dollars where they’re needed most and make sure you have the funds available to do the work before infrastructure failure brings even greater costs to bear on your budget.

Justin Marlowe’s study adds a bonus benefit to this type of approach: you can cite those proactive investments in your financial statements to make your government bonds a more attractive investment to traders.

Every client need is different, and HRG would be happy to discuss asset management planning, capital improvement planning, budgeting and/or rate making options to fit the unique needs of your community. Contact us to discuss your community’s infrastructure and financial goals today: (717) 564-1121!


Adrienne M. VicariAdrienne Vicari, P.E., is the financial services practice area leader at Herbert, Rowland & Grubic, Inc., a civil engineering firm that serves local governments and authorities in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia. Ms. Vicari has assisted numerous municipalities and water and sewer authorities with the creation of asset management programs that have created increased value and lowered costs for her clients.

 

 

Benefits of Utility Asset Management

As our water systems continue to age past their useful life and utilities face increasing budget pressures, the terms asset management and capital improvement planning have become buzzwords in the industry. However, as utility managers struggle to squeeze as much out of their budgets as possible, it is hard for many of them to justify the additional expense associated with developing and implementing an asset management program. Just like with any other purchase, they want to be sure the benefits outweigh the cost.  So what are the benefits of asset management and capital improvement planning?

Target your money with asset management

Target budget dollars where they’re needed most and eliminate wasteful spending.

An asset management and capital improvement program helps you identify exactly what maintenance and repair work is necessary without guesswork. Why allocate money toward cleaning out pipes selected at random, when you could target that money to the pipes that need it most (and use the savings to accomplish other system goals)?  Why replace pipes simply because of age when they may be in perfectly good condition?  Many factors besides age can cause the deterioration of infrastructure.

Photo by TheeErin. Published via a Creative Commons license.
water main break sinkhole

Minimize Risk

Knowing which infrastructure is most likely to fail (and correcting deficiencies before it does) can save you major expenses later in the form of property claims, water loss, etc. Knowing which failures would be the most catastrophic helps you target money toward their prevention as a first priority. With the budget limitations of municipal utility management, you might not be able to prevent every system failure, so it’s important to know which ones have the potential to cause the most financial damage and impact the most customers.  This way, you can focus your efforts on preventing those first.  If a failure does occur, a good asset management plan will include a proactive response plan, allowing you to respond quicker and more efficiently (thereby reducing damage and disruption).

Increase ROI with asset management

Maximize Returns

Asset management and capital improvement planning is all about proactively investing in measures to extend the life of your infrastructure.  These small investments can extend the life of an asset by several years.  Over time, the money you save delaying replacement will far surpass the money you spent to maintain the asset, and your customers will have enjoyed better, more consistent service for this lower cost.

Water sustainability

Promote Sustainability

Finding and detecting failures in the system like leaks can prevent water loss and the wasted energy consumed to treat water that never makes it to a customer.

Rating Five Golden Stars on Blackboard

Optimize Customer Service and Satisfaction

Proactively maintaining your assets ensures they function at peak performance for a longer period of time and are replaced before they fail. This means your customers receive top quality service without disruption and are happier for it. In addition, many asset management solutions include optional customer service applications that make it easier for customers to submit service requests and track them to completion.

 

Justify your rates with asset management

Justify Your Rates

Rate increases are never popular with customers, but they are easier for them to accept when they are backed up with clear data showing exactly what improvements are needed and why.

Attract funding with asset management

Access grants and loans

Competition for funding is fierce, and government agencies are under pressure to make sure the money they invest is used wisely. As a result, they’re more likely to award funds to utilities who have clear documentation of the project need, its benefits, and a plan for getting it built, operating it, and maintaining it at optimum levels over time.

Know your worth with asset management

Know your worth

Many utilities have been considering the option of leasing or selling their assets as a response to growing financial obligations in the public sector. A comprehensive asset management system provides documentation of the value of your assets, so you can ensure you are in a position to negotiate the best possible deal for you and your customers.  Potential investors will be more comfortable making a significant investment if they fully understand the value and the risks they’re assuming. (For more Insight into the utility leasing trend, see our article on calculating fair annual rental value.)

Every manager must take careful stock of his revenue and his expenses, but not all expenses are created alike. There is a difference between a cost and an investment, and asset management is clearly an investment in your utility’s future.  In essence, it helps you provide better service at a lower cost with reduced risk and improved financing options. How many investments can you make that provide that kind of return?


Do you want to learn more about asset management and capital improvement planning? Read our other Insights on the topic:

What is utility asset management?

Many utilities struggle to respond to aging infrastructure and increasing regulation. This article explains how asset management works and presents it as an important solution to both of these problems.

Better Roads for Less Money with Asset Management

Graphical proof that municipalities that invest in asset management save money and get better infrastructure results.

Position Yourself for Infrastructure Funding with an Asset Management/Capital Improvement Plan

4 reasons why municipality’s with asset management/capital improvement plans are more likely to be awarded grants and low-interest loans.

Asset Management: What Does It Mean to You?

An introduction to infrastructure asset management and what you need to consider when picking a solution/getting started.


 

Asset management can also be a valuable tool for municipalities managing a stormwater system. As MS4 permit requirements continue to grow, municipalities need to know more and more about the location and condition of their stormwater infrastructure. HRG has extensive experience creating asset management systems for stormwater systems, and we offer a wealth of advice about meeting MS4 permit requirements and funding stormwater program needs through user fees. Check out these Insights for additional information:

Tips for Preparing Your 2018 MS4 Permit Application
Learn more about: the specific deadlines associated with the 2018 MS4 permit application, how to apply for a waiver from the new Pollution Reduction Plan requirements, what details must be added to the 2018 mapping, and how municipalities can collaborate with others to improve the effectiveness (and reduce the cost) of their MS4 program.


Paperwork

Stormwater Utility Guide
Get answers to frequently asked questions about stormwater user fees and advice on how to build public support for a fee in your community. This guide provides an overview of a user fee’s benefits and an outline of the steps one must take to decide if a user fee is right for their municipality.

Stormwater Utility Guide

Also check out these examples of our project experience with asset management for water, wastewater, and stormwater systems:

Capital Region Water, Harrisburg, Dauphin County, PA
Herbert, Rowland & Grubic, Inc. (HRG) is developing/customizing a Geographic Information System (GIS) database for Capital Region Water (CRW) potable water, storm sewer and public sanitary sewer infrastructure networks.

CRW Logo


HodderHoward Hodder, GISP, is the manager of HRG’s Geomatics Service Group. As such, he oversees the delivery of surveying and geographic information system services to all of our clients firm-wide. He has extensive experience in asset management for municipal clients, particularly in the areas of sanitary and storm sewer systems. Contact Howard with your questions about asset management and GIS.

Join Howard at the 2016 Pennsylvania Utility Management Summit, being jointly presented by the PA American Water Works Association, PA Water Environment Association, and Pennsylvania Municipal Authorities Association! He will be presenting a workshop entitled “GIS and Asset Management: Putting a World of Information at Your Fingertips.”

Utility Asset Management: Maximizing ROI

Money being washed down the drain

 

Each year, water and wastewater utilities send uncalculated dollars down the drain because of leaks and system failures, but asset management could provide the savings they need to respond to the creeping threats of aging infrastructure, water shortages, and increasingly stringent regulations.

Last year, UCLA filed a lawsuit against the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power for $13 million in damages sustained during a water main break on campus in 2014. This break released 20 million gallons of water onto Sunset Boulevard, flooding the street, campus buildings, and athletic facilities.

The lawsuit is just one of many claims the utility has received from people and businesses impacted by the water main failure; and it’s a reminder of the often hidden and forgotten costs utilities face when their infrastructure fails.

Every day, U.S. utilities produce 34 billion gallons of water, and 22% of it is lost through leaks. That’s billions of dollars in treatment, energy, labor and operations costs that cannot be recouped. These leaks cost the average utility more than $100,000 per year in revenue, but water main breaks like the one at UCLA can be even more costly.

Each year, there are approximately 240,000 water main breaks in the U.S., costing utilities an average $500,000 per break.

Much of our water and wastewater infrastructure is old and has far exceeded its life expectancy. Some pipes date back to the Civil War era! The cost to replace this infrastructure will be high, but, as these examples demonstrate, so is the cost of doing nothing.

As utilities struggle to budget for the replacement of aging systems, they continue to face increasing cost pressures from federal mandates. While the EPA establishes new limits on different contaminants (often requiring utilities to acquire new technology or improve their facilities), funding has not kept pace with these new demands. A report by the Water Infrastructure Network indicates that federal funding on water and wastewater systems has declined by more than 70% since 1980. As a result, local utilities have had to shift more of their revenue from operations and maintenance to new capital expenditures, leaving them even more ill-equipped to respond to an aging system.

At the same time, conservation efforts and improved technology have led many Americans to reduce their water consumption. While this is great for the environment, it translates into lower revenues for utilities – even as water acquisition costs increase (because utilities must turn to more expensive water sources once the least costly sources run dry).

With rising costs and shrinking revenues, utilities need to carefully manage every dollar to ensure the maximum return on their investment. The American Society of Civil Engineers estimates that the cost to make the improvements our water and wastewater system needs to keep functioning over the long term is more than $1 trillion. While there is plenty of work to be done, there is simply not enough funding to do it all at once. Therefore, ASCE recommends assessing the condition of every pipe and valve to determine the risks of failure and properly allocate funds where they are needed most. The need for asset management and capital improvement planning in the water utility industry has never been greater.

What is asset management?

Asset management is a systematic approach to minimizing the cost of owning, operating, and maintaining your infrastructure at acceptable levels of service.

It is not a computer system or GIS, though these are often valuable tools employed in an asset management program for record-keeping and data analysis. Depending on the needs of your utility, an effective asset management system could be as simple as an Excel spreadsheet or as robust as an enterprise level solution integrating all of your inventory, operations and maintenance, billing, and document management functions.  The solution can include mobile interfaces for supporting field crews and even interactive applications to enhance and promote public interaction and transparency.

While utility managers often reject implementing a large-scale asset management program because they think it will cost too much, the truth is: asset management is an investment designed to cut  inefficient or wasteful spending and stretch your budget further.

It is about optimizing how you spend your budget dollars in order to make sure they are providing the largest possible return on investment: reducing the life cycle costs of each asset you own while maximizing the service that asset provides over time.

A proper asset management and capital improvement program will help a utility identify areas where money is not being spent wisely and reallocate those funds where they can be most beneficial.

It will also help you recognize and evaluate options for keeping your assets functioning for a longer period of time, so that you don’t need to invest in expensive upgrades or replacements as frequently.

An asset management program involves:

Creating an inventory of what you have and its condition

Establishing your goals.

Prioritizing what’s most critical and directing resources to those needs first.

Measuring the results.

Analyzing those results and repeating or revising the cycle.

Circular Nature of Asset Management

 

It is a circular process that never ends. Many things change over time: the condition of your assets, regulations and the business climate you operate in, the number of users you serve, etc.  A good asset management and capital improvement program helps you plan for these changes in advance and respond proactively before they become threats to your bottom line.

Because of the tight financial constraints under which most utilities operate, they often take a reactive approach to budgeting for maintenance and replacements. As an asset fails, they make room in the budget to fix it or replace it, but this reactive approach will not be sustainable over the long-term.  Our infrastructure is too old, and too much work will be needed to be able to pay for it all at once.  Utilities need to plan for this inevitable future now, so that they can begin saving the money they will need in the coming decades.

 

Photo by Connie Ma. Published here under a Creative Commons license.

crews working overnight at a water main break
Proactive approach vs. Reactive: By monitoring the condition of your assets and planning for their maintenance and replacement in advance, you avoid the high costs associated with failures like this middle-of-the-night water main break.

Though the financial obligations associated with aging infrastructure, increasingly stringent regulation, and shrinking grant programs can seem overwhelming, asset management and capital improvement planning can help. Asset management helps you find the waste in your spending programs and put those dollars to better use. It helps you recognize potential threats to your system and minimize risk (thereby minimizing the financial damage those threats can do). It also helps you improve service to your customers and achieve buy-in from them when the case must be made for rate increases.

Investing in asset management and capital improvement planning can be hard to justify when utility budgets are stretched so thin, but the savings an asset management program can produce will more than pay for the program over time. Those savings, in fact, may be crucial to meeting the coming challenge of replacing our aging water systems and addressing the possibility of spreading water shortages.

In business, there’s an old saying: Sometimes you have to spend money to make money. With asset management, you spend money to save   money.

 

Asset management can also be a valuable tool for municipalities managing a stormwater system. As MS4 permit requirements continue to grow, municipalities need to know more and more about the location and condition of their stormwater infrastructure. HRG has extensive experience creating asset management systems for stormwater systems, and we offer a wealth of advice about meeting MS4 permit requirements and funding stormwater program needs through user fees. Check out these Insights for additional information:

Tips for Preparing Your 2018 MS4 Permit Application
Learn more about: the specific deadlines associated with the 2018 MS4 permit application, how to apply for a waiver from the new Pollution Reduction Plan requirements, what details must be added to the 2018 mapping, and how municipalities can collaborate with others to improve the effectiveness (and reduce the cost) of their MS4 program.


Paperwork

 

Stormwater Utility Guide
Get answers to frequently asked questions about stormwater user fees and advice on how to build public support for a fee in your community. This guide provides an overview of a user fee’s benefits and an outline of the steps one must take to decide if a user fee is right for their municipality.

Stormwater Utility Guide

Also check out these examples of our project experience with asset management for water, wastewater, and stormwater systems:

 

Capital Region Water, Harrisburg, Dauphin County, PA
Herbert, Rowland & Grubic, Inc. (HRG) is developing/customizing a Geographic Information System (GIS) database for Capital Region Water (CRW) potable water, storm sewer and public sanitary sewer infrastructure networks.

CRW Logo


HodderHoward Hodder, GISP, is the manager of HRG’s Geomatics Service Group. As such, he oversees the delivery of surveying and geographic information system services to all of our clients firm-wide. He has extensive experience in asset management for municipal clients, particularly in the areas of sanitary and storm sewer systems. Contact Howard with your questions about asset management and GIS.

Join Howard at the 2016 Pennsylvania Utility Management Summit, being jointly presented by the PA American Water Works Association, PA Water Environment Association, and Pennsylvania Municipal Authorities Association! He will be presenting a workshop entitled “GIS and Asset Management: Putting a World of Information at Your Fingertips.”

Successfully Applying for Act 89 Municipal Transportation Grants

This January, Pennsylvania is celebrating the second anniversary of Act 89’s implementation. Thanks to this innovative legislation, local governments today receive more liquid fuels money than they would have under the previous system and have access to several new grant programs.  Still, many local officials are not sure how to access these additional funds or maximize their use for the greatest possible benefit.  HRG has some tips to help municipalities make the most of act 89 transportation funding.

What money is available to local governments through Act 89?

Municipalities should already have seen an increase in their liquid fuels disbursements and will continue to receive additional funding for the next several years as the Act 89 funding continues to ramp up until fully funded in 2018. By 2018, municipalities will see an increase in Liquid Fuels Tax Distributions of approximately 70% over 2013 levels. In addition to the liquid fuels funding, the legislation offers several other options for additional transportation funding:

  • Green Light Go grants
  • Multi-Modal Fund grants
  • Low Volume Roads and Dirt and Gravel Road Funding Increases

Signalization Upgrade for the City of Harrisburg

Green Light Go Grants
Green Light Go grants are competitive grants available for traffic signal improvements designed to enhance safety, reduce congestion, and improve transportation efficiency.  Municipalities can apply for these funds on a wide variety of projects, including:

  • The study and removal of unwanted signals
  • Traffic signal retiming
  • LED replacement
  • Asset management of a traffic signal system
  • Real-time monitoring of traffic signal operations
  • Traffic signal maintenance
  • Innovative technologies (like adapative signals)
  • Communications
  • Connections back to the Traffic Management Center
  • Detection upgrades
  • Controller upgrades
  • Modernization upgrades
  • ITS applications
  • Development of detour, special event, and operations plans.

Municipalities must be able to provide a 20% local match to be eligible for the funding.

Steelton Streetscape

Multi-Modal Fund Grants
The PennDOT and Commonwealth Financing Authority Multi-Modal Grant Programs were designed to support projects that promote alternative modes of transportation (like bike and pedestrian trails, rail, aviation, and transit) as well as improvements to smaller, local roadways that might not otherwise receive funding (since federal funding prioritizes highway improvements over other modes of transportation).  This competitive grant program funds projects such as:

  • Bus stops
  • Park and ride facilities
  • Sidewalks and crosswalks
  • Bicycle lanes
  • Local roads and bridges, including
    • Intersection reconfiguration
    • New lane construction
    • New roadway construction
  • Streetscapes
  • Lighting
  • Pedestrian safety enhancements
  • Signage and pavement marking

Again, municipalities must have at least a 30% local funding match in order to be considered for the grant. (More information on applying for Multi-Modal Fund grants is available in this article.)

Funding Increases for the Low Volume Roads/Dirt and Gravel Road Program
In addition to these new grant programs, Act 89 provides increased funding for the existing Dirt and Gravel/Low-Volume Road Program.  Grant moneys have increased from $8 million per year to $28 million per year under Act 89.  This money is distributed by local county conservation districts for the maintenance of low-volume dirt and gravel roadways.

How do local governments position themselves for Act 89 funding?

All of the programs listed above are competitive grant programs. In order to be selected for an award, grant applications must show the importance of the project to the community and the planning behind the project. This is why communities with a transportation asset management program have a competitive edge in these competitions.

A good asset management program:

  • collects data about the condition of a municipality’s roadways, bridges, traffic signs and signals;
  • identifies the appropriate type and timing of maintenance, restoration, or replacement measures; and
  • ranks those needs based on the condition of the infrastructure and its function in the community. (i.e. How disruptive would the impact be if this infrastructure failed?)

When the asset management plan is augmented with planning-level cost estimates, the result is an excellent tool that provides a forward-looking capital improvement program.

In essence, a good asset management and capital improvement plan helps a municipality identify what improvements are most needed in its transportation network and what resources will be needed to complete those improvements. It also helps them proactively plan for the maintenance of those improvements over the long-term.

This is important to PennDOT because it is making an investment in the municipality with these grants, and it wants to be sure that investment will provide a return. Officials do not want to allocate money toward a project that will run into a financial roadblock or permitting issue and eventually be tabled. They want ample information to demonstrate that the municipality has a plan for getting the project designed and built: the kind of information one acquires from an asset management and capital improvement plan.

Essentially, in order to obtain Act 89 grants, a municipality has to be able to:

  • Demonstrate they can provide the matching funds to get a project completed.
  • Provide reasons why the project is important to the transportation network on a local municipal (and even better: regional) level.
  • Submit plans and cost estimates that show exactly what will be needed to get the project through construction.
  • Prove that they will be able to maintain the project after it is built.

One of the best way to develop this information is to establish an asset management and capital improvement program.

Even if a municipality is not looking to seek grant funds, an asset management and capital improvement plan still makes sense because it will help them identify the best use for the increased liquid fuels funds they will be receiving automatically in order to ensure those dollars provide the maximum return on investment for their community.

(See HRG’s related articles on transportation asset management: Better Roads for Less Money with Asset Management and Positioning Yourself for Grant Funding with an Asset Management/Capital Improvement Plan.)

Over the past two years, Act 89 has succeeded in providing new revenue for transportation projects across Pennsylvania and has provided funding for alternative modes of transportation (such as bike and pedestrian path projects, more walkable communities, rail and transit improvements, etc.) as well as smaller (even rural, low-volume) roadway improvements that typically get ignored by federal funding initiatives. It has created new grant sources and enhanced efficiencies by bundling similar projects together.

As a result, hundreds of projects that never would’ve seen the light of day have become a reality, reducing congestion and improving the safety of our drivers while providing new economic opportunity. (Click here to see a map of projects completed as a result of the increased transportation funding provided by Act 89.)

Thanks to increased transportation funding in Pennsylvania, municipalities will receive increased liquid fuels fund distributions and are eligible to apply for new grant opportunities.

In order to make the most of these opportunities, municipalities should work with an engineer to implement an asset management and capital improvement program that helps them identify projects for grant opportunities and provide the level of detail needed for a successful grant application. Ideally, a municipality will want to work with an engineering firm that has ample expertise in transportation design as well as ample financial planning and grant administration experience.

Even those municipalities who choose not to seek Act 89 grant funding can use an asset management and capital improvement program to ensure they make the wisest use of their increased liquid fuels disbursements.

For more information on how your municipality can position itself for Act 89 transportation funds and/or implement an asset management and capital improvement program, please contact Brian Emberg, P.E., Senior Vice President and Director of Transportation Services.

 

Transportation Funding for Municipalities: Act 89 Multi-Modal Grants

Steelton Stretscape

In two previous articles, HRG examined how municipalities can stop speeding on local streets with traffic calming programs (See: Stop Speeding in Your Neighborhood and Reduce Speeding with Traffic Control Techniques). For many communities, lack of transportation funding may be an obstacle to getting the necessary projects built, so we’d like to highlight one funding program to help make traffic calming improvements more affordable: PennDOT’s Multi-Modal Fund Program.

What is PennDOT’s Multi-Modal Fund Grant Program?

Under the most recent authorization, federal transportation funding has placed a higher priority on improving major highways, leaving many local roads and alternative modes of transportation (like biking or transit) under-funded.  To remedy this, Pennsylvania used its Act 89 funds to create the Multi-Modal Grant Program. Under this program, money is specifically earmarked for improving transportation and access via alternative modes such as:

  • Biking and pedestrian facilities
  • Ports
  • Rail
  • Aviation
  • Transit

But Multi-Modal funds can also be used for a wide variety of local roadway and intersection improvements, as well, including paving, traffic signalization, and realignments, etc.

As PennDOT Secretary Leslie S. Richards said in a recent press release for the program, the Multi-Modal Fund “allows [PennDOT] to assist communities with needed transportation improvements that otherwise may not move forward.”

What types of projects are eligible for this transportation funding?

PennDOT lists many types of projects as eligible for Multi-Modal grants:

  • Bus stops
  • Park and ride facilities
  • Sidewalks and crosswalks
  • Bicycle lanes
  • Local roads and bridges
  • Streetscapes
  • Lighting
  • Pedestrian safety enhancements
  • Signage

Looking at the grant recipients in the previous two application cycles, we can see a wide variety of projects have been selected for grants, including:

  • Intersection reconfiguration
  • Construction of additional lanes
  • Equipment purchases for a pavement marking program
  • New roadway construction
  • Biking and pedestrian trail construction and improvement
  • Noise mitigation along railroad tracks
  • Parking structure improvements
  • New school zone signage and pedestrian tunnel construction near a public high school

With an emphasis on alternative transportation modes such as biking and walking, Multi-Modal Funds have been a great fit for communities implementing improvements geared toward traffic calming and enhanced pedestrian safety.

In the last grant cycle, PennDOT awarded more than $1 million for a project in Factoryville and La Plume, Lackawanna County, that includes improvements to pedestrian safety, traffic calming, and the streetscape.  They also provided almost $500,000 to Homer City Borough, Indiana County, for new ADA-compliant sidewalks and curb ramps, stamped concrete crosswalks, and similar improvements.  In addition, they provided more than $100,000 to Northampton Township, Bucks County, for decorative imprint asphalt crosswalks, curb ramps, and sidewalk improvements. 

What criteria is used to select grant recipients?

PennDOT lists the following as its selection criteria for awarding Multi-Modal Grants:

  • The project area’s economic conditions.
  • Consistency with planning on a local, regional, and statewide level.
  • “Benefits to safety, mobility, economic competitiveness, and transportation system integration.” (Being able to specifically cite the number and quality of jobs the project would create or preserve gives a project greater consideration.)
  • The “technical and financial feasibility of the project.”

(i.e. Does the application show the municipality has a clear plan for getting the project built [including land acquisition and permitting issues] and providing its required portion of the financing?

Municipalities that can provide more than 30% of the project’s financing are given preference, based on the degree to which they can provide additional matching funds.)

  • The regional benefits of a project.
  • “Project readiness.”
  • “Energy efficiency.”
  • “Operational sustainability over the long term.”
  • “Multi-modal nature of the project.”

Municipalities would be wise to work with a consulting engineer who has knowledge of the program and can carefully craft the application to meet these selection criteria.  That being said, the broader the reach a project has (regional or statewide benefits versus local), the more it will improve the economy, and the more prepared a municipality is to complete it – technically and financially – the better chance a project has of receiving funds. 

How much money is awarded?

Grant amounts vary based on the size of the project, but, according to PennDOT, they would not normally exceed $3 million for any one project. (At least one project in the City of Harrisburg did in the 2014 cycle, however, topping out at $3, 191,000.)

Over the past several grant cycles, awards have been as small as $11,000 with a few in the $2-3 million range.

Grant recipients must provide a local match equal to at least 30% of the total project cost.  These local funds can come from Liquid Fuels tax and Act 13 impact fees if the project is an eligible use of those funds. 

How do you apply?

A municipality interested in applying for a Multi-Modal Program Grant should speak with an engineer who knows the program well.  Crafting a successful grant application starts in the earliest phases of project planning and design.  In addition to the application form, municipalities must submit detailed cost estimates prepared by an engineer; a color-coded map of the project area; a list of all local, state, and federal permits the project will require; and a variety of other documents related to their finances.

The PennDOT Multi-Modal Fund grant program is a great option for communities looking to reduce speeding and enhance pedestrian safety through traffic calming techniques like raised crosswalks, curb cuts, etc.  Several communities around the state have, in fact, already been awarded thousands of dollars for these types of projects.  With a focus on enhancing transportation access beyond our state highways, this fund can be useful for many other projects, too, such as local road and bridge improvements, widening, and realignment as well as pavement rehabilitation programs.

If you would like more information on how Multi-Modal grants could benefit your municipality, contact Brian Emberg, P.E., our Senior Vice President and Director of Transportation Services.

 

Assessing the Condition of Large Sewers

Figure1Determining the condition of large sewers can be challenging, but multiple tools are available to help. This article, which was published in the October 2015 issue of Keystone Water Quality Manager magazine, provides a brief review of large sewer condition assessment tools and gives some guidance in deciding which to use.

Knowing the condition of your sewer system now can save you major headaches (and money) down the line. The investment you make today in conducting regular inspections of your pipes and pump stations will help you avoid emergencies like burst pipes and sewer overflows tomorrow, but it will also help you make better decisions about where to allocate limited revenues in terms of maintenance, repairs, and replacements.

Even though the investment in a condition assessment is worthwhile, you want to make sure you spend those assessment dollars wisely and get the data you need in the best possible quality for the lowest possible cost. Many tools are available, and each one is suited to particular needs. Which tool is right for your system? Let’s take a look at the strengths and limitations of some of the most popular methods of sewer inspection available today.

 Knowing What Each Tool Can Do

1. Zoom Camera
A handheld or truck-mounted zoom camera is a great tool for quickly assessing the condition of large sewers. A zoom camera enables you to see for several hundred feet down the sewer line, but the view is limited by any obstruction to line of sight (such as grease, cobwebs, debris or a deflection in the sewer). In addition, the camera will only allow you to see above the water level.

2. Acoustic Assessment
Another quick assessment method is the use of acoustics. The ability for sound to pass through the sewer provides an indication of whether a blockage exists or not. However, it is not a complete assessment and will require some additional inspection work. Still, an acoustic assessment can cost about a quarter of the price of basic closed circuit television, so it can be used to save money by focusing more expensive data collection methods only on areas the acoustic assessment has identified to have potential blockages (as opposed to using a more expensive, but more thorough tool throughout the entire system).

CCTV

3. Closed Circuit Television (CCTV)
CCTV has been used for many years to evaluate sewers, and it can be customized to the needs of your unique system because of the different types of cameras and vehicles that are available. A conventional pan and tilt camera may be sufficient for some pipes, but a fish-eye type camera lens can be used for a virtual pan and tilt that is somewhat more comprehensive.

CCTV provides a visual assessment of the sewer, but it can also be helpful in identifying buried manholes or revealing other unknowns in the connectivity of the sewer system.

In the past, it was a challenge to obtain sufficient lighting to get a clear picture of large sewers (see figure on the right), but new technology solves this problem by using a strobe light and stitching a series of images together, rather than recording continuous video.

4. Sonar
While some tools like the zoom camera cannot provide data on the condition of pipes below the water surface, sonar can. Therefore, it is useful for identifying debris and sensing connections below water level. However, some water must be in the sewer for the use of sonar to be possible.

Laser Profiling

5. Laser Profiling
Laser profiling can reveal buried manholes or other connections to the sewer that may not have been realized and can also be used to assess pipe wall loss (as long as the original sewer size information is available and can be entered into the software). However, like the zoom camera, laser profiling can only be used to see above the water level. Therefore, it’s wise to combine it with sonar and CCTV in order to get a complete assessment of the sewer condition, as seen in the figure on the right. (The red shows results from the laser, while the blue shows results from sonar.) For a recent project involving 70,000 feet of sewer, the cost to use these three tools together was approximately $5-6 per foot.

6. LIDAR (3D Laser)
LIDAR is an advanced technology alternative to standard visual and photographic inspection methods. It uses 3D optical scanners to collect simultaneous data and images, which can be used to produce a 3D model of the sewer. This model can then be used to measure, identify deficiencies, and make recommendations for rehabilitation or replacement. It can also be used in 3D infrastructure system modeling and management applications when combined with equally accurate pipe and structure positional data. One instance 3D data is especially useful is in manufacturing the lining for a bend in a sewer.

As an advanced technology, LIDAR provides more comprehensive data than a zoom camera or CCTV inspection could. As an added bonus, the optical scanners are typically inserted into the sewer from the surface, eliminating the need for a person to enter the confined space of the sewer and the associated dangers they could encounter.

7. H2S Gas Sensor
An H2S Gas Sensor is helpful in cases where there is concern about corrosion. The sensor can be mounted on a multi-sensor platform to provide additional insight into the state of the sewer.

8. Gyroscopic mapping
Gyroscopic mapping is used to obtain X-Y-Z coordinates of the sewer along its length, so it’s helpful for identifying the location of bends or changes in elevation. However, this tool requires known X-Y-Z coordinates at the starting and ending points of a sewer.

For large sewers, a small pipe needs to be pulled through the large pipe as a host for the probe, leading to some limitations in the information gained. However, this tool can be useful for facilities such as force mains where changes in direction are often not seen from the surface.

9. In-pipe Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR)
GPR inside the pipe gives insight beyond the sewer itself. It can reveal void spaces outside the sewer line, such as may be caused by infiltration. It can also shed light on the thickness of concrete covering rebar in the sewer.

Deciding Which Tool is Right for You

With a clearer picture of what each tool can and cannot do, you’re better prepared to decide which one will produce the best results for your system. In doing so, here are some things you should consider:

1. Understand your goals.
Consider what you want to gain from the assessment. For example:

If you know the sewer segment has concerns and has bends in it, then 3D LIDAR may be desirable as a means of mapping the sewer.

If blockages are your concern, acoustic rapid assessment may be a good starting point to help narrow the focus on runs where you want to perform further evaluation.

If you have seen evidence of corrosion in manholes and have a concrete pipe, an H2S sensor may be in order.
If you want information on the whole pipe and cannot bypass the flows, you will need to supplement a technology like CCTV with sonar in order to see below the water surface.

When defining your goals, be sure to solicit the input of all levels of staff and the ways they can benefit from the data.

2. Consider combining technologies to address different needs.
Each tool described here has strengths and limitations, so no technology is perfect for all conditions. Laser profiling and sonar can be combined to get thorough data above and below the water surface. An acoustic assessment can be used as a preliminary method in order to identify any blocked pipes that require more detailed assessments. An H2S gas sensor may be needed for pipes that may have corrosion, but you may have pipes of varying material throughout your system and may not need to pay for this technology everywhere. By working with a knowledgeable consultant, you can customize a plan using several different technologies only where they are needed in order to maximize the use of your budget resources.

3. Recognize that special equipment availability may affect your schedule.
Specialized equipment is not as readily available as basic equipment, so, if quick turnaround is necessary, you may want to plan your schedule around any specialty equipment needs.

4. Understand the sewer material being investigated.
If the sewer is concrete, corrosion is a real concern, so an H2S gas sensor or laser profiling may be needed. (This is not the case if the sewer is vitrified clay.)

5. Consider the ground surface.
Is there evidence of settlement on the surface near sewer lines? If so, perhaps in-pipe GPR should be considered to look for voids that have developed around the sewer.

6. Recognize your flows.
Some of the tools described here have specific water flow requirements. For example, CCTV and laser profiling require head space above the water to be effective, but sonar needs a certain depth of water over the bottom of the sewer (as well as any debris present) in order to be successful. Therefore, you will need to coordinate with appropriate staff to implement a means of controlling the flow of water through these lines.

Water flow also impacts the types of vehicles used to carry the various tools through the sewer. Depending on your flows, a crawler may work well, or a float platform may be more suitable. Wheels can be put on float platforms, so additional space is needed for clearance.

7. Plan for the unexpected.
As much as you try to consider every goal and every possible need, each job involves surprises. (If you knew exactly what you’d find in the pipes, you wouldn’t need an inspection, after all, would you?)

That’s why you should design a plan that is flexible for changing circumstances and build extra time into your schedule. Decide ahead of time what will be done if a buried manhole or substantial debris is found: Will you uncover the manhole now? Will you clean the debris out right away or just note it in the report?

The vehicles carrying the inspection tools can often travel thousands of feet if there are no drops or other concerns, so you may not need to access every single manhole during a condition assessment. However, you should still have a method in place for identifying each manhole in case needs change. (Also, individually identifying each manhole – even those not uncovered for access – is essential for logging the findings of your assessment in a report.)

Develop IDs for every manhole – even those you don’t plan to access — prior to inspection and have a plan for how to ID structures if one is found during the investigation. This can reduce confusion and make post-processing more efficient.
A thorough assessment of the condition of your sewers is crucial to optimizing system performance, determining maintenance and repair needs, and budgeting for the eventual replacement of aging infrastructure. It can also help you discover problems before they result in a system failure or reduced service to your customers. While inspections can cost thousands of dollars, they can save you thousands more if they prevent a sewer main backup or break (and the associated costs to repair the sewer and other infrastructure the break may have damaged). They also help you better target your cleaning and maintenance efforts to where the work is needed most.

In determining which technology to use for a condition assessment, you need to consider the materials of your pipes and the volume of flows through them, the goals you plan to accomplish, and your timeline for completing the work. Some tools like a zoom camera or acoustic assessment provide quick data but may need to be supplemented with other methods if blockages are found or more detail is needed. Other tools like laser profiling and CCTV will only provide data on the condition of pipes above the water line, so additional technologies like sonar will be needed to assess the pipes below water level. Some technologies like 3D LIDAR and gyroscopic mapping provide a high level of detail that may be necessary for certain specialized cases.

 

figure4     Figure5

The figures above illustrate some meaningful findings from a condition assessment. The “shape” of the pipe resulting from sonar and laser profiling is compared with the design shape of the pipe in the figure on the left, indicating helpful information such as debris and uncovered manholes (the red spots). The quantity and distribution of debris as shown in the figure on the right will help in developing bidding documents for a cleaning project and getting better prices.

 

In order to provide the best possible data at an optimized price, it is wise to seek the counsel of an experienced professional who can customize a plan that uses several different technologies based on the varying conditions throughout your system.

With the right tools, you can ensure you get the data needed to keep your system functioning at optimum levels for all your customers for several years to come.


Matthew CichyMatthew Cichy, P.E. is a water and wastewater senior project manager responsible for a variety of engineering tasks, including water and wastewater facilities planning, the design of water distribution systems, wastewater collection and conveyance systems, pumping stations, and water and wastewater treatment plants as well as construction administration, field inspections, financial consulting, and project management.

Bruce HulshizerBruce Hulshizer, P.E. is also a project manager in HRG’s water and wastewater service group. He has two decades of experience in civil engineering and is an active member of the Pennsylvania Water Environment Association, where he serves as their co-chair of the Collection System Committee for 2015.