Infrastructure Management: No Laughing Matter

It is now well-known that current estimates identify a huge gap between buried infrastructure management needs and committed funding levels. This funding shortfall occurs at a time when many utilities are experiencing a reduction in revenues due to a reduction in per capita water use. It is only natural, therefore, that utility expenses not driven directly by regulatory requirements―such as proactive condition assessment planning―don’t always receive the support needed by management, governing boards, and utility customers.

This is a risky situation that too many utilities must actively maneuver through. It is imperative that utilities are able to capture the support they need to implement more proactive and comprehensive infrastructure management programs. However, garnering this type of support is no easy task. A utility must develop and deliver a case, founded on intelligent analyses and reliable data and communicated in a way that both technical and non-technical stakeholders can understand.

The Water Research Foundation’s (WRF) latest report, Answers to Challenging Infrastructure Management Questions, (project #4367) is focused on arming utilities with this very information. Project #4367 compiles findings from dozens of previous WRF research projects to provide a comprehensive overview answers to utilities’ most challenging infrastructure management questions and to help build a compelling case for buried infrastructure investment. The report is written in a Q&A format and presents updated, state-of-the science information to help water utilities more easily apply best practices to the challenging problems they regularly face.

Utilities are the first line of defense for these infrastructure situations and it’s important they receive knowledge and insights in a manner that get to the heart of the matter at hand without raising stress levels. Most will agree that infrastructure management is no laughing matter, however, WRF took a different approach with this particular project. In addition to publishing the report, we used animation and a bit of water humor to promote the project and its findings that help utilities address a very difficult topic and task.

The new animation depicts a “day in the life” of utility staff who face these questions and search for their answers on a daily basis. This depiction might also help inform other key audiences, such as governing boards, about the importance of infrastructure management.

Project #4367 offers a report that will prove helpful to utilities just getting started in developing a comprehensive infrastructure management program as well as being a useful reference guide for utilities managing formal asset management activities.