Over the past several years, APWA has been working with the EPA Office of Water and other national associations in the sector to bring useful resources and tools on sustainable utility management.  The first set of resources developed through this collaboration was the Effective Utility Management attributes and Primer.  Building upon the success of that project and in an effort to fulfill the President’s sustainability goals, the Office of Water partnered with the US Department of Agriculture to produce resources specific to small and rural communities. 


EPA Rural Guidebook Cover


This effort is modeled on the Effective Utility Management Initiative. The first, a new Rural and Small Systems Guidebook to Sustainable Utility Management, will help such systems assess the effectiveness of their operations, prioritize potential improvements, and develop an action plan to address these priorities. The second, a “Workshop in a Box,” contains a series of materials and instructions to help both rural and small systems and service providers market and conduct workshops based on the guidebook. For more information and to access these tools: http://www.apwa.net/DR/index.asp?ID=1700.


Workshop in Box Cover


Water utilities across the country face common challenges - whether it is aging infrastructure, rising operating costs, high customer expectations, or a retiring workforce – and industry professionals are well aware that the “way we’ve always done it” may not have been our best approach.


The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently published Moving Toward Sustainability: Sustainable and Effective Practices for Creating Your Own Water Utility Roadmap to assist utilities with implementing proven practices over time that address these common challenges at a pace consistent with the needs of the utility and the community it serves. The distinguishing quality of this document is its flexibility; it does not provide one roadmap for all utilities to follow, rather it guides utilities to create a roadmap based on their own specific needs.


Based on the Ten Attributes of Effective Utility Management (EUM), the document provides input from federal, state, and local stakeholders.  Practical examples are provided throughout the document to help determine the utility’s current level of sustainability and are intended to give utility managers a sense of where to begin with creating their roadmap.  This resource takes each of the ten attributes of effective utility management and breaks them down based on three business levels:  Level 1 – Providing Adequate, Fundamental Services; Level 2 – Optimizing Operations and Services; and Level 3 – Transforming Operations and Services for the Future.


“This document will give an important boost to help move the water treatment industry toward greater sustainability and enhance the sustainability of communities as well,” said Dan Roberts, P.E., APWA member and Director of the Utilities Department for the City of Palm Bay, Florida.  Mr. Roberts also served as a member of the EPA’s industry Steering Group that provided input for the document.

Mr. Roberts went on to say: “EUM is the key to sustainability, and EPA’s Roadmap document can be used by any size utility operating at any business level to improve EUM and thus community sustainability.”


As a service provider to the community, we should never be satisfied with “adequate” service, we should continually strive to improve and enhance our operations and services so that we will be able to thrive well into the future. Utilities can benefit from the practices described in this document by: saving money through optimization, providing better protection to the environment by consistently meeting regulatory requirements, recruiting and retaining a workforce to ensure sustainable operations, using energy and water efficient practices and technologies effectively, and building greater understanding and support from stakeholders.


To learn more about water infrastructure and moving toward sustainability visit:  http://water.epa.gov/infrastructure/sustain/


[Guest blogger:  Julie Lemons, Utilities Outreach Coordinator, Palm Bay, Florida.]