WaterEUM — Effective Utility Management

  • Ten Attributes of Effectively Managed Water Sector Utilities

    The Ten Attributes of Effectively Managed Water Sector Utilities describe desired outcomes that are applicable to all water and wastewater utilities. The Attributes provide indication of where effectively-managed utilities focus and what they strive to achieve.

    The Ten Attributes


    The Attributes emerged from analysis of current utility management practices and discussion among utility advisors regarding what they view as promising developments in utility management efforts.

    Attribute Definitions

    Product Quality

    Produces potable water, treated effluent, and process residuals in full compliance with regulatory and reliability requirements and consistent with customer, public health, and ecological needs. Example measures for this attribute.

    Customer Satisfaction

    Provides reliable, responsive, and affordable services in line with explicit, customer-accepted service levels. Receives timely customer feedback to maintain responsiveness to customer needs and emergencies. Example measures for this attribute.

    Employee and Leadership Development

    Recruits and retains a workforce that is competent, motivated, adaptive, and safe-working. Establishes a participatory, collaborative organization dedicated to continual learning and improvement. Ensures employee institutional knowledge is retained and improved upon over time. Provides a focus on and emphasizes opportunities for professional and leadership development and strives to create an integrated and well-coordinated senior leadership team. Example measures for this attribute.

    Operational Optimization

    Ensures ongoing, timely, cost-effective, reliable, and sustainable performance improvements in all facets of its operations. Minimizes resource use, loss, and impacts from day-to-day operations. Maintains awareness of information and operational technology developments to anticipate and support timely adoption of improvements. Example measures for this attribute.

    Financial Viability

    Understands the full life-cycle cost of the utility and establishes and maintains an effective balance between long-term debt, asset values, operations and maintenance expenditures, and operating revenues. Establishes predictable rates—consistent with community expectations and acceptability—adequate to recover costs, provide for reserves, maintain support from bond rating agencies, and plan and invest for future needs. Example measures for this attribute.

    Infrastructure Stability

    Understands the condition of and costs associated with critical infrastructure assets. Maintains and enhances the condition of all assets over the long-term at the lowest possible life-cycle cost and acceptable risk consistent with customer, community, and regulator-supported service levels, and consistent with anticipated growth and system reliability goals. Assures asset repair, rehabilitation, and replacement efforts are coordinated within the community to minimize disruptions and other negative consequences. Example measures for this attribute.

    Operational Resiliency

    Ensures utility leadership and staff work together to anticipate and avoid problems. Proactively identifies, assesses, establishes tolerance levels for, and effectively manages a full range of business risks (including legal, regulatory, financial, environmental, safety, security, and natural disaster-related) in a proactive way consistent with industry trends and system reliability goals. Example measures for this attribute.

    Community Sustainability

    Is explicitly cognizant of and attentive to the impacts its decisions have on current and long-term future community and watershed health and welfare. Manages operations, infrastructure, and investments to protect, restore, and enhance the natural environment; efficiently uses water and energy resources; promotes economic vitality; and engenders overall community improvement. Explicitly considers a variety of pollution prevention, watershed, and source water protection approaches as part of an overall strategy to maintain and enhance ecological and community sustainability. Example measures for this attribute.

    Water Resource Adequacy

    Ensures water availability consistent with current and future customer needs through long-term resource supply and demand analysis, conservation, and public education. Explicitly considers its role in water availability and manages operations to provide for long-term aquifer and surface water sustainability and replenishment. Example measures for this attribute.

    Stakeholder Understanding and Support

    Engenders understanding and support from oversight bodies, community and watershed interests, and regulatory bodies for service levels, rate structures, operating budgets, capital improvement programs, and risk management decisions. Actively involves stakeholders in the decisions that will affect them. Example measures for this attribute.

    Outcome Oriented

    The Attributes cover a range of desired utility outcomes in the areas of operations, infrastructure, customer satisfaction, community welfare, natural resource stewardship, and financial performance.

    Identify Improvement Opportunities

    The Attributes provide useful and concise reference points for utility managers seeking to improve organization-wide performance. They can best be viewed as a continuum of, or a set of building blocks for, management improvement opportunities.

    Fit the Unique Needs of Individual Organizations

    Water and wastewater utilities can use the Attributes to select priorities for improvement based on each organization’s strategic objectives and the needs of the community it serves. Individual utilities will need to tailor the timing, sequence, and degree to which they address each Attribute to their management and community needs and circumstances.

    Even as all utilities will need to approach improved management one step at a time, utility mangers involved in the development of the Attributes believe increasingly excellent, overall utility management will emerge when utilities address more, and eventually all, of the Attributes.

    The Attributes are not presented in a particular order; utility managers can decide their relevance and relative importance depending on individual utility circumstances.