WaterEUM — Effective Utility Management

  • Welcome to the Effective Utility Management Resource Toolbox. The Toolbox provides links to key resources and measures designed to help the water and wastewater utility community further improve the management of its infrastructure. The toolbox is designed as a companion resource to the Effective Utility Management Primer for Water and Wastewater Utilities (PDF), which provides a comprehensive overview of the attributes of effectively managed utilities, and includes a self-assessment tool for utilities and a list of measures utilities can use to assess their management efforts.

    The Effective Utility Management Resource Toolbox

    The Resource Toolbox provides a compilation of the resources from the seven organizations collaborating on the Effective Utility Management effort and is organized according to the ten attributes of effectively managed utilities and the five keys to management success.

    Select either an attribute or management key from the lists below to learn more and see the available resources.

    The Ten Attributes of Effective Utility Management

    The Ten Attributes of Effectively Managed Water Sector Utilities provide a useful and concise reference point for utility managers seeking to improve organization-wide performance.  The Attributes describe desired outcomes that are applicable to all water and wastewater utilities. They comprise a comprehensive framework related to operations, infrastructure, customer satisfaction, community welfare, natural resource stewardship, and financial performance.

    The Attributes are not presented in a particular order, but rather can be viewed as a set of opportunities for improving utility management and operations.  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.  More information on the Attributes is available in the Effective Utility Management Primer.

    Click on the attributes below to read more and access relevant resources. 

  • 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.

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    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..

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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 use water and energy resources; promote economic vitality; and engender 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.

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    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.

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    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.

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  • Keys to Management Success

    The Keys to Management Success are comprised of frequently used management approaches and systems that have been shown to help water and wastewater utilities manage more effectively. They provide a supportive climate for utilities working towards the outcomes outlined in the Attributes and they can help utilities integrate improvement efforts across the Attributes.

    Click on one of the keys below to read more and access relevant resources. 

  • Leadership

    A consistent theme throughout Committee discussions and focus group observations was the critical role leadership plays in effective utility management, particularly in the context of driving and inspiring change within an organization. In this context, the term "leaders" refers both to individuals who can be effective champions for improvement, and to leadership teams that provide resilient, day-to-day management continuity and direction. Effective leadership ensures the utility's direction is understood, embraced, and followed on an ongoing basis throughout the management cycle. It further reflects a commitment to organizational excellence, leading by example to establish and reinforce an organizational culture that embraces change and strives for continual improvement.

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    Strategic Business Planning

    Strategic business planning emerges as an important tool for helping utilities strike an effective balance among, and drive integration and cohesion across, the Attributes. Strategic business planning involves taking a long-term view of utility goals and operations and establishing, in that context, an explicit vision and mission that drive and guide utility objectives, measurement efforts, investments, and operations.

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    Organizational Approaches

    Utility managers have identified a variety of organizational approaches as part of overall effective utility management and critical to the success of management improvement efforts. These include:

    • Establishing a "participatory organizational culture" that actively seeks to engage employees in improvement efforts (e.g., establishing management improvement, employee empowerment, and cross-functional teams);
    • Deploying an explicit change management process that anticipates and plans for change and encourages staff and managers to embrace rather than resist change; and
    • Utilizing implementation strategies that seek early, step-wise victories that help utilities get started and remain motivated.

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    A focus and emphasis on measurement emerges as critical to management improvement efforts associated with the Attributes and as the backbone of successful continual improvement management and strategic business planning. As one participant succinctly put it, "you can't improve what you don't measure." Committee members (and focus group participants) indicated that successful measurement efforts tend to share certain commonalities:

    • They are viewed as a continuum starting with basic internal tracking, and moving on, as needed and appropriate, to more sophisticated base-lining and trend analysis, development of key performance indicators, and inclusion of externally-oriented measures speaking to community sustainability interests;
    • They are driven by and focused on answering questions critical to effective internal management and external stakeholder needs (e.g., questions utility boards need answered to comfortably support large capital investments); and
    • They are supported by a well-defined decision framework assuring results are evaluated, communicated, and responded to in a timely manner.

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    Continual Improvement Management Framework

    A continual improvement management framework, most frequently implemented through a complete, start-to-finish management system, plays a central role in effective utility management and is viewed as a critical management strategy to make progress in the context of the Attributes. Continual improvement management includes:

    • Conducting an honest and comprehensive self-assessment;

    • Establishing explicit performance objectives and targets;

    • Defining related operational requirements, practices, and procedures;

    • Establishing supporting roles and responsibilities;

    • Implementing measurement activities including regular evaluation through, for example, operational and procedural audits; and

    • Responding to evaluations through the use of an explicit change management process.

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