WRF Resources Establish Performance Benchmarking for Water Utilities

Resources, including an instructional webcast, are free & available to the public

Water Resources Foundation benchmarking managed water utilities

The Water Research Foundation (WRF) has released a tool to help water and wastewater utilities develop and implement the ten key attributes for Effective Utility Management (EUM).

WRF sponsored project No. 4313, "Performance Benchmarking for Effectively Managed Water Utilities", to provide a practical tool to water and wastewater utilities  to conduct assessments and strategically develop key organizational attributes to meet specific goals. The tool builds on recommendations presented in "Effective Utility Management: A Primer for Water and Wastewater Utilities."

“The Water Research Foundation recognized that water utilities were compelled to work towards more Effective Utility Management, but could benefit from detailed guidance on the implementation of more sustainable methods of operation,” said Robert Renner, executive director of WRF. “Project resources provide utilities direction as to the important practice areas that can support Effective Utility Management and a structured process to track performance.”

The resources include an Excel-based tracking tool, user guide for the tool and guidance document that can help utilities meet EUM goals. All resources are free and accessible to the general public. Additionally, a free webcast presenting the project results and resources will be held March 6, 2014 from 3 to 4 p.m. EST. Register here to participate in the webcast.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and several North American organizations that promote the interests of water and wastewater utilities have identified EUM practices to support utilities on a more sustainable path. In 2006, these organizations joined a collaborative effort that produced the report, "Findings and Recommendations for a Water Utility Sector Management Strategy."

The report identified the following ten attributes of effectively managed water sector utilities:

  1. 1.    Product quality;
  2. 2.    Customer satisfaction;
  3. 3.    Employee and leadership development;
  4. 4.    Operational optimization;
  5. 5.    Financial viability;
  6. 6.    Infrastructure stability;
  7. 7.    Operational resilience;
  8. 8.    Community sustainability;
  9. 9.    Water resource adequacy; and
  10. 10. Stakeholder understanding and support.

WRF identified two major gaps that hampered utilities’ efforts when trying to implement the ten attributes—an explicit identification of practice areas that utilities can use to support these efforts and a structured process benchmarking exercise to guide the development and implementation of these attributes. WRF funded Project No. 4313, to fill these gaps.

WRF worked with nearly 30 water, wastewater and storm water utilities of various size and geographies from North America, the U.K. and Australia on this project. Recommendations for utilities interested in using this EUM benchmarking tool and guidance include:

  1. 1.       Form a benchmarking team and develop an initial plan of action;
  2. 2.       Select EUM attributes to address;
  3. 3.       Select associated practice areas and performances measures to address;
  4. 4.       Revise the plan of action (if necessary);
  5. 5.       Conduct self-assessment benchmarking for selected attributes, practice areas and performance measures;
  6. 6.       Evaluate results and identify methods to narrow priority gaps; and
  7. 7.       Develop follow-up plans.
Water Research Foundation

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