Answering These Five Questions is Essential for Good Asset Management

Answering These Five Questions is Essential for Good Asset Management

Steve Simon (left) with some of Aurora Water staff members Shiva Sapkota and Kirk Skogen at the site of a sewer relining job. (Photo by Carl Scofield)

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Future-thinkers must be willing to function in a realm of assumptions rather than facts. They may be guided by science or history or human experience, but they don’t really know a distant outcome because, of course, it hasn’t yet happened.

Strategic planners know the feeling. When Steve Simon — the principal engineer of Aurora Water infrastructure planning — undertook development of a strategic plan to rehabilitate the Colorado city’s underground wastewater assets, he took a leap of faith.

“We popped a camera down into an interceptor pipe because we needed something to start with,” he says. The resulting snapshot of a severely corroded reinforced concrete pipe became a starting point in formulation of a “decision logic” by which the utility could target one set of pipes over another. “We decided this was going to be our starting point and unless we ran into some data that told us otherwise, we were going with this plan.”

Some people might call that a faith system. Simon calls it an “inexact science.” Whatever it’s called, the process is an essential part of an asset management program. Simon lists five questions that need answering to manage assets. Four of them are easily pinned down:

1. What assets are critical to sustained performance? Any good manager should know that.

2. What are our required levels of service? Again, a good manager knows his customer base.

3. What are our best operations/management and capital investment strategies? There are only so many ways to operate wisely and invest prudently.

4. How will we fund it? Either the money is there or it isn’t.

And the fifth question is the doozy: What is the current state of our assets?

Assets you can see and touch — a pump station, a treatment plant — can hide their true condition, but an accurate assessment is relatively easy. The condition of static assets buried in the earth for decades — water and sewer pipes — is problematic at best and a big mystery at worst.

And that is where asset managers earn their pay.

To read more about Aurora Water Operations, check out the September issue of Municipal Sewer & Water.


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