Sustainable Water Infrastructure

Asset Management for Water and Wastewater Utilities

Renewing and replacing the nation's public water infrastructure is an ongoing task. Asset management can help a utility maximize the value of its capital as well as its operations and maintenance dollars.

Asset management provides utility managers and decision-makers with critical information on capital assets and timing of investments. Some key steps for asset management are making an inventory of critical assets, evaluating their condition and performance, and developing plans to maintain, repair, and replace assets and to fund these activities.

What is asset management?

Asset management is a process water and wastewater utilities can use to make sure that planned maintenance can be conducted and capital assets (pumps, motors, pipes, etc.) can be repaired, replaced, or upgraded on time and that there is enough money to pay for it.

Asset management is the practice of managing infrastructure capital assets to minimize the total cost of owning and operating these assets while delivering the desired service levels. Many utilities use asset management to pursue and achieve sustainable infrastructure. A high-performing asset management program includes detailed asset inventories, operation and maintenance tasks, and long-range financial planning.

Each utility is responsible for making sure that its system stays in good working order, regardless of the age of its components or the availability of additional funds. Asset management programs with good data—including asset attributes (e.g., age, condition, and criticality), life-cycle costing, proactive operations and maintenance, and capital replacement plans based on cost-benefit analyses—can be the most efficient method of meeting this challenge. 

What are the benefits of asset management?

Examples of outcomes that can be realized by utilities through asset management:

  • Prolonging asset life and improving decisions about asset rehabilitation, repair, and replacement
  • Meeting consumer demands with a focus on system sustainability
  • Setting rates based on sound operational and financial planning
  • Budgeting focused on critical activities for sustained performance
  • Meeting service expectations and regulatory requirements
  • Improving responses to emergencies
  • Improving the security and safety of assets
  • Reducing overall costs for both operations and capital expenditures

What are the elements of asset management practice?

Asset management is centered on a framework of five core questions, which provide the foundation for many asset management best practices:

  1. What is the current state of my assets?
  2. What is my required "sustainable" level of service?
  3. Which assets are critical to sustained performance?
  4. What are my minimum life-cycle costs?
  5. What is my best long-term funding strategy?

EPA's Asset Management: A Best Practices Guide (PDF)(4 pp, 242 K, About PDF) explores the five core questions and best practices for each. This guidebook is for owners, managers, and operators of public water systems, local officials, technical assistance providers, and state personnel.

Who should practice asset management?

Asset management is a scalable approach that can be used by systems of any size. Whether running a small drinking water system serving 50 customers or drinking water and wastewater systems of the largest cities, asset management means putting in place a long-term plan to sustain these systems and the services they provide.

Asset management is also used in other sectors where infrastructure needs to be managed for the long term, such as in the transportation and housing sectors. Some leading communities are adopting cross-sector asset management programs where infrastructure investments are coordinated and prioritized across the different infrastructure areas.

Asset Management Workshops

Advanced Asset Management Workshop Materials

Web-based Asset Management Training

  • EPA's Check Up Program for Small Systems (CUPSS) Self-paced Training Modules - CUPSS is a free, easy-to-use asset management tool for small drinking water and wastewater utilities. It provides a simple, comprehensive way for a small system to implement an asset management program and develop effective asset management plans. CUPSS is a computer-based program that allows users to take small steps into asset management, and is loaded with example data and tutorials. EPA has established a growing network of trainers to help new users get started.
  • Virginia Tech's Sustainable Water Infrastructure Asset Management Online Non-Degree Program Exit - The Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Virginia Tech, in partnership with EPA, GHD Consulting, and Water Environmental Research Foundation, offers a certificate program on the fundamentals of sustainable water infrastructure asset management.

Asset Management Resources

EPA Asset Management Resources

  • Asset Management: A Best Practices Guide (PDF)(4 pp, 242 K, About PDF) - This guide explains what asset management means, the benefits of asset management, best practices in asset management, and how to implement an asset management plan. It is for owners, managers and operators of public water systems, local officials, technical assistance providers, and state personnel.
  • Building an Asset Management Team (PDF)(2 pp, 155 K, About PDF) - This guide explains how having a team can help your system successfully implement asset management and the components of a successful asset management team. It is for local officials, owners and operators of public water systems, technical assistance providers, and state personnel.
  • Asset Management: A Handbook for Small Public Water Systems—STEP Guide Series - Learn how to inventory system assets and develop a long-term maintenance plan to save money and avoid unexpected problems.

Asset Management Partner Resources

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  • Water Environment Research Foundation's (WERF) Sustainable Infrastructure Management Program Learning Environment (SIMPLE) - A web-based tool to help wastewater plants learn about life-cycle asset management plans. Access is free to WERF members.
  • New Mexico Environmental Finance Center's Asset Management Guide (PDF) (112 pp, 1.1 MB, About PDF) - Provides a practical, hands-on roadmap to implementing an asset management program.
  • Maryland Center for Environmental Training (MCET) - The Center developed an Asset Management Guide for Wastewater Utilities and a Train-the-Trainer Toolkit for Total Enterprise Asset Management Systems (TEAMS) software. The toolkit teaches the principles of asset management and introduces open source software (TEAMS) supporting wastewater utilities.
  • Penn State's Bridging the Gap—Video for Public Officials and Water Managers - An online video to help elected officials and water and wastewater managers make smart choices about water and wastewater infrastructure issues. The video outlines the key steps to developing an asset management plan for both novice and experienced professionals. The hosting website provides an extensive array of reference materials to support the central concepts and real-world examples of emerging best practices and innovations in water asset management.
  • Virginia Tech's Sustainable Water Infrastructure Asset Management Online Non-Degree Program - The Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Virginia Tech, in partnership with EPA, GHD Consulting and Water Environmental Research Foundation (WERF), offers a certificate program in the fundamentals of sustainable water infrastructure asset management.
  • Liquid Assets: The Story of Our Water Infrastructure - A public media and outreach initiative to inform the nation about the role water infrastructure plays in protecting public health and promoting economic prosperity. Combining a 90-minute documentary with a community toolkit for facilitating local involvement, Liquid Assets explores the history, engineering and political and economic challenges of our water infrastructure, and engages communities in local discussion about public water and wastewater issues.