Following the passage of Senate Bill 2 in the Ohio Legislature in 2017, every public water system in the State of Ohio must now develop an asset management program by October 1, 2018. Many of the requirements of the legislation involve the ongoing gathering and reporting of data regarding the condition and performance of physical infrastructure, and what happens when infrastructure fails. A frequently overlooked requirement per Ohio EPA rules is the development of Levels of Service.
Utilities can expend a great deal of resources managing and analyzing information to best manage the lifecycle costs of assets. However, unless a utility understands its level of service goals and applies them consistently throughout its engineering and O&M decision making process, it is likely to struggle to truly optimize costs.
Establishing service levels for a utility is a multi-step and potentially multi-year process. It begins by identifying the goals the utility wants to measure. For a water utility, this could include water quality and availability. For a wastewater utility, it could include overflows, basement backups, sewer odors, and treatment plant bypasses.
The next step is to determine how to measure performance using specific, quantifiable metrics. For water availability, the metric could measure the number of customers without water in a given time period, the number of water main breaks that result in the need for isolation of the break and associated customers outages, or even the average time to repair a break. For wastewater utilities tracking overflows, the metrics could involve quantifying the frequency, duration, or volume of overflows in a given time period.
Establishing level of service metrics is still on the tip of the iceberg in the Levels of Service and performance management process. The utility must determine if it is even measuring the data necessary to analyze the service level metrics it wants to measure. Even if data can be collected, the utility may potentially need to develop a way to store, access, analyze, and communicate the information so that decisions can be made. This could involve dedicating additional resources to improve performance or, if there are opportunities to reduce costs without significantly compromising service levels, how to reduce expenditures.
As a result of this presentation, attendees will have a general understanding of a level of service framework and the steps needed to develop customer-focused levels of service and a performance management process within their own water utility. The presentation will reference how establishing levels of service can save a utility funds by avoiding project costs. Additionally, the audience will understand the Ohio EPA asset management – level of service requirements for public water systems and how to address them.