WaterEUM — Effective Utility Management

Ten Attributes -

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.

Link to Example Measures 


Creating a Livable Community
Good traffic flow measures, storm water management, and urban forestry techniques are all components of a livable community. This CD-ROM contains three programs: Building a Livable Community: Working with Developers to Implement Storm Water Best Management Practices. Take advantage of this walk-through of a storm water management plan for a mixed use residential and commercial development that includes water quality ponds, detention basins, backwater channels, creek restoration, and bioswales. Creating Livable Communities through Traffic Management. Understand emerging trends affecting traffic flow through neighborhoods, and explore new planning techniques and design standards. Urban Forestry: Benefits and Drawbacks of City Trees. Trees clean the air, provide wind, noise, and sun barriers and beautify the landscape of your city. They also drop leaves, crack sidewalks, and hang over roads and sidewalks. Learn from the experts how to care for your urban forest. (CDROM 2004) $$ Order Now 

Handbook for Developing Watershed Plans to Restore and Protect our Waters
EPA's Office of Wetlands, Oceans, and Watersheds has released a document to help communities, watershed organizations, water and wastewater utilities, and local, state, tribal, and federal environmental agencies develop and implement watershed plans to meet water quality standards and protect water resources. The "Handbook for Developing Watershed Plans to Restore and Protect Our Waters" is designed to help anyone undertaking a watershed planning effort, but should be particularly useful to persons working with impaired or threatened waters. It contains in-depth guidance on quantifying existing pollutant loads, developing estimates of the load reductions required to meet water quality standards, developing effective management measures, and tracking progress once the plan is implemented. New materials were added to the handbook including ways to protect important elements of the landscape and aquatic habitats within a watershed. Free Download Now 

The Trend to Low-Impact Development and What It Means to Public Works
Low-Impact Development (LID) does not appear to be a passing trend. Public works departments are seeing a greater acceptance of these principles, not just for new development, but also for retrofit of older neighborhoods. Speakers for this program are experts in implementing LID in communities throughout North America. (2007 CDROM) $$ Order Now 

Triple Bottom Line Reporting of Sustainable Water Utility Performance
Sustainability principles require stewardship and effective management over all resources. This report aims to assist US utilities on their journey toward sustainability by providing a guide on how to report on and manage their environmental, social, and economic performance - their triple bottom line, or TBL. TBL reporting can be a good index of how non-financial risks are being managed by your water utility. It requires a focus on achieving the greatest environmental, social, and economic benefits from all activities. Triple bottom line planning and reporting reflect balanced performance of an organization in all these areas. 2007 - Softbound - 147 pp. Catalog No. 91179 $$ Order Now 


Watershed-based infrastructure planning
This measure addresses utility efforts to consider watershed-based approaches when making management decisions affecting infrastructure planning and investment options. Watershed protection strategies can sometimes, for example, protect sourcewater quality limiting the need for additional or enhanced water treatment capacity.

Example question: 

  • Does the utility employ alternative, watershed-based approaches to align infrastructure decisions with overall watershed goals and potentially reduce future infrastructure costs? Watershed-based approaches include, for example: centralized management of decentralized systems; stormwater management; sourcewater protection programs; and conjunctive use of groundwater, sourcewater, and recycled water to optimize resource use at a basin scale. (See also "green infrastructure" below.)

Green infrastructure
"Green infrastructure" includes both the built and natural/unbuilt environment. Utilities may promote source water protection and conservation "green infrastructure" approaches in support of water conservation (e.g., per capita demand reduction) and water quality protection objectives. Green infrastructure approaches can include: low-impact development techniques (e.g., minimization of impervious surfaces, green roofs); protection of green spaces and wildlife habitat; incentives for water-efficient domestic appliance use and landscaping; green building standards such as those promoted through the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program; management of energy, chemical, and material use; etc.3 Utilities often coordinate these efforts with community planning offices.

Example question: 

  • Has the utility explored green infrastructure approaches and opportunities that are aligned with the utility's mandate, goals, and objectives and community interests (yes/no)?

  • Does the utility have procedures that incorporate green infrastructure approaches and performance into new infrastructure investments (yes/no)?

Greenhouse gas emissions
This measure will help drinking and wastewater utilities to understand and reduce their individual contributions to area greenhouse gas emissions. Trends indicate that water utility emissions of these gases will likely be of interest to stakeholders. Monitoring of these emissions is becoming more common among water sector utilities, and some utilities are beginning voluntary efforts to reduce their emissions (e.g., through production of reusable methane energy by wastewater utilities).

Example calculation: 

  • Net (gross minus offsets) greenhouse gas emissions in tons of carbon dioxide (CO2), nitrous oxide (N2O), methane (CH4), and, as applicable, hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) and perfluorocarbons (PFCs). Start by establishing an emissions baseline and then track emission trends in conjunction with minimizing/reducing emissions over time, where possible.1 Emissions inventories often incorporate indirect emissions such as those generated during the production and transport of materials and chemicals.

Service affordability
Drinking water and wastewater service affordability centers on community members' ability to pay for water services. The true cost of water/wastewater services may be higher than some low-income households can afford, particularly when rates reflect the full life-cycle cost of water services. Each utility will want to consider and balance keeping water services affordable while ensuring the rates needed for long-term infrastructure and financial integrity.

Example calculations and considerations:  

  • Bill affordability (households for which rates may represent an unaffordable level) (percent): 100 X (number of households served for which average water bill is > "X" percent (often 2-2.5%) of median household income2 / total number of households served).

Coupled with:

  • Low-income billing assistance program coverage (percent): 100 X (number of customers enrolled in low-income billing assistance program / number of customers who are eligible for enrollment in low-income billing assistance program). (The utility can try to increase participation in the program for eligible households that are not participating.)

[1] EPA's industry-government "Climate Leaders" partnership involves completing a corporate-wide inventory of their greenhouse gas emissions. Information and related guidance is available at http://www.epa.gov/stateply/index.html. 

[2] This calculation focuses on identifying low-income households based median household incomes (MHI); However, MHI is not strongly correlated with the incidence of poverty or other measures of economic need. Further, populations served by small utilities in rural settings tend to have lower MHI and higher poverty rates, but fewer options for diversifying water/wastewater service rates based on need compared to larger municipal systems. 

[3] For more information on green infrastructure, visit www.epa.gov/npdes/greeninfrastructure.