To protect your water utility investment, focus on distribution systems

Posted in: Water


Water pipe bursting

Drinking water utilities throughout the country spend a large portion of their capital and operating budgets on water supply and treatment. Pumping raw water to a water treatment facility and then treating that water to meet state and federal drinking water regulations does not come cheap. However, many utilities are unable to commit the necessary resources—both human and capital—to their distribution system to protect their investment.

Managing distribution system water quality is about providing clients with the best possible product. Water quality can degrade in the distribution system due to several factors, including water age, demand, operational impacts, and infrastructure condition.

The 2019 American Water Works Association (AWWA) State of the Water Industry report once again cited aging infrastructure as the most significant concern facing the water industry. Funding the renewal and/or replacement will be staggering. Similarly, The American Society of Civil Engineers’ (ASCE) 2017 Infrastructure Report Card for drinking water gave water infrastructure a grade of “D” and cited a lack of investment in water system infrastructure as a critical challenge.

A comprehensive water system asset management program can help utilities spend where it makes most sense: on the capital and operational improvements most needed to protect their investment. In fact, some states have begun requiring asset management programs for water and wastewater utilities, often as a condition for financial assistance or as a component of a consent decree resulting from inadequate investment in water system infrastructure.

The AWWA Partnership for Safe Water Distribution System Optimization Program (DSOP) is a great tool to help utilities protect their investment. The DSOP includes a comprehensive assessment of all aspects of system operation compared to industry best practices. It benchmarks performance in three key areas–water quality, infrastructure, and hydraulic integrity–and helps to prioritize investment based on the results of the assessment.

Additional investment is needed in our nation’s water infrastructure. Mead & Hunt is committed to helping our water utility clients implement the best tools available to manage distribution system water quality and provide communities with the best drinking water possible. Given the financial constraints under which most water utilities operate, the AWWA Distribution System Optimization Program can be a great way to help optimize capital and operational improvements where most needed to protect the resource.


Chris Hill, PE, BCEE, ENV SP

About the Author

Chris Hill is Mead & Hunt’s national technical leader for water. He has more than 25 years of diverse experience in water supply and treatment, including distribution system optimization, corrosion control, nitrification and DBP control strategies. He is responsible for the assessment and growth of Mead & Hunt’s technical capabilities and expertise, further establishing the firm’s position as a thought leader in the water industry.

Read more posts by Chris Hill, PE, BCEE, ENV SP

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