A panel of utilities from across the U.S. will share their experiences working through the EUM benchmarking process and tool that was developed for a Water Research Foundation (WaterRF) project.

By Mike Matichich, Principal Technologist and CH2M HILL’s Practice Area Leader for Financial Services in Water

Mike worked with WaterRF to organize, and will be presenting in, the AWWA ACE session, “Framework and Tools for Effective Utility Management,” on Tuesday, June 11, from 1:30-4:40 p.m. Learn more about CH2M HILL’s ACE activities and technical presentations.

Michael Matichich, Principal Technologist and CH2M HILL’s Technology Leader for Financial Services in WaterSince the development of the Effective Utility Management (EUM) Primer by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and six industry associations in 2008, no one has offered specific or discrete recommendations on how utilities can benchmark their progress and address gaps for the attributes that are most important for their systems. In response, the Water Research Foundation (WaterRF) funded a research project, titled “Performance Benchmarking for Effectively Managed Water Utilities,” to address this gap. CH2M HILL was selected to lead this study, and worked with a project team that included 20 utility participants to provide the basis for utilities to score performance both in terms of the level of performance achieved and the degree to which its associated metric is implemented within the utility.

Through the study, the project team:

– Identified the practice areas within each of the ten attributes of effective utility management

– Identified key metrics and a useful range of performance for each metric within the practice areas

– Developed a benchmarking framework, assessment methodology, and tools that allow utilities to identify priority attributes for attention, score current vs. target performance for priority attributes, and then develop action plans for addressing key gaps

– Pilot tested the tools with an appropriate cross-section of utilities (e.g., water, wastewater, various sizes, different geographies)

On balance, the utilities participating in the research as pilot testers found the process to be very useful for their organizations, and thought the process would also be useful for many of their peers at other utilities; they made many useful suggestions on how to improve the process and tool. With that in mind, the WaterRF research team has put together a great session for AWWA ACE around the project, titled “Framework and Tools for Effective Utility Management,” to be held on Tuesday from 1:30-4:30 p.m.

I will help kick-off the ACE session by providing an overview of the research study and summarize some of the key points of feedback from the 25 utility participants who helped test the process and tool. Following my introduction, session attendees will get the opportunity to hear first-hand from four of the utility participants on how they approached the test and the usefulness of this sort of EUM benchmarking to their organizations. The panel will feature Diane Taniguchi-Dennis from Clean Water Services, Frank Roth from Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority, Amber Halloran from Louisville Water Company, and Gregory Anderson, NYC Department of Environmental Protection.

If you will be at ACE, you don’t want to miss this session to get the important perspectives on use directly from the utilities. The full project report will be released early in 2014, and will be sure to be a resource for utilities around the world.  WaterRF has decided to make the benchmarking tool available to interested parties as freeware, so the process and tool can be used by any interested utilities when it is released by WaterRF (possibly in advance of the full report).

Mike Matichich has more than 30 years of experience in managing and conducting strategic financial planning, management consulting, policy analyses, facility planning, and infrastructure management studies for public and private projects. He develops strategies and tools that are used to implement complex projects, taking into account financial limitations and project implementation needs. His studies have been used to satisfy such varied requirements as federal environmental requirements (environmental impact statement analyses), state and federally mandated implementation orders, and financial markets (e.g., bond feasibility studies).