Water Research Foundation and CH2M HILL team up on benchmarking tool for effective utility management. The tool, released earlier this month, will help utilities plan, implement, measure, and monitor organizational performance enhancements against 10 specific attributes of effectively managed utilities.

By: Mike Matichich, CH2M HILL Principal Technologist; Yakir Hasit, CH2M HILL Senior Principal Technologist; and Fair Yeager, CH2M HILL Deputy Project Manager

Fair Yeager will present the paper, “Streamlining Performance Management and Progress: Application of Benchmarking Tool for Effectively Managed Utilities”, co-authored with Frank Roth of Albuquerque Bernalillo Water Utility Authority and Mike Matichich and Yakir Hasit of CH2M HILL, at the joint Water Environment Federation and American Water Works Association Utility Management Conference on Friday, February 28 at 11 AM.

For a complete schedule of CH2M HILL’s participation in UMC 2014, click here.

Effective Utility Management (EUM) is a framework that provides utility organizations a method to plan, implement, measure, and monitor organizational performance enhancements against ten specific attributes of effectively managed utilities. The ten attributes defined in the EUM Primer established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, six major water and wastewater industry associations, and representations from 16 utility systems in 2008 include:

  • product quality
  • employee and leadership development
  • financial viability
  • operational resiliency
  • water resource adequacy
  • customer satisfaction
  • operational optimization
  • infrastructure stability
  • community sustainability
  • stakeholder understanding and support

While the Primer defined the attributes that utilities should strive to achieve, it did not provide specific ways for utilities to implement the attributes. Recognizing the benefit of providing utilities with concrete ways to benchmark performance, the Water Research Foundation (WRF) initiated a project to develop a benchmarking tool, which is now available to utilities.

The tool and a related guidance document, developed by CH2M HILL for WRF as part of the project Performance Benchmarking for Effectively Managed Water Utilities, will enable water utilities to conduct a self-assessment in order to improve utility performance in one or all of the ten attributes to fit with their strategic goals.

Utilities are facing challenges such as aging infrastructure, financial constraints, security, and increased customer level of service demands to mention a few, and need to find ways to efficiently respond to these challenges.

The EPA, the associations that sponsored the initial development of the Primer, a project advisory committee, nearly 30 utilities, and a dozen subject matter experts from our consulting research team provided valuable input on the benchmarking guidance document and tool. Utilities that worked with us to test this benchmarking process and tool found that it provided significant value in identifying ways to improve management performance and efficiency. Using the tool, utilities can access specific recommendations on how to benchmark their current and target performance for attributes and identify strategies to address gaps in order to improve the performance and effectiveness of their systems.

The tool and user guide are available to freely download on the WRF project website. The final project report will be available to the industry in April 2014.

MMichael Matichich, Principal Technologist and CH2M HILL’s Technology Leader for Financial Services in Waterike 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 has served as Principal Investigator for this EUM benchmarking project, and has been a lead contributor to several other finance and management-related research projects for WRF.

Yakir Hasit is a senior principal technologist with 38 years of experience in consulting, teaching, and research in water supply, utility infrastructure, water system security, and mathematical modeling. He has been the Principal Investigator or Project Manager of 15 WaterRF projects on water distribution system infrastructure and water quality research.

Fair Yeager has more than 18 years of experience as a project manager and engineer. She specializes in management consulting, hydraulic modeling, and master planning.