Water utilities across the country face common challenges - whether it is aging infrastructure, rising operating costs, high customer expectations, or a retiring workforce – and industry professionals are well aware that the “way we’ve always done it” may not have been our best approach.


The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently published Moving Toward Sustainability: Sustainable and Effective Practices for Creating Your Own Water Utility Roadmap to assist utilities with implementing proven practices over time that address these common challenges at a pace consistent with the needs of the utility and the community it serves. The distinguishing quality of this document is its flexibility; it does not provide one roadmap for all utilities to follow, rather it guides utilities to create a roadmap based on their own specific needs.


Based on the Ten Attributes of Effective Utility Management (EUM), the document provides input from federal, state, and local stakeholders.  Practical examples are provided throughout the document to help determine the utility’s current level of sustainability and are intended to give utility managers a sense of where to begin with creating their roadmap.  This resource takes each of the ten attributes of effective utility management and breaks them down based on three business levels:  Level 1 – Providing Adequate, Fundamental Services; Level 2 – Optimizing Operations and Services; and Level 3 – Transforming Operations and Services for the Future.


“This document will give an important boost to help move the water treatment industry toward greater sustainability and enhance the sustainability of communities as well,” said Dan Roberts, P.E., APWA member and Director of the Utilities Department for the City of Palm Bay, Florida.  Mr. Roberts also served as a member of the EPA’s industry Steering Group that provided input for the document.

Mr. Roberts went on to say: “EUM is the key to sustainability, and EPA’s Roadmap document can be used by any size utility operating at any business level to improve EUM and thus community sustainability.”


As a service provider to the community, we should never be satisfied with “adequate” service, we should continually strive to improve and enhance our operations and services so that we will be able to thrive well into the future. Utilities can benefit from the practices described in this document by: saving money through optimization, providing better protection to the environment by consistently meeting regulatory requirements, recruiting and retaining a workforce to ensure sustainable operations, using energy and water efficient practices and technologies effectively, and building greater understanding and support from stakeholders.


To learn more about water infrastructure and moving toward sustainability visit:  http://water.epa.gov/infrastructure/sustain/


[Guest blogger:  Julie Lemons, Utilities Outreach Coordinator, Palm Bay, Florida.]


The Water Research Foundation (WRF) recently release a set of tools based upon the Effective Utility Management project.  The Effective Utility Management Collaboration has developed a series of tools designed to help water and wastewater utilities advance effective utility management practices. The new tools are designed to simplify the Findings and Recommendations for a Water Utility Sector Management Strategy and make the recommendations easier for utility managers to understand and implement at their facilities. Each of the new tools are organized around the 10 Attributes of Effectively Managed Utilities and the 5 Keys to Management Success identified in the Findings and Recommendations for a Water Utility Sector Management Strategy that was released in May 2007.


The WRF project identified best practices and metrics used by water (water and wastewater) utilities to support each of the ten attributes of effectively managed water utilities; developed and documented a framework and methodology for utilities to evaluate the attributes; and created an Excel-based tool that they can use to conduct a self-assessment for internal performance benchmarking. For each of the ten attributes, the tool helps a utility identify areas where it can undertake activity to improve its performance. Performance measures are defined so that utilities can track their progress in achieving performance goals in areas they define as high priority. The tool allows utilities to track both the level of performance achieved and the degree of implementation within their organizations for each performance measure.


Within each practice area, at least one performance measure is defined so that utilities can track their progress in achieving performance goals in areas they define as high priority. The tool allows utilities to track both the level of performance achieved and the degree of implementation within their organizations for each performance measure. 


To read the Performance Benchmarking for Effectively Managed Utilities click here.

To access the Recommended Approach for Conducting a Self-Assessment Using the Effective Utility Management Framework click here



The EPA has recently launched two new tools to assist local governments in complying with clean air regulations and creating community plans to encourage conservation. One of the tools is called AVoided Emissions and geneRation Tool or AVERT. Many states and localities have adopted energy efficiency/ renewable energy (EE/RE) programs to encourage energy conservation and reduce the amount of emissions produced by energy production. Local government officials, policy professionals, and other stakeholders can use AVERT to assess the effectiveness of their EE/RE programs. AVERT is a one stop shop for publicly available data on emissions from electric power plants. Now stakeholders can download the AVERT data to compare emission rates from before or after EE/RE program implementation, or even among different regions to get a better understanding of  how the EE/RE programs are affecting air quality. To explore the new AVERT program, visit http://epa.gov/avert.


The second tool is called the Local Government Climate and Energy Strategy Series.  To create this strategy series, EPA compiled and analyzed many different state and local strategies for GHG (greenhouse gasses) emission reduction and energy efficiency. The EPA also compiled many related studies and reports from think tanks, and advocacy groups. The results of this compilation are several easy to follow strategy guides for improving air quality and increasing conservation.  The strategy guides are divided into five subject areas: energy efficiency, transportation, community planning and design, solid waste and materials management, and renewable energy.  Many of the guides feature case studies from select state and local governments making it easier for stakeholders to assess which strategies are most relevant to their community’s needs.  Now state and local government officials can use this tool to plan new strategies or evaluate and revise existing ones.  To learn more about this new EPA strategy series, visit http://epa.gov/statelocalclimate/resources/strategy-guides.html.


You can also access these new tools and many more at the APWA Center for Sustainability Tools & Resources page here: http://www.apwa.net/centerforsustainability/tools%20and%20resources


Guest post by Tracy Okoroike, APWA Government Affairs Associate


Solar Ready logo


Are you interested in adopting solar energy to create a more sustainable and resilient community? The Solar Ready II project, funded by the U.S. Department of Energy SunShot Initiative Rooftop Solar Challenge, is streamlining and standardizing solar processes across the country to ultimately provide new solar market access to ten million people nationwide. To spur the adoption of solar energy in regions and communities, the National Association of Regional Councils (NARC) created the Solar Ready II website. This website is a great resource for city planners and managers, community developers, utility managers, and other public works officials interested in solar energy. The solar best management practices webpage offers over 30 resources ranging from zoning code improvements, solar access ordinances, building code improvements, streamlined and standardized permits and fees, financing, and much more. Each resource links to additional information and in-depth examples.

The resources found on the BMPs’ page are categorized by three main sections: Planning Improvements, Process Improvements, and Financing.


Planning improvements codify and emphasize a jurisdiction’s support of a building owner’s right to use solar. Removing local ordinance barriers, adopting facilitating codes, and enabling solar access in new developments fosters a community that supports individual choice. There are several planning improvement resources that public works officials can use to bolster solar energy adoption, including the American Planning Association’s Integrating Solar Energy in Local Plans. This resource examines different approaches used to integrate solar energy into planning, and breaks down common, comprehensive, subarea, and functional plans to demonstrate how to incorporate solar. It also provides examples of jurisdictions that have successfully met goals, changed policies, and taken action to support simple or complex solar initiatives within a community.


Process improvements are one of the fastest and most effective means to facilitating solar installation. Streamlining the permitting process, offering a centralized location for information that clearly explains the process, standardizing permit fees, and pre-qualifying plans and installers will make the process clear and seamless. Implementing solar energy can be an overwhelming task for a community that is not familiar with the process. The Mid-America Regional Council’s Solar Permit Checklist can assist installers, construction officials, planners, and others involved in the installation process. This resource explains the purpose and benefits of having a solar permit checklist, kinds of questions city officials should include, and examples of checklists cities currently have in place.


Financing options are key to increasing solar capacity since many communities still face high up-front costs for solar development. Evaluating local soft costs, engaging lenders, and launching Solarize campaigns are just a few of the numerous mechanisms communities can use to help make solar energy more affordable and accessible. In particular, Solarize campaigns have become an increasingly popular financing strategy. The Solarize strategy allows groups of homeowners and businesses to work together to collectively negotiate lower rates, and overcome the financial and logistical barriers to solar installation. The NREL Solarize Guidebook provides information on how to create a Solarize campaign in your community, including planning templates to initiate the campaign.  


There has never been a better time to start investing in solar energy. New approaches, resources, falling prices, and improved technologies are making solar the most affordable it has been in history. In 2013, the U.S. installed over 10 GW of solar, which is enough to power nearly 7.5 million homes. The resources found on the Solar Ready II website strive to simplify the process for cities, so that they can capitalize on this growing industry.  By implementing solar best management practices in their communities, cities will be able to take action on solar in a more cost and time efficient manner.


To learn more about available resources and Solar Ready II, please visit www.narc.org/solarready/ .  

Guest Blogger:  Mia Colson, MPAProgram Analyst , National Association of Regional Councils. 

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