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Water: Sustainable Infrastructure

Sustainable Water Sector Systems


Managing for Sustainable Water Systems


Effective utility management practices are the foundation for building and sustaining the technical, managerial and financial capacity of the drinking water, wastewater and stormwater systems that make up the water sector. While infrastructure sustainability is a major part of this challenge, management practices must address all aspects of a system’s operations and maintenance for it to be on a path to sustainability.

EPA’s efforts to promote and maintain sustainable water systems are anchored in two widely accepted management frameworks:

The existing Effective Utility Management (EUM) framework focuses on the outcomes utilities across the water sector should strive to achieve. Building on 
this framework, EPA has just released  Moving Toward Sustainability: Sustainable and Effective Practices for Creating Your Own Water Utility Roadmap (PDF) (52 pp, 973K, About PDF). This document provides utilities of various sizes with a series of 
proven and effective practices that can help them achieve the outcomes embodied 
in EUM. Developed with extensive input from utility managers across the country, 
this document is an important new supplement to the well accepted EUM approach. 

To further help utilities understand and use this document, EPA has launched a national webinar series to highlight the efforts of leading utilities as they implement practices consistent with the "Roadmap" document. 

The next webinar will take place in June 2015, focusing on the topic of Stakeholder Understanding and Support. EPA is also working with a small group of utilities to document their efforts to use the "Roadmap" document in their actual operations.

Another set of tools involves the use of Lean techniques. Lean is a business improvement approach focused on eliminating non-value added activity or "waste" using practical, implementation-based methods. Lean can help utilities achieve the outcomes embodied in the EUM Attributes. EPA has developed a Resource Guide to Effective Utility Management and Lean (PDF) (106 pp, 2.8MB, About PDF) based on input and examples from several utilities involved in both EUM and Lean. The guide is intended to be a bridging document that explains how these two important and complementary approaches can be used by utilities to reduce waste and improve overall efficiency and effectiveness. In November 2012, EPA also hosted a webinar on Effective Utility Management and Lean at Water-Sector Utilities.

EPA is also working with our partners in a number of areas that support the broader sustainability of water sector systems, including work focused on helping systems and communities address various climate adaptation and resiliency related challenges. Explore the links below to get more information about:

Planning for Sustainable Water Systems

Effective planning is essential for water and wastewater systems to manage their operations and infrastructure and ensure the sustainability of the communities they serve.  In recognition, EPA issued Planning for Sustainability: A Handbook for Water and Wastewater Utilities (PDF) (75 pp, 926K, About PDF). The handbook describes a number of steps utilities can undertake to enhance their planning processes to ensure that water utilities are sustainably managed using cost-effective life cycle analysis.
Developed after extensive consultation and input from utilities, states, and other stakeholders, EPA believes utilities that incorporate sustainability considerations into planning consistent with the steps in this handbook will realize many benefits because they will be able to better:
  • Optimize environmental, economic, and social benefits by setting goals and selecting projects through a transparent and inclusive process with the community;
  • Consistently assess a range of alternatives that address both utility and community goals; and
  • Enhance the long-term technical, financial, and managerial capacity of the utility. 

Planning for Sustainability Webcast Series for Water and Wastewater Utilities

Effective planning is essential for utilities to sustainably manage their operations and ensure that water infrastructure investments are cost effective over their life cycle, resource efficient, and support other relevant community sustainability goals. EPA is hosting a series of webinars built around the core elements of its 2012 handbook, "Planning for Sustainability: A Handbook for Water and Wastewater Utilities" (PDF) (75 pp, 926K, About PDF). 

Building on the information in the Planning Handbook, EPA has issued a supplemental guide to help utilities use a range of specific criteria when analyzing infrastructure alternatives during planning. Making the Right Choices: Using Sustainability Criteria for Water Infrastructure Decision Making (PDF) (51 pp, 1.1MB, About PDF) takes utilities through a series of six basic steps to help them use these criteria on a level playing field as they analyze various infrastructure alternatives.

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