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Water: Sustainable Infrastructure

Effective and Sustainable Water Utility Management


Effectively managing all aspects of operations is critical for all utilities, regardless of size or location, in order to ensure their long-term sustainability and to keep the communities they serve strong, safe, and sustainable.

Since 2008, EPA has been working collaboratively with six national organizations that support drinking water and wastewater utilities to promote effective utility management (EUM) based on a series of Attributes of Effectively Managed Water Sector Utilities (Attributes) Exit EPA Disclaimer. Much of this work has been targeted at medium and larger utilities that have seen significant benefits from using EUM to improve their operations. Additional information about this initiative is located at www.watereum.org Exit EPA Disclaimer.

Building on the success of this effort, in 2013, EPA and the Rural Utilities Service (RUS) at the U.S. Department of Agriculture developed two important tools targeted to rural and small water and wastewater systems: the Rural and Small Systems Guidebook to Sustainable Utility Management, and the Workshop in a Box. Both draw heavily from the results of four pilot workshops with managers of rural and small systems co-sponsored by EPA and USDA. The Rural and Small Systems Guidebook (PDF) (41 pp, 2.2MB, About PDF) provides rural and small systems with a series of steps to help them assess their operations based on key management areas that align closely with the attributes. The Workshop in a Box (PDF) (31 pp, 2.1MB, About PDF) and supplemental materials help systems and service providers conduct workshops on their own, based on the approaches used in the pilot workshops described above.

Attributes and Key Management Areas
  • Product Quality
  • Employee and Leadership Development
  • Financial Viability
  • Community Sustainability
  • Stakeholder Understanding and Support
  • Customer Satisfaction
  • Operational Optimization
  • Operational Resiliency
  • Infrastructure Stability
  • Water Resource Adequacy

These tools provide utility managers and staff with useful, concise reference points to help them improve organization-wide performance. They use a comprehensive management framework related to operations, infrastructure, customer satisfaction, community sustainability, natural re­source stewardship and financial viability.

EPA and USDA have recently released a report documenting the accomplishments to date under this important initiative. The report, entitled Making a Difference for Rural and Small Utilities (PDF), (12 pp, 1.7MB, About PDF) provides information, testimonials, and other examples of the ways in which this initiative is helping small utility managers improve the management of their operations and move toward sustainability.

Tools to Implement Effective Utility Management

Medium and Larger Systems

Rural and Small Systems

Looking to the Future

Through its Clean Water and Safe Drinking Water Infrastructure Sustainability Policy, EPA will continue to encourage utilities to use the various tools listed above to pursue effective utility management leading to sustainable operations and infrastructure.

EPA will also continue to work closely with USDA, technical assistance providers, and various other stakeholders to promote the use of the tools both agencies have developed for rural and small systems.

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