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Water Asset Management: Looking Back at a Glass Half Full, Looking Forward to a Glass Half Empty

Water Asset Management: Looking Back at a Glass Half Full, Looking Forward to a Glass Half Empty

TRC-2020 Presentation (34 minutes) 34:27 Minutes

by Heather Himmelberger, SW Environmental Finance Center

In the public sector, the U.S. began embracing asset management approximately 15 years ago when Australia and New Zealand began to show results with their asset management programs. While these mandated asset management, the U.S. started out with neither mandates, nor incentives. Asset management’s origins were exclusively voluntary, and the initial promotion of asset management was pushing a boulder uphill. There was push back from all sectors. Looking backwards from where we were then to where we are now shows a glass that is half full. We have states that have embraced asset management and are either incentivizing or mandating asset management. The federal government has developed various mandates and is requiring states to include asset management in their capacity development strategies under a new federal law.

While all of these advances are extremely gratifying to a practitioner such as this author, it is necessary to examine how far we still have to go. Many medium and smaller entities have not even begun the most rudimentary asset management practices – asset inventory and asset mapping. Many entities also continue to feel that “smaller entities can’t do asset management because it is too complicating.” These sentiments ignore the fact that these entities are already managing assets – they’re just doing it in an inefficient unsustainable way.

One of the major short-comings is adopting level of service goals. This portion of asset management is very important as it is difficult to manage assets efficiently when you don’t know what you want your assets to do. It is like driving down the highway without a road map and just letting the car turn wherever it wants. The current situation is a glass half empty. This talk will cover a brief history of where we were, where we are, and what we have left to do.