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RMW - May 2017

ROCKY MOUNTAIN WATER MAY 2017 | 11 FEATURE create and subsequently protect this investment. Today’s utility has reached a critical juncture in which much information is available, but unfortunately, it’s not always captured effectively, if at all. The organizational changes taking place in utilities today are rapid and alarming—baby boomer retirement (knowledge walking out the door), personnel changes, fundamental business practices, and lack of resources are all compounded when addressing and updating the drawing records for your utility. That’s why these drawings should be treated as an asset and not left forgotten in a storage closet. What kind of drawings are we talking about? They can include water and wastewater treatment plants, raw water systems, water distribution systems, and sewer collection systems. All of these are, or have been, considered critical infrastructure. What is the importance of these documents? They play roles in: • Asset management; • Utility operations and maintenance; • Location of assets (e.g., underground pipes); • Worker safety; • Regulatory health responses (e.g., boil orders); • Emergency safety plans for fires and floods; and • Response and shared communication needs after a disaster for your utility. Record keeping and drawing assets Water and sewer infrastructure drawings are records and should be treated as an asset. This means all city, town, and district documents should be handled with equal care, in which there are filing requirements (e.g., regulatory), a central filing system, and dedicated personnel to maintain the records system. Most record systems also use a file structure that allows for ease of retrieval, a documented and understandable filing protocol, and backup systems to maintain and protect both paper and electronic documents. Infrastructure drawings, such as those for treatment plants, water lines, or sewer lines, need to be changed and updated over time. These types of drawings are different from building drawings that may stay unchanged for a much longer period of time. Treatment plants go through upgrades, expansions, and small (but important) additions; water lines are replaced with new material or valves added, and sewer lines are upsized and paralleled. This kind of information means the drawing documents cannot remain static or unchanged, or these documents become less and less useful in representing how the system actually works. Utilities spend an astonishing amount on infrastructure and the corresponding drawings. Therefore, utilities should be very motivated to maintain their return-on- investment (ROI). Today, utilities are protecting this ROI by different means, each best determined by the individual utility and its system needs. There is a need to capture knowledge that is rapidly leaving the industry as people retire and jobs change. If this knowledge isn’t captured, often it’s lost by the organization with no way to recover it. The industry also relies heavily on engineering consultants to complete projects. Although this work is necessary, having people outside the utility complete the work requires an effort to capture the knowledge before it’s lost. That may include having the consultant produce drawings, provide drawing files (e.g., paper, AutoCAD, and PDF files), inspection reports, pictures, and submittals collected during the design and construction processes. So is there a day-to-day ROI? Utility information must be accessed every day for a variety of reasons and by many stakeholders so they can do their jobs effectively and efficiently. The format of the information and how each stakeholder wants to use it is important to understand and address. Precautions should be taken at various levels to ensure that information about critical infrastructure is protected and secure from vandalism or other threats. Identify problems and acknowledge them How does a utility keep up with these changes and provide this information to all parties who need it? There’s no one right answer, but a method/system should be determined by a dedicated and deliberate process that involves top management and all stakeholders who could benefit from this information. A simple starting point may be to conduct


RMW - May 2017
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