“Out of Sight and Out of Mind!” We’ve all heard the saying. In fact, many of us have used it ourselves. After all, in many circumstances, it’s not a bad philosophy to live by. Sometimes, we really are better off leaving well enough alone.
When it comes to aging water infrastructure, however, the age-old adage no longer holds true. So far, our inclination to leave well enough alone (often an excuse for shoving seemingly insurmountable issues under the rug- or in this case underground) has far from served us well.
Historically, we’ve relied on a reactive approach for managing our water infrastructure. When something breaks, we fix it. What we need to implement is a proactive mentality–we need to stop letting things break, or at least not as quickly as they have been.
If we apply a proactive approach to asset management, by repairing a utility before it has a chance to fail, we stretch out the life of our water infrastructure, improving the environment and, ultimately, saving resources and money.
The key to proactive asset management is knowing when to address any particular issue. If we replace an asset too early, we’ve wasted money. On the other hand, if we replace an asset too late, we end up spending too much. What we need to aim for is a balance between sustainability and affordability—stretching out the life of our assets and understanding where and when it’s possible to save money.
One look at the various hot spots all over the US is all it takes to grasp the gravity of this trillion dollar issue. Cities across the nation are starting to experience the effects of water service loss and sewer overflow events. It may not be completely broken yet, but our aging water, wastewater and storm drainage infrastructure certainly needs our attention. Now.