In 2008, the EPA, six industry associations, and 16 utilities began developing a comprehensive framework for managing water and wastewater operations as proactively as possible.
Effective Utility Management (EUM) identifies 10 attributes common to the best-run operations. A free interactive EUM Primer at www.watereum.org walks utility managers through establishing their operation’s baseline status for each and formulating a strategy for those most in need of improvement.
However, in some cases, performance measurements are stated only in general terms. There also was no way in the primer for managers to compare current and target performance in order to gauge their utility’s progress and identify gaps.
To address these issues, the Water Research Foundation (WRF) funded Performance Benchmarking for Effectively Managed Water Utilities. This research project builds on the primer by:
- Identifying practice areas and performance metrics for each attribute; Developing a benchmarking framework and assessment methodology; and
- Developing a tool for comparing performance against targets.
Twenty-five of the 40 water and wastewater utilities that participated in the research project helped test the free Excel benchmarking tool, framework, and user guidance. After their feedback was incorporated, these items were posted in the public section of WRF’s website. EPA and industry associations that developed the primer provided further continuity by serving as advisers to the WRF project.
The tool was released in early 2014. Virtually all — about 90% — of the utilities that tested it report that it helps identify and address performance gaps. Many reconvened and shared their experiences at a day-long workshop during the International Water Association conference in May 2015.
A panel of experts also discussed how other benchmarking protocols might be incorporated. An EPA representative described efforts to refresh the primer based on utility feedback. Workshop presentations are available and a summary report.
Next Page: From concept to reality: working the tool