Reducing Utility Bills through Better Asset Maintenance

Thursday, December 17, 2015

The Tulsa Metropolitan Utility Authority (TMUA), like many of its peers, needed to identify revenue to replace its degrading system infrastructure. Over the years, the agency had become less effective, and while the water utility’s core services were strong, inefficient business processes had created stress points. The authority was looking at increasing water and wastewater bills, which would create hardships for lower-income households. It therefore began looking for ways to use performance management technology to link core utility services with support services.

Tulsa’s first pumping station was installed in 1904, and more than a century later, the TMUA needed to find the best way to provide high-quality utilities at an affordable rate for the next century. The agency’s main services – setting residential service rates for sewage and drinking water services, along with related capital improvement planning and maintenance – had become less effective. Support services had been consolidated, and engineering services were isolated from the utility authority, giving the TMUA no direct control over the business processes that were central to its performance. The agency was eager to implement better business processes but lacked the technology it needed to do so.

An audit identified the areas the agency should concentrate on, and it recommended a public-private partnership (P3) to address the funding shortages. In response, the city contracted with a consulting firm to conduct a comprehensive organizational assessment it could use to determine the best path forward.

Instead of focusing solely on the utility’s capital, financial, and operational needs, the city chose instead to conduct a far-reaching assessment that included governance, operational performance; organizational structure; management, financial and legal conditions; capital needs; and public policy issues that would affect the delivery of sewer and water services. The assessment determined that performance and asset management technology, coupled with operating and capital program improvements, could provide results similar to outsourcing or privatization. In fact, it was determined that the performance management capabilities of modern asset maintenance technology could potentially reduce future rate increases by 20% to 30% over projections.

For more information on Tulsa’s water utility, click here.

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