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Fernando Pasquel

Vice President, National Director – Stormwater and Green Infrastructure

A risk-based approach to save money and enhance resilience requires new stormwater-specific digital tools and national guidance.

Authors’ note: Our initial plan for this blog was to explore advanced asset management’s (AAM) value to stormwater and how organizations could maximize it using lessons learned in the water and wastewater sectors. Now, as we write from our home offices amidst the COVID-19 outbreak, we are reminded of the need for AAM solutions resilient to changing conditions.


All eyes on stormwater

Stormwater assets traditionally take a backseat to water and wastewater systems, but they play critical roles in resilience planning and implementation. Effective stormwater management enhances the health of our water resources and can be a catalyst for economic development in urban areas.

Thankfully, the water sector is ramping up efforts to optimize stormwater management. Arcadis is supporting several groups that are taking measures to thoroughly examine and provide guidance around stormwater assets:

  • The Water Environment Federation (WEF) Stormwater Institute recently sent out a needs assessment survey to collect data that will allow The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) to include stormwater in its 2021 Infrastructure Report Card – a first for stormwater.
  • The Environmental Protection Agency’s Stormwater Infrastructure Funding Task Force recently completed a study to identify funding options for stormwater infrastructure construction, operation and maintenance, which it will send to Congress this spring.
  • The Water Research Foundation and WEF Stormwater Institute are collaborating on a research project to develop national stormwater asset management guidance.
  • Volunteers from WEF and ASCE are developing a manual of practice for Operation and Maintenance of Stormwater Controls, including a chapter on asset management.

With stormwater in the spotlight, now is the time to maximize its value using advanced asset management (AAM). Applying the AAM lessons learned in other sectors can help us build a national stormwater asset management framework based in best practices, resilience goals, and stormwater assets’ unique needs.


Gaining value from AAM

Our AAM research highlights the value AAM provides to water and wastewater utilities. Unlike traditional approaches, it considers every asset and spend a utility/municipality manages. And rather than relying on historical standards, it equips teams with real-time data streams and advanced technology to optimize maintenance planning.

These solutions could not come at a better time for stormwater. Infrastructure is expanding and aging, creating an urgent need to improve the understanding and management of long-term costs.

AAM provides better insights by focusing on total expenditures (TOTEX), which combines capital expenditures (CAPEX) and operational expenditures (OPEX) to assess whole lifecycle costs of an asset. Instead of using asset age to prioritize replacements, organizations can optimize intervention schedules using preventive, predictive and prescriptive maintenance.

Replacing static historical data snapshots with real-time insights allows organizations to make investments based on real risk. Condition-based or reliability-centered maintenance generates OPEX savings (as both labor and asset performance are optimized) and CAPEX savings (as asset life is prolonged and replacement expenditures are deferred), driving down overall TOTEX.

Part of what makes AAM thrive is its emphasis on collaboration and integration. Typically, stormwater asset information is housed in disparate datasets across multiple platforms and databases (GIS, CMMS, hydrologic and hydraulic models, etc.). In addition, various departments (finance, engineering, planning, public works, operations, etc.) often apply different standards to asset identification, valuation, and lifecycle planning, which makes collaboration difficult.

AAM changes all of that. It allows teams to share real-time data on asset health and operations — for example, from remote meters, sensors, real-time controls, and other Internet of Things devices — and apply advanced analytics to immediately detect deviations in asset condition, predict future asset failures, analyze what-if scenarios, and prescribe optimal maintenance or replacement interventions.

Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT), for instance, conducted a statewide stormwater system inventory, GIS mapping, and condition assessment for more than 11,000 outfalls and 200,000 drainage structures as part of its MS4 Program. Given the magnitude of the data, it developed a Risk-Based Stormwater Asset Management methodology to rank and prioritize maintenance activities, and dashboards are being used not only to visualize asset management data, but also to track maintenance performance and stormwater permit compliance across districts statewide.

Though uptake of advanced, digitally enabled asset management tools and frameworks is still limited among U.S. utilities, the results from early adopters are promising: Digital asset investment planning and risk analysis tools have allowed utilities to reduce annual CAPEX by as much as 20%.


Stormwater’s unique aspects

While there are plenty of AAM techniques from water and wastewater that can be applied to stormwater, it does have unique features to account for.

Protocols and guidance for traditional assets (pipes, pump stations, catch basins, etc.) exist, but there is a need for more information on green infrastructure, stream restoration, and natural assets in general. With green infrastructure development accelerating, organizations need insights regarding new performance and maintenance needs. A bioswale, for example, has different pollutant removal mechanisms and maintenance requirements than a concrete underground stormwater chamber.

Probability and consequences of failure for these systems will certainly be different as well. Will the soil and filtering media of a bioretention facility drive failure? Will it be vegetation? Or, will it depend on the way stormwater discharges back to the system during intense storms?

Exploring potential answers to questions like these will allow us to identify the assets critical to performance and compliance, which will facilitate the development of effective TOTEX planning. AAM will also allow us to collect performance data of stormwater control measures and provide feedback to improve design approaches.

The first wave of evolved stormwater asset management is underway. Several agencies – New York City; Philadelphia; GDOT; Johnson City, Kan.; and Los Angeles, to name a few – are currently developing new programs. Coupling what they learn with the national assessment and guidance efforts will enhance our abilities to work proactively and cost-effectively.


Evolve ahead of disaster, not in response

Communities have historically been motivated to invest in infrastructure after facing the grim realities of a disaster. But the value of using AAM to build stormwater resilience proactively will strengthen our responses to challenges such as climate change and affordability.

We do not need to wait for epic failures or major disasters. We can get ahead of the steep stormwater funding and management curve now. Let’s do it!


Fernando Pasquel

Vice President, National Director – Stormwater and Green Infrastructure