A final report from a major UKWIR collaborative study is hoping to provide frameworks for how the sector can create future value through asset management.
Deriving value from water decision making
A “step-change” is needed in asset management across the water sector is needed to help measure value across a broader range of indicators.
That’s according to Carol Cairns, strategic planning manager at utility Northumbrian Water.
This was a comment made on a final report from a major collaborative study from UK Water Industry Research (UKWIR) into how the sector can create future value through asset management.
While traditional assets remain in place, natural solutions and digital assets are now being delivered alongside.
Cairns said that there is a need to “derive value from decision making” to understand the value of asset management interventions and investments.
According to the UKWIR report, when it comes to defining value, indicators other than financial should also be considered – for example, environmental and social values.
We all want to see the sector make a positive impact on the environment.
As such, a library of 157 value measures have been developed, encompassing natural, social and human elements, in addition to the more traditional financial indicators.
This reflects what is happening in other industries, where it has been shown that innovative reporting frameworks drive diversity of thinking about what is important to an organisation.
Cairns added: “For most water companies, while traditional assets remain in place, natural solutions and digital assets are now being delivered alongside. In addition, there are well established educational and social outreach programmes, which derive value – but how can that be measured using traditional planning or cost benefit approaches?”
Creating a standardise water planning framework
The project aimed to create a standardised, evidence-based asset planning framework that the whole industry could adopt. Three UKWIR sub-projects were merged, which looked at asset health, scenario planning and value frameworks.
Report authors included engineering consultancy Atkins, technology company Ovarro, University of Manchester and asset management consultancy AssetResolutions.
Water industry services are under increasing pressures, with a more “socially aware customer base.
The final report is designed for water companies, regulators, suppliers, consultants and contractors.
The aim is to help bring consistency to decision-making and lead to greater confidence that systems will be ready to respond. It will also mean that when water companies submit their business plans to regulators, they are all working under a consistent framework.
By implementing the frameworks, it is hoped companies can gather “rich” insight and best practice to share with the rest of the sector.
Does asset management need to change?
Water industry services are under increasing pressures, with a “more socially aware customer base”.
Cairns believes that asset management decisions cannot be made in the future as they have done in the past.
Otherwise, there is a risk that the sector will not meet the high expectations of our customers and regulators; nor will we address environmental challenges or deliver our climate and net zero commitments”.
Concluding, Cairns said: “We all want to see the sector make a positive impact on the environment, rather than a detrimental one, so being able to quantify the benefits of repairing a treatment works or building a new pumping station is really important reputationally and to build trust and engagement with our customers.”
Water sector stakeholders are invited to steer the next phase of UKWIR’s work on asset management. More information can be found here.