CWEA Asset Management Primer: A Recap

Primer (noun prim·er\prī-mer) Any book that presents the most basic elements of any subject.

Water and wastewater utilities, consulting firms, and vendors from around the region gathered at the Anne Arundel County Department of Public Works (DPW) on April 19 to learn asset management basics. After 7 hours, several presentations, and much lively discussion, attendees agreed that the CWEA Complete Asset Management Primer was a great success! There was, however, no agreement on the correct pronunciation of the word primer. Is it pri-mer or prī-mer? The answer to that elusive question must remain for a future seminar.

The seminar was a continuation of the CWEA Asset Management Committee’s series of educational workshops. Targeted at asset management newcomers, the primer guided a packed house through the major steps in the asset management plan development process from beginning to end. The session was highlighted by hands-on breakout sessions to help illustrate and reinforce selected concepts, as well as stimulate lively discussion.

Asset Management Framework – Charlie Card (EBA Engineering, Inc.)

The seminar kicked-off with my discussion of industry drivers leading to the prevalence of asset management, such as a changing business environment and operating conditions, the need to do more with fewer resources, and the move from a reactive to proactive environment. I pointed out that reactive maintenance can be up to five times more costly than preventive maintenance.

Asset management allows utility managers to answer three fundamental questions:

1. What are your maintenance crews doing, where are they doing it, and why?
2. What capital projects should you be doing and when?
3. When should you repair vs. rehabilitate vs. replace assets?

These decisions typically account for about 80 percent of a utility’s annual expenditures.

I introduced the EPA Five Core Questions Framework and asset management definitions that the seminar was structured around. Just like it sounds, the EPA framework helps to answer the five core questions of asset management using best practices in a 10-step process.


EPA Five Core Questions Framework


Getting Started: Building an Asset Register – Alan Foster (KCI Technologies)

Armed with a solid understanding of the asset management framework, attendees were ready to get started. Alan Foster’s presentation discussed best practices for building an asset inventory, developing an asset hierarchy, and populating an asset register. We discussed the benefits of organizing assets to facilitate collection and aggregation of data at various levels in the hierarchy.

Alan clarified and defined the terms “inventory,” “hierarchy,” and “register.” He pointed out that an asset inventory is simply a list of assets, whereas a hierarchy is the structure that organizes assets to show how they are related to each other. Filling out attribute information for each asset results in a complete asset register.

Alan rounded out the presentation with a discussion of how GIS can be leveraged for asset management analysis. Attendees then formed into groups for an asset register building exercise.

Example Vertical Asset Hierarchy


Risk Management – Ed Shea (Greeley & Hansen)

It is often said that risk is the heart of asset management. Ed Shea’s presentation focused on building a Business Risk Exposure (BRE) framework that includes assigning consequence of failure (COF) on a Triple-Bottom-Line (TBL) basis and likelihood of failure (LOF) scores to individual assets. He illustrated methods of prioritizing asset repair, rehabilitation, and replacement using risk and presented risk mitigation strategies.

Ed’s presentation was followed by a hands-on breakout session where attendees were challenged to score the risk of hypothetical assets and brainstorm methods of mitigating that risk.


Triple Bottom Line Consequence of Failure


Putting it All Together: Developing an Asset Management Plan – Seth Yoskowitz and Mert Muftugil (GHD)

Building upon the previous presentations, Seth Yoskowitz and Mert Muftugil discussed how all the findings and recommendations of the asset management analysis are documented in an asset management plan. They reinforced that an asset management plan is ultimately a communications tool for justifying budget requests and telling the story of the assets.

Seth and Mert presented the required sections of an asset management plan with various options for organizing the information based on the organization’s needs. The presentation was followed by a hands-on work session where attendees designed their own plan table of contents.


30-year “Nessie Curve”


Case Studies

Special thanks go to those who volunteered to present case studies for utilities that have successfully implemented asset management practices, processes, and procedures:

  • Thora Burkhardt presented her asset management adventures with the City of Annapolis.
  • Ed Carpenetti (Louis Berger) presented on Baltimore County’s risk framework.
  • Mert Muftugil (GHD) presented on Vallejo Sanitary District, California.

And finally, thanks to Anne Arundel County DPW for graciously offering to host this event!

Khalid Qadwai, PE, PMP, is a senior project manager for EBA Engineering, Inc. He can be reached at 240.547.1141 or


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Khalid Qadwai