While many folks are shifting into late-summer/early fall activities such as back-to-school and looking forward to the start of football season, municipal public works and storm & wastewater management officials have other things on their minds.
These professionals, whose performance over the next year may determine a great deal about the physical health, safety and comfort of those in their service areas, are thinking ahead to the year’s end. This time is always fraught with the pressures of making the best decisions for their systems and constituents, when it comes to planning the next year’s projects, expenditures and acquisitions.
It’s All About The Data
Much of this decision-making takes place only after analysis of earlier collection system pipe inspection results. Depending on the severity of what’s going on in any given pipeline, they may create up to a ten-year plan for their system segments most in need. To make sound, evidence-based decisions, they need to have solid, accurate data about real conditions from their inspection programs.
Knowing how best to allocate their always-limited resources requires accurate PACP coding of defects and rich, thorough data about every facet of their underground assets. This knowledge is critical to enabling city managers to adequately fund time-critical rehabilitation work, while nipping any growing problems in the bud, while they’re still relatively inexpensive and manageable.
The way many larger cities handle these inspection and rehab tasks is with their own dedicated crews. The work of those crews will directly reflect the value of the pipeline inspection equipment and data collection, analysis and reporting software they use.
The first step in figuring out a budget is asking the right questions about the current situation and laying out specific time-and-budget-oriented goals. These questions will establish the figures needed to estimate time and cost. They include, but may not be limited to:
- How much work needs to be done, and what kind of work?
- How old are the lines and when was the last time maintenance was done?
- What is the existing capacity of involved system segments? Do they need to be upgraded?
- Have there been SSOs recently, or in the past?
- Are you operating under a consent decree? If so, it will mandate what you must get done each year. This may force your hand in hiring more staff, more area contractors, and/or buying new equipment to meet those quotas.
Bringing Home the Data
In data collection, it’s important that the municipality be able to import any reports generated during inspections for the city. This way, you can send it off to the federal government to show progress on the work required by any consent decree.
You want to avoid “data islands” — where you have data in two or more different software packages, but your programs can’t talk to each other. It’s critical that engineers be able to access all inspection report data at once. This helps them decide where their budgets will work hardest. Make sure all your data management tools have the ability to share data about the overall health of your entire system.
One important aspect of data management that too often gets neglected until there’s a disaster is data backup. It’s critical to back up all the data you generate, both text and imagery, during your inspections. If not, you may end up having to do them over, and no one has the budget to cover such needless duplication of effort. Instead, contact your system administrator from the get-go and discuss your backup needs, so together you can find
Budgeting can become a little complicated for cities under a consent decree. You may want to take a look at the amount of work you must do to meet its requirements, on top of servicing your usual maintenance program. Obviously, this puts added stress on funding sources. In our next post, we’ll take a look at the many sources you might consult to look for additional funding to supplement your regular maintenance budget.