How to avoid a water crisis in your municipality

5 minutes

Have you ever lost clean drinking or washing water to your house? I have vivid memories of a time when my kids were young, and our water-well pump failed: we were without water for more than a week. It was a very tough time for my family. Imagine your city without reliable drinking, washing and flushing water for an indefinite period!  

How does something like this happen? In most cases, it’s the addition of 30+ years of deferred maintenance and staffing shortages combined with several severe weather-related events over a shortened period that can render water and sewer plants in near complete shutdown. The impacts can be infinite and vary in scale. Think little to no water pressure, boiling requirements, virtual school for kids and much more disruption to the entire community. There is no easy fix here and unfortunately the best long-term solution is a complete overhaul or even rebuilding of those plants. There is some hope; the funds from recent infrastructure legislation can help in implementing new resources to repair failing infrastructure. 

How can you prevent municipal water or waste-water crisis? 

Create a preventive maintenance culture and preserve your assets from further deterioration 

Many water and waste-water treatment facilities are older and deteriorating. Waiting until a pump, complete pump station, distribution network or other areas fail before addressing maintenance is a losing battle. Conversely – the old phrase “an ounce of preventive is worth a pound of cure” is the right plan. For most operations managers and teams, there simply are not enough hours in the day to get all the work done.  

Utilizing CMMS (computerized maintenance management system) will create more time as efficiencies kick in.

Start with basic project manager (PMs) on your critical assets. In the event of water or waste-water treatment failure, several critical pumps fail due to weather events, creating a cascading and extremely disruptive failure of the whole system. If you catch those problems with pumps (or any asset) when they are minor, there is less potential for major disruption -proving that easily performed routine preventive maintenance is key.  

Maximize your team by working smarter, not harder 

Time and time again, staffing issues are reported in conjunction with larger system disruptions. Team challenges are rampant everywhere (aging workforce, skills gap, “great resignation”, etc.). A CMMS has numerous abilities to allow your team to “work smarter, not harder”. This doing-less-with-more mentality does not mean overworking your team. A CMMS will show you the most critical work orders, in the properly prioritized order, suggesting the best people, teams or contractors with the right availabilities to tackle the job. The result in this superior work order and team management will have the same results as adding more people (which is tough to find and much more expensive). 

Asset Essentials Team Management Work Chart Example
Use modern IoT sensors to drive predictive maintenance 

Catching problems when they are small before expensive, disruptive unplanned downtime is essential. Pumps – ever present in water and waste-water operations – are a great example. Cavitation – one of the leading causes of pump failures – can be detected very early by sensing anomalies in vibration. Easily attach an Internet of Things (IoT) sensor that can wirelessly, automatically detect vibration, temperature, pressure or other metrics indicating potential asset problems. A work order will automatically be created, and the team notified. Imagine the problem-solving implications! Problems can be identified “predictively” based on the condition of the asset, known as condition-based monitoring).

IoT Sensor - Example
Make intelligent, data-driven decisions

You cannot fix what you cannot measure. Knowing your “bad actors” will allow for focused remedies. For example, as you enter your work orders into your CMMS, you can indicate the affected asset, source of the problem, remedy code and much more. This will allow you to later examine the source of downtime and other disruptive issues. Add key performance indications (KPIs), analytic reporting and other resources to set goals and see progress. Without a CMMS, you are “flying blind”. With a properly implemented CMMS you have all the information you need to make intelligent, data-driven decisions. 

CMMS pays off 

These are challenging economic times and budgets are stretched thin. A CMMS is an investment but will pay off immensely and very quickly. Imagine if your water facility has simple IoT sensors on pumps with a well-functioning CMMS? You will know about these potential issues well in advance, meaning likely warded off a crisis.  

Brightly Asset Essentials™ CMMS is a key part to getting ahead of your water plant’s related facility and asset deterioration. It allows you to manage maintenance and related operations including facility and asset management, work order management (preventive and reactive), spare-parts management, safety and compliance, analytics and more. Asset Essentials runs in the cloud and on any device, so it is available anywhere and anytime. And Brightly’s Smart Assets IoT platform bridges your facilities and assets with your CMMS using a large library of easy-to-deploy sensors. 

Catching problems early really makes a difference. Data from Brightly clients shows that work order expense has a 5-fold increase if caught very late. A work order that would cost you $1 if caught early costs $5 if you wait till disruptive, budget-killing, maintenance-backlog-generating downtime -not to mention the dramatic rise in capital expenditures due to prematurely retired assets. Do the math: a CMMS pays off quickly.

PF Curve Graph

Water crises are tragic, but avoidable. Our hope at Brightly is that we can help prevent these major disruptions. We are here to help your organization create a preventive-maintenance culture through implementing a CMMS. The bottom line: It is an investment with serious payback. Let’s help you and your asset manager look like heroes to your fellow municipality teammates.