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Prioritizing Utility Operations and Maintenance Activities Improves Financial Prudence and Produces Other Benefits

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Securing adequate funding for water and wastewater utility operations and maintenance (O&M) is challenging in normal times. The challenge grows in a financial downturn. Systematic prioritization of a utility's activities can establish their relative importance, which is powerful in communicating with policy makers and customers. The process can produce other benefits, as well.

When utilities request increased funding from higher rates, a common question is, “Why do you need this money?” This is especially evident when additional programs are proposed. A sound business plan and a reasoned priority for the range of activities—existing and proposed—are effective tools to demonstrate to policy makers that utility management is being responsible in its recommendations, especially for funding. A clear and documented approach can also reassure customers that their money is being spent responsibly.

Another benefit of a conscious approach to prioritization is the increased interaction among staff. Engaging a broad range of utility staff in a prioritization project improves mutual understanding of the work that is accomplished in other parts of the organization. It is common that little is known about what goes on in other parts of an organization, which leads to lack of appreciation. When participants from all parts of the organization get involved, they get to hear what goes on in other areas, understand why it's important, and develop a greater appreciation for the work performed by others. It also points out opportunities to improve ongoing communications.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 January 2012

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