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Asset management of three waters infrastructure: maintaining the hidden asset

The New Zealand Government is reviewing the three water services (drinking, waste and stormwater), with much of the water industry’s infrastructure aging and buried underground. Steve Haultain explains the critical importance of managing asset information to enhance quality and value.

Steve Haultain

by Steve Haultain

Associate, Asset Management

16 July 2019
water and data management


Managing water resources efficiently is critical for towns, cities and communities. The provision of the three water services (drinking, waste and stormwater) are closely interrelated with all impacting public health, the environment, economic development, and security.

Existing arrangements for the delivery of three waters services in New Zealand are complex. Regulatory responsibilities are shared across a mix of central government agencies, District Health Boards and regional authorities. The infrastructure is predominantly owned and operated by 67 different local authorities.

The Government is reviewing how to improve the regulation and supply arrangements of three waters and services to better support New Zealand’s well-being, health, safety and environment. It is expected that Cabinet will consider policy advice and proposals for new regulatory arrangements later in 2019.

Ensuring your asset information is useful and appropriate is vital to optimising value through improved asset management.

Regardless of the decisions made, recent events have made it clear that the asset management maturity of three waters infrastructure must be improved. This will become an important factor in future success. A key enabler of effective asset management is access to quality asset information.

The necessity of good asset information

The value of good asset data cannot be underestimated and should be viewed as an asset in its own right. Information that supports asset management activities also support other organisational processes and priorities and should not be viewed in isolation. 

Asset information informs decisions about how physical assets are managed for short-term operational purposes and for long-term strategic planning. The term covers all records of a physical asset, and may include attributes such as:

  • asset age, make, model, serial number and capacity
  • asset performance, condition and serviceability
  • future investment plans, process design information, operation and maintenance models
  • detailed work history of the asset
  • asset images, Geographic Information Systems (GIS), or Building Information Modelling (BIM)

Better management of asset information is critical to keeping abreast of asset performance, enabling more efficient and timely maintenance and investment decision making.

Experience shows that there is an increasing necessity for good asset information. Requirements are becoming more sophisticated, and the number of stakeholders relying on it is growing. This has resulted in a broadening complexity of collating and sharing information. This trend will only grow given the increasingly stringent regulation of utilities around the world, and a greater collective understanding of asset management risk.

Good asset information enables better decision making, such as determining the optimal maintenance or renewal frequency for an asset. That decision may be based on information regarding the asset’s location, condition, probability and consequence of failure, work option specifications and costs, constraints such as resource availability, and other business priorities such as compliance with regulatory requirements.

Fit-for-purpose asset information

Advisian has found that many asset-intensive industries do not have fit-for-purpose asset information. This is true for the water industry as well. In a 2014 report, the Office of the Auditor General concluded that local authorities have better and more reliable information about their above-ground assets than their below-ground assets. As a result, authorities are more likely to invest heavily in their road assets rather than their three-waters assets. The differentiating factor between these two types of assets was the knowledge base, and, therefore, confidence in the condition of the assets.

Asset information requirements for an organisation will vary and depend on size, nature of assets, and the overall asset management strategy. Information requirements will evolve over time and will differ across organisations. For the water industry, better information on assets will assist with minimising asset failure and driving improved quality performance. Such improvements also drive good health, safety and environmental outcomes.

Analyse, understand and use

Mature asset management takes information and analyses to understand assets and turn it into knowledge. Data is only good if it is analysed, understood and used.

The government review will likely change the way our three water services are delivered, which, in turn, will shine a spotlight on the need for better asset management. Knowledge of an asset will help us understand its ability to meet our performance objectives, and the investment required for it to continue meeting those objectives into the future.

Quality asset information helps you manage your risks and increase safety. With advanced data management technologies and deep technical expertise, Advisian is helping clients understand their assets to address risk management, strategy, and investment challenges of the present and the future.

Advisian has been providing asset management services to high-risk infrastructure sectors for many years. Although the asset information approaches of these sectors are reasonably mature, there are efficient and cost-effective ways for other sectors to catch-up. 

Just because your assets are hidden, doesn’t mean your data should be. How well do you know your assets?

For more information please contact Steve Haultain.

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