Water Journal : Water Journal March 2011
conference reviews water MARCH 2011 53 World Leaders Luke Meys, from New Zealand, is a Partner of the global consulting company, Opus International. He surveyed the asset management scene in both Australia and New Zealand -- both of which countries, for reasons of necessity, have become world leaders. In Australia, sustainability and its application to asset management is widely accepted, but in New Zealand it has been replaced by 'Financial Prudence', with zero funding from central government. Even so, a web-based manual for public entities is available. In his opinion, asset management is a wide range of skills, but for professionalism there is a need to shrink it to concepts, stressing 'brain before brawn' and whole-of-life costing. To sell the concept to a Board or Council, he suggested using the analogy of car ownership/maintenance to predict the future value. This theme was continued by Chris Champion, CEO of the Institute of Public Works Engineers Australia (some 2200 members). Councils once dealt mainly with roads but are now much wider spread, with some still responsible for water and sewerage. In the years the Institute has operated it has learned to focus on three actions: a national framework; provision of tools; and stressing the drivers. He applauded Engineers Australia's publication of Infrastructure Financial Management Guidelines, which among other things teaches engineers and accountants to speak the same language. Dealing as he does with Councils, Chris realised that the concept of 'stewardship' needed reinforcement, and a CD is now available that points out that the initial cost of an item is usually only 20 per cent of its whole-of-life cost. Workshops and spreadsheets from the Strategy Committee are now being used by both small and large Councils, and in the near future the Institute will be focussing on small and remote communities. Finally, among the drivers, he listed "The Law" -- meaning, managing assets to avoid liability in the future. A Wealth of Information The conference proceedings on the USB stick do not contain the above keynote addresses, but do feature a wealth of full papers. In one of these, in a session towards the end (and which should, perhaps, have been highlighted as a keynote), Andrew Sneesby from GHD outlined Sustainable Infrastructure Management Program Learning Environment (SIMPLE), a web-based asset management knowledge tool set hosted by the Water Environment Research Foundation (WERF). It is an intuitive and user-friendly set of on-line process and practice guidelines, templates and decision support tools designed for asset management practitioners. SIMPLE puts all the facets of sustainable asset management in a nutshell. It can "simplify and guide the development of effective Enterprise-wide Asset Management Plans, and provide practical implementation guidelines for agencies to assess and drive meaningful improvements in asset management for Water and Wastewater Infrastructure". (Readers without access to the conference proceedings are encouraged to visit www.werf.org. WSAA members have full access to the website). Other presenters covered various practical aspects. Papers dealing with the asset planning systems of water authorities ranging from Sydney Water and Melbourne Water down to country towns of less than 2000 inhabitants predominated, with many lessons to be learned. Perhaps the most important was the necessity to extract "information" from the thousands of "data points" that can accrue from condition monitoring, and a number of speakers outlined the processes and risk management software developed by their own organisations in order to guide decisions. Sydney Water has spent more than $60 million over the past 10 years in developing and calibrating models for both water and wastewater services. "Resilience Planning" has identified potential failures along with their consequences, thus enabling the ranking of needs for intervention. The virtual model enables them to stress the system on screen -- for example, population growth in specific zones -- and provide operator tools by simulating sewer chokes. Developers and consultants can log into the system. It has already repaid the investment by delaying for 15 years the need for a $300 million major pump station by rerouting flows. Melbourne Water has computerised its system into a sophisticated risk assessment format, based on the ability of any asset to meet re-defined levels of service into the future. At present the condition data is stored in a variety of locations, including Hansen and assorted Excel spreadsheets. The ultimate goal is to acquire the condition data continuously into a PHA Stature file system. In contrast, the plight of hundreds of small rural communities, some with only a hundred or so inhabitants, is typified by the lack of any skilled operators, and Aneurin Hughes from Cardno suggested that groups of such Councils could finance a roving technical team. A number of papers summarised various authorities' plans for adapting their assets to climate change impacts, from increased temperature, variance in rainfall and water demand, to sea level rise. The all too frequent non-compliance with auditing standards in Annual Reports was brutally criticised by David Edgerton, FCPA, APV Valuers, who maintained that true valuation and planning must reflect the reality of whole-of-life costs. Only a few papers dealt with the practical necessity of condition assessment, including trials of novel leak detection systems by Sydney Water, and experience with a relatively cheap first scan of sewers by a zoom camera lowered in the manholes, allowing better targeting of the more expensive tractor-mounted CCTV. The R & D projects in SCORe will help to predict corrosion zones and are covered in the SPN6 conference report on page 48. Donovan Marney, CSIRO, suggested that simple monitoring of corrosion products, for example, ferrous salts, in surrounding soils could help predict leakage and potential failure. The Author E A (Bob) Swinton is the long-time Technical Editor of Water Journal. He retired from the CSIRO many years ago and has been involved with the Journal ever since the first issue in 1974.
Water Journal April 2011