How do we decide which pipes to replace? Which pump station needs updating? Where are we likely to see new houses or development in the next 20 years? How much funding do we have available?
Capital Improvement Plan
All of those questions – and more – come in to play each year as we plan our work and set our budget. Some of the answers come from our Capital Improvement Plan (CIP). The plan was completed over three years, and involved a consulting engineering firm to evaluate the utility’s entire system. The review looked ahead for 20 years while considering
- Evaluation and assessment of existing treatment, distribution, and storage facilities
- Existing and projected water use
- Current and potential regulatory requirements
- Water main assessment and risk analysis
The CIP recommends changes/improvements for the short, intermediate and long term; these will guide us in prioritizing and funding pipe projects, system upgrades, and other items. The goals are to:
- Ensure long-term reliability of the system
- Improve operational efficiencies to develop long-term cost savings
- Ensure optimum water quality and availability of fire protection.
Setting priorities to address infrastructure issues means more than just the age of the pipe. It also involves the history of leaks on the line, any critical facilities served by the line, the availability of funding, other planned utility work in the area, needed improvements for water quality or fire flows (such as interconnecting dead-end lines), and possible future demands.
Show me the Money
We also must weigh the financial impact of infrastructure work on our customers. If we were to replace all the outdated pipe today, the cost would be $90,000,000 (our current annual budget is $6,000,000). And that $90,000,000 only addresses water lines, not other facilities that require renewal.
There is no question that water rates have to continue to rise to address critical water needs. The good news is that our current rates are the 20th lowest of 152 Maine water utilities.