“We take a very methodical and educated approach to capital planning,” said Wendy Barnett, President of Great Basin Water Co. (GBWC) “While both customers and GBWC would like to see projects completed as soon as possible, there is a very regulated process we must undertake.”
Updating and maintaining a water and wastewater system that was mostly built in the 1970’s is an ongoing process for the GBWC team in Spring Creek. GBWC purchased the water and wastewater system in Spring Creek in December of 1996 from MCO Properties, who built it in the mid 1970’s. The Spring Creek subdivision was originally separated into four tracts 100, 200, 300, and 400. When the system was installed, it was at a substandard for today’s requirements, and from the beginning GBWC inherited pre-existing issues. GBWC has been mitigating these deficiencies since the purchase of the system.
Major capital improvements are a component of the continual process to maintain an aging system. When GBWC analyzes projects that need to be done, there is a specific process to be followed. As a regulated utility, capital improvement projects must be approved by the Public Utilities Commission of Nevada (PUCN). Part of the process to get projects approved by the PUCN is to apply for an Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) every three years.
In 2004, a master plan IRP was developed that called for an investment of $200 million in maintenance and repairs over 20 years, to bring the system up to today’s standards. That master plan had to be revised to a more reasonable and attainable goal of $25,000,000 over 20-years. In the 2006 IRP, the PUCN approved $8,000,000 in projects. Projects completed from the 2006 IRP addressed issues such as insufficient fire flows in all tracts and frequent power outages resulting in water interruptions in all tracts.
Another ongoing project to help keep system interruptions to a minimum and address reliability, is continual replacement of main service lines. The large pumps that feed the system can overpower the size of the main service lines resulting in breaks. Water storage in all tracts is also an issue that is being addressed. Since the change in the EPA regulations on arsenic levels, GBWC has focused on arsenic remediation as an ongoing capital project.
“To maximize the useful lives and functionality of our assets, GBWC follows a set of internal preventative maintenance guidelines,” said James Eason, Vice President of Operations.
In order to assess the urgency of projects, GBWC follows the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) Asset Management 10-Box Framework to evaluate all aspects of the system. Through this asset management plan GBWC is trying to prolong the life of the assets that are part of the system and therefore spread the cost of capital improvements over a longer period.
GBWC has implemented a monitoring and maintenance protocol to evaluate the many different assets that are part of the water system. For example, when a well is undergoing rehabilitation, all available procedures to clean both mechanical and non-mechanical parts to the well are utilized. Throughout the cleaning process there may be parts that need to be replaced. On the other hand, if a well needs a specific repair, may be necessary to bring the well back online after some part of it failed. A repair can also turn into a rehabilitation if during the repair process it is determined that cleaning is necessary for the efficiency of the well. These are just some examples of the differences that can decide the urgency of a capital improvement project.
“By implementing the asset management framework, GBWC aims to take a proactive approach instead of a reactive approach toward asset failure. GBWC staff believes the best defense against emergencies is to mitigate them through routine inspections, routine equipment maintenance, comprehensive sampling plans, security checks, usage checks, and communication. In the event of emergencies such as a natural disaster or a man-made event, the best response to a catastrophic interruption of service is to be prepared,” Eason said.
Look for Part 3 – “From Ground to Faucet – How Do I Get My Water?”, next month. For more information, visit GBWC online at: https://www.myutility.us/greatbasinwaterco.