Office of Water Publishes Planning for Sustainability: A Handbook for Water and Wastewater Utilities

For the past several years, EPA, states and utilities have been undertaking a number of programs to help ensure the long-term sustainability of water infrastructure – both drinking water and wastewater. A key componenthas been to promote the adoption of practices that will help these utilities plan and effectively manage their infrastructure and operations to ensure sustainability and develop and maintain the necessary technical, financial, and managerial capacity to do this planning. These efforts act in support of effective utility management and include the Safe Drinking Water Act’s Capacity Development Program, and training and technical assistance on advanced asset management and energy management.

The Sustainability Handbook is intended to provide information about how to enhance current planning processes by building in sustainability considerations. It is designed to be useful for various types and scales of planning efforts, such as:

• Long-range integrated water resource planning

• Strategic planning

• Capital planning

• System-wide planning to meet regulatory requirements (e.g., combined sewer overflow upgrades and new stormwater permitting requirements)

• Specific infrastructure project planning (e.g., for repair, rehabilitation, or replacement of specific infrastructure)

This offers a system-wide approach to planning that can drive a strategic shift from a project-by-project focus to one of utilities as systems. It can drive greater consideration of a utility’s role within the community or watershed and open up opportunities to achieve water quantity and quality objectives. Many water infrastructure decisions share interdependencies with housing, transportation, and other infrastructure, requiring collaboration or pursuit of coordinated strategies to optimize these investments. A system-wide approach involves utilities looking “beyond the fence line” to include community institutions, and the implementation of projects outside the utility’s direct span of control. There is also an opportunity to discuss collaborative partnerships with other municipal departments and with neighboring utilities to share information and services, or to plan on a regional basis.

You may view or download a copy of this document by going to the Office of Water sustainability website at and scrolling down to the “New and Noteworthy” box.  You may also search by the document publication number:  EPA-832-R-12-001.



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