Over the next five years, the City of San Diego Public Utilities Department (PUD) plans to spend more than $30 million on a comprehensive condition assessment program.

That investment represents much more than a commitment to aging infrastructure, however. It also symbolizes a significant change in operational philosophy from age-based, reactive asset management to a proactive process that considers the asset’s remaining useful life and risks to the overall system.

The program’s goal is twofold.

First: Optimize capital improvement expenditures. PUD projects are paid with a combination of cash reserves and long-term debt funding. A public works department that doesn’t know an asset’s remaining service life runs the risk of replacing infrastructure too soon, which wastes money and could cause unnecessary rate increases.

Second: improve responsiveness. Taxpayers are more involved than ever in public sector oversight, so public works managers are more accountable than ever. They need processes that are transparent, defensible, and sustainable.

PUD’s condition assessment model provides a planning tool that any public agency can use to:

  • Determine if an asset is aging more or less rapidly than expected.
  • Calculate and compare the investment required to extend the asset’s life via rehabilitation versus replacing it.

Next page: Rethinking ‘useful life’