Achieving a 26 Percent Reduction in Annual O&M Costs Through Reliability Centered Maintenance

Aeration tanks in a sewage treatment plant

A ten-year-old tribal wastewater and water distribution facility in California was experiencing design issues and early asset failures. In addition, the facility owner was concerned that the external contract Operations and Maintenance (O&M) firm responsible for managing the facility was overstaffing, and yet there was an overall low level of service, with poor maintenance and housekeeping being the most obvious examples. Because these combined issues were negatively affecting profitability and performance, the facility required a solution to help optimize its O&M program.


The challenges faced by this particular wastewater and water distribution facility included:

  • Reactive maintenance strategy resulting in overstaffing
  • Design issues, including lack of adequate redundancy of critical systems
  • Too frequent and too early failure of assets
  • High O&M costs

The first challenge directly relates to facility management. Oftentimes, facilities operate reactively: When an incident occurs, facilities spring into corrective action. Because “reactive” situations call for all hands on deck, reactively managed facilities usually end up overstaffing in order to quickly contain and correct recurring unplanned issues and emergencies. In theory, overstaffing may help to mitigate unexpected issues; however, over the long-term, overstaffing is an inefficient use of resources and a financial sinkhole. Rather than functioning reactively, facilities should seek to proactively manage risk, helping to optimize costs and resources.