Ontario Water News

Ensuring Affordability: An Interview with Darla Campbell

When it comes to adopting innovative water infrastructure solutions, municipalities can find that procurement practices present a road block. On November 1, Darla Campbell of Dillon Consulting will join a panel of experts at Water Innovation in Action who will discuss best practices to help ensure that municipalities procure water infrastructure that is both affordable and sustainable. WaterTAP spoke with Campbell to learn more.

What is one best practice that municipalities can adopt for ensuring that their water and wastewater infrastructure is affordable?

When procuring new infrastructure, municipalities can incorporate life-cycle costing into their decision-making and selection process. Using this long-term approach, municipal councils and senior staff can select a project that offers the most cost-effective option over the full life of the infrastructure. However, if the costs to operate and maintain the infrastructure are not being taken into account, you’re only getting part of the picture. Without considering the operations and maintenance (O&M), which account for about 80% of the cost, you don’t know whether you’ve made the right decision for your community.

What are some barriers that make it difficult to adopt this best practice?

Existing purchasing by-laws can prevent municipal councils and senior staff from taking a life-cycle approach because these often require municipalities to work with the lowest bidder. When consultant selection is based on the lowest cost, the ability to design sustainable infrastructure is severely limited and probably not even considered in the scope of work. With engineering accounting for only 1 to 2% of the life-cycle cost, an expansion to the scope to include evaluation of O&M costs will enable the municipality to make asset selections based on life-cycle costing.

How are some of these barriers being addressed with current initiatives and what more needs to happen to achieve infrastructure affordability at the municipal level?

The right combination of funding and tools will enable more municipalities to show leadership by adopting a life-cycle approach when procuring infrastructure. More predictable funding is helping municipalities of all sizes to begin to think long term and understand their current and future needs through asset management planning. I say “planning” because it’s important to have an ongoing process in place that can be updated regularly. In other words, asset management planning is a journey to sustainable infrastructure that’s affordable for the community.

Water Innovation in Action is part of Ontario Water Innovation Week (October 30 to November 3). Click here for more information about this event and others.