Data collection performed appropriately and in conjunction with well organized data management, creates the basis for the majority of all organizational decision making and planning that the water provider/entity conducts. Data should be collected and stored in such a manner that it is safeguarded from damage or loss, accessible for inspection and evaluation, and utilized regularly to characterize trends and support management efforts. Management data is discussed in the BMP that follows.
Data collection can be segregated into four keys areas:
Best management practices exist for data collection with regards to each of these areas.
Collection of data is first and foremost an exercise in discipline, for data must be collected in a manner that is consistent and rigorous; meaning that whatever the data are that are being collected, they should be collected at nearly the same time and in the same way day to day, month to month, and year to year, to the extent practical. In addition, quality control procedures should be in place to test the data for accuracy and completeness. Data quality will be discussed in more detail below.
Billing is the most common interaction between the water utility and its customers; and it is the most critical part of the relationship, since for any organization, revenue generation is paramount to sustainability, for without cash flow, the utility cannot meet its financial obligations. Therefore, billing practices and protocols are a vital component of any utility’s operations. Billing also can be used to provide important messaging to the customer – especially messaging related to over use of water. However, messages contained in a water bill related to the over use of water is best provided to a customer within a short time of actual water use such that a behavioral change can be implemented. Timely billing for water use to create positive cash flow for the utility and to provide customers with feedback on their water use is an important tool for utilities to use to maintain fiscal independence and to help instill a culture of water use efficiency.
This information is important for maintaining a sustainable understanding of the infrastructure that is maintained and operated by the organization; characterizing the location, age, repair schedule, and value of assets controlled by the organization. The organization should maintain accurate maps of its facilities and assets as part of its infrastructure and system management. Maps can be hardcopy and/or electronic copies. Electronic copies, maintained through GIS systems (e.g., ARCGIS) can be more easily updated with repairs and maintenance procedures.