Dunn finds success in iterative approach to asset management, looks forward to predictive analytics – WithersRavenel

Dunn finds success in iterative approach to asset management, looks forward to predictive analytics

Dunn finds success in iterative approach to asset management, looks forward to predictive analytics

Asset management is not all-or-nothing. As our asset management staff are fond of saying, if you wait until you have perfect data to start an asset management plan, then you won’t have any working assets left by the time you do start. With the help of WithersRavenel, the City of Dunn is working through the process of systematically creating a comprehensive asset management plan for all of its infrastructure. Once that groundwork is in place, Dunn can start taking advantage of the power of predictive analytics to fine-tune its asset management strategy.

To date, Dunn and WithersRavenel have tackled three elements of a comprehensive asset management plan: the water system, the sewer system, and the localized effects of Hurricane Florence.

Water System Inventory, Assessment, and Asset Management Planning

In 2017, WithersRavenel began the process of creating a water asset management plan using funds from an AIA grant.

Phase 1 involved creating a GIS inventory of the City’s water infrastructure. WithersRavenel started with the information the City already had: physical and digital as-built drawings. GIS technicians indexed, georeferenced, and linked the City’s as-built drawings inside a GIS database.

Next, WithersRavenel set out to map the accessible portions of the water system. Field crews collected survey-grade locations of all above-ground water features, including valves, hydrants, blowoffs, and meters.

Finally, WithersRavenel made sure the water system components in the database were connected, both with each other and with any existing asset data like material, age, size, and condition.

During each step of this process, WithersRavenel prioritized capturing data that was either critical or readily available. By resisting the urge to “map the world,” we were able to create a database that reliably reflects the features of the water system without wasting time or money chasing every detail.

Phase 2 consisted of creating and calibrating a water system model in WaterGEMS. The model was based on the GIS database developed in Phase 1, and the calibration process validated the decision to focus on getting good data quickly rather than perfect data slowly or complete data never.

Phase 3 built on Phases 1 and 2 and culminated in the development of an asset management plan. With feedback from City staff, WithersRavenel was able to assess the condition of the water system, update the City’s Capital Improvement Plan, and develop an operation and maintenance plan for the water system.

Sewer System Inventory, Assessment, and Asset Management Planning

In 2018, after the completion of the water system asset management plan, Dunn was ready to tackle an asset management plan for its sanitary sewer system. Like the water system project, this effort used AIA grant funds and followed a similar phased approach of data collection, modeling, and asset management planning.

Hurricane Florence Aftermath

Dunn was on track to begin implementing the recommendations in its water and sewer asset management plans when Hurricane Florence made landfall on September 14, 2018. The Category 1 hurricane had a catastrophic effect on southeastern North Carolina, primarily as a result of freshwater flooding due to torrential rain.

Following the storm, Dunn observed a significant and sustained increase in wastewater treatment volumes and associated costs. WithersRavenel diagnosed the cause as increased stormwater inflow and infiltration (I&I) made possible by hurricane damage to the sanitary sewer collection system.

WithersRavenel is currently conducting a comprehensive I&I study on the sewer system with funds from a Golden LEAF grant. The location and severity of the damage will be incorporated into the City’s sewer system GIS database and sewer model. WithersRavenel will also recommend amendments to the sewer system asset management plan to address the most urgent repair needs.

The process of evaluating and addressing the effects of Hurricane Florence is significantly less complex because of the investment the City made in asset management planning. That foundation means that WithersRavenel does not need to spend time and money to figure out where the system is or to guess what condition it had been in previously, and can instead concentrate on finding and fixing the immediate problem.

Looking to the Future: Predictive Analytics

Once the I&I study is complete, WithersRavenel will explore the possibility of importing the City’s water and sewer GIS data into an interactive asset management tool like Capital Predictor™.

Capital Predictor is a cloud-based program that provides robust data visualization, mapping, and what-if scenario modeling. It delivers three major benefits to clients like Dunn:

  1. It enables local governments to understand how different levels of funding for asset improvement projects would affect the overall condition of their systems, including the potential consequences of deferred maintenance.
  2. It provides tools for prioritizing projects based on urgency and on proximity to other projects.
  3. It generates supporting documentation should the City choose to pursue grant funding from the state or federal government.


In about three years, Dunn has gone from a patchwork of physical and digital asset records and unrecorded institutional knowledge to robust water and sewer models and accompanying asset management plans. The City has weathered a major hurricane and is already working to systematically repair, rehabilitate, and replace critical assets in its infrastructure systems. As work is completed, those improvements will be reflected in its databases and model, enabling the City of plan for whatever the future may hold.

If you’re tired of reacting to utility failures and are ready to take the first step toward making proactive decisions reach out to Chief Experience and Innovation Officer Eddie Staley at (919) 535-5207 or estaley@withersravenel.com to discuss your custom asset management solution.