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The Portland Water Bureau is a noted leader among water utilities for analyzing its costs and benefits through business cases (a rationale for why we do a particular task or project).
The Water Research Foundation (WRF) published a report in July 2016 highlighting how we use business cases to evaluate the benefits and costs of projects, operations, and maintenance activities.
The Water Bureau is one of the first utilities to use a triple-bottom-line method in these business cases that looks at benefits and costs in financial, social, and environmental terms. For example, a broken water pipe that damages a major highway may cost a few hundred thousand dollars to fix in purely economic terms. If the pipe shuts the highway down; however, the social costs from delayed traffic, blocked emergency routes, and interrupted trade may add up to millions.
The bureau is also a leader in quantifying social and environmental factors with monetary values. Translating social and environmental factors into dollars in the business case helps decision-makers make more informed choices.
The WRF report, titled Capital Funding Imperatives: Best Practices for Capital Improvement Programs, describes best practices in balancing needs, implementing systems, using business cases, involving stakeholders, and obtaining approval for utility capital programs.
The executive summary of the report is available on the WRF site.