The Federal Energy Management Program (FEMP) in coordination with Pacific Northwest National Laboratory developed the Federal Water Management Planning Manual to provide a resource on how to design a comprehensive water management program.

The following information summarizes the major steps included in the manual for developing a comprehensive water management program.

Access the Federal Water Management Planning Manual and companion materials under Key Resources.

Illustration of the steps to develop a comprehensive water management program, including "Getting started," "Conduct a comprehensive water evaluation," and "Prioritize and execute solutions." More details about these steps are outlined in the text below.

Your first water management effort requires defining the scope of the program, forming a solid team and clear direction on your program and goals. This initial phase includes the following steps.

Understand the Facility Water Cycle

Understanding how water is used is critical for managing water within the facility. The movement of water into and throughout a facility is referred to as the "facility water cycle." Start by looking at your facility water cycle and understanding the main water supply and end-use components.

Form an Interdisciplinary Team

A well-rounded team is crucial for success. Finding new and creative solutions often requires information that crosses disciplinary boundaries. Form an interdisciplinary team that includes stakeholders from several groups/areas including energy, environmental, operations, grounds maintenance, and management.

Define Program Scope

This step entails understanding where you are coming from and where you want to go. First, identify the existing plans and strategies that have been developed or are underway that can impact your efforts. Knowing the past activities, develop the scope of where you want your program to head. Include items such as the site or operational boundaries, water supply types covered, and important integration points including energy, resilience, and cybersecurity.

Develop Program Goals

Goals provide overarching objectives for the water management program and a strategic plan with specific targets. To track performance over time, ensure your goals are measurable and have a specific timeline associated to them.

Federal agencies are required to conduct comprehensive water evaluations per 42 U.S.C. § 8253(f)(3)(A). To fulfill the requirement, agencies are required to complete comprehensive water evaluations for 25% of their covered facilities annually. A comprehensive water evaluation provides the framework for a comprehensive water management program. The following steps describe the basic requirements of a comprehensive water evaluation:

Establish a Baseline and Water Balance

The first step of a comprehensive evaluation is to understand the facility’s current water use and costs. This part of the evaluation includes collecting utility data and conducting facility surveys to gather critical information on water uses. This information is compiled into a "water balance," which is a comparison of the water consumption of major end-uses to the total water supply. The water balance gives important information on major water uses that can help to target efficiency opportunities and provide insight on potential system losses.

Assess Efficiency Solutions

The next step is to investigate ways to optimize water use and increase water efficiency to reduce water use, targeting the areas you identified as larger water consumers in the facility’s water balance. Consider a wide range of opportunities including education, water-efficient equipment, and leak detection and repair.

Assess Alternative Water Projects

After lowering water demand and reducing overall water use through efficiency and reducing system losses, the next step is to evaluate potential alternative water sources. Alternative water sources are from sustainable supplies that offset the demand for freshwater including harvested rainwater, reclaimed wastewater, and process reuse.

Conduct Life Cycle Cost Analysis

After assessing water efficiency and alternative water opportunities, perform a life cycle cost analysis to determine cost effectiveness. This helps decision makers prioritize the options that are most appropriate and cost-effective for the facility.

After completing a comprehensive water evaluation, the next step is to develop a prioritized list of the identified solutions. This list will reveal the solutions that will have significant impact on meeting overall strategic goals and targets. After that, it is time to take the projects into the execution phase, procuring the best technologies and executing the projects. The following describes how to prioritize and execute solutions.

Prioritize Solutions

Review the results of the comprehensive water evaluation and prioritize the identified water solutions, taking into account the potential benefits and costs. Rank solutions in order of priority to obtain the biggest impact to your facility. The high-priority projects should be those that will best meet your strategic objectives and goals.

Develop a Schedule

After choosing the solutions to pursue, develop a schedule. While some measures may be implemented in a few hours or days, others may require several months or years depending on the scope of the solution. Examine the scope carefully to determine the time necessary to complete each measure.

Identify Funding Sources

Identifying funding for projects is often a major hurdle in the planning process. There are generally two ways to secure funding for major federal projects: direct congressional appropriations and performance contracts. Most agencies provide direct appropriations to fund water projects through operations, environmental programs, or emergency preparedness.

Design Solutions and Procure Equipment

An important part of executing solutions is developing proper designs and procuring the best equipment to ensure the solutions meet the intended outcomes. When contracting work, make sure to require expertise from the contractor for the specific water solutions. Along with design, carefully specify equipment requirements. Consider developing standard boilerplate equipment specifications that target water-efficient products.

Execute Solutions

Develop an implementation plan that tracks the execution of projects from start to finish. Engage your stakeholders in this process to ensure that equipment is properly commissioned, and operations and maintenance plans are adopted.

Track and Report Performance and Revaluate the Program

A key element of a good water management program is tracking performance. Collect water use and cost data and verify that water efficiency projects are meeting expected savings. Also, establish a regular review cycle of your water management program. This review allows you to evaluate progress, set new goals, and continually improve.

Key Resources