Operation and Maintenance Plans


The Operation and Maintenance (O&M) Plan is typically a formal document that describes how the system is to be safely operated on a daily basis. It outlines how the system will provide service while adhering to permit requirements and safeguarding public health. The plan should contain a comprehensive description of the system’s resources and treatment processes. The O&MOperations and Maintenance plan provides details of daily routine operational and maintenance procedures. It should include examples of record-keeping and emergency response procedures.

The O&MOperations and Maintenance Plan should be clearly written such that a person knowledgeable in the operation of water assets would understand how to operate and maintain the system to meet the desired level of service (including staying in compliance with all regulations). The plan should outline the operational and maintenance roles and responsibilities of the staff.

Update the O&MOperations and Maintenance Manual at least annually, and any time new assets are added. The plan should be provided to operations staff, management, and decision makers. Store physical copies of the document at each staffed facility and electronically to ensure the plan is available during standard and emergency operations. Electronic copies of the O&MOperations and Maintenance Manual should be stored in a shared system, such as a network accessible off-site or in the cloud with a back-up off-site.

The format of the manual might be set by state regulations. There is a wide variance in plan requirements and complexity, so be sure to check the specific rules. Typically, the plan includes an introduction with general information about the system such as the system name, system identification number, address, contact information, system type, the person preparing the plan, the date of completion, and any subsequent revision or updates. Additional information can include system ownership, responsible officials, service area, population served, permit numbers, and operator certifications. The plan should then define system operations and maintenance requirements for each part of the system. Each portion of the system should have a section in the manual that includes operation and maintenance activities and asset-specific information such as records for asset categories, asset size and material, location information, manufacturer information, energy use information, operations procedures, preventive maintenance schedules, chemical names and suppliers, and storage capacities.  Any type of written or electronic maintenance program needs to include a mechanism to document that the work has been completed, so a manager can track maintenance activities and costs on an individual asset basis.

An O&MOperations and Maintenance Plan is a tool to:

  • improve reliability,
  • reduce costs and plan for the future,
  • meet current and future regulatory requirements,
  • train current and future staff,
  • facilitate emergency response,
  • facilitate state sanitary surveys and
  • guide communications with stakeholders.

The O&MOperations and Maintenance Plan should help determine the needed activities, the required schedule, how to perform the activities, the necessary equipment, and the associated costs. An outline is shown below.

  • What Maintenance Activities Do You Need to Do?
    • Document what maintenance activities you do for each asset.
    • Evaluate if the maintenance activities you do are appropriate for each asset:
      • What maintenance am I currently doing that I need to continue?
      • What maintenance am I currently doing that I need to discontinue?
      • What maintenance am I not doing that I need to start doing?
      • What maintenance am I not doing that should stay that way?
    • When Should You Do Them?
      • Look at the schedules by which you perform those activities.
      • Evaluate if the schedules are appropriate:
        • Do you need to increase the frequency?
        • Do you need to decrease the frequency?
      • How Do You Do Them?
        • Examine how the maintenance activities are performed.
      • What Equipment Do You Need?
      • What Do They Cost?
        • Attach costs to your activities – labor, parts, equipment rental, other.
        • Evaluate if the costs are appropriate. Is the maintenance worth the cost?

A system with very large pumps was performing a lubrication replacement on an annual cycle at cost of about $25,000 per year in labor, parts, and lubrication. This maintenance activity had a significant impact on operations because pumps had to be taken offline to perform the maintenance.

As the staff were implementing Asset Management principles, one of the things they did was to evaluate this particularly expensive procedure to determine whether there was a better approach.

Researching lubricants determined that there was a different, food grade lubricant that was a bit more expensive but had a 4-year life span. Using this lubricant could eliminate three lubricant changes. So they switched lubricants and maintenance schedules.

They do annual lubricant testing to verify the performance, but they don’t have to replace the lubricant nearly as often.

Savings were over $75K over the 4-year period.

And there were additional side benefits:

  • Improved wear on the pump
  • Energy efficiency went up 
  • Pumps now last longer
  • There was less down time for customers

The WRFThe Water Research Foundation Framework for Forested and Natural Assets provides an example of what should be included in a maintenance plan for natural assets in the table shown below.


WRFThe Water Research Foundation Framework for Forested and Natural Assets Table 9-2 Examples of Key Elements in a Maintenance Plan for a Natural Asset

Maintenance Plan
Performance objective
Performance metric
Preventive maintenance actions
Intervention levels
Reactive maintenance actions
Element Example
Maximize raw water quality at the intake
Turbidity measured at the raw water intake
Maintain turbidity of intake water to less than X at least B% of the time
Grading and treating dirt roads
Thinning forest fuels on annual basis
If turbidity of intake water is measured above X more than three times in Y days
Measure turbidity at tributary streams to locate source of significant loadings
Inspect streams for erosions hotspots
Restore eroding stream channels

The City of Portland uses the framework shown below for maintenance planning:

Vegetation Zone
Shrubs & GC
Surface Zone
Bioretention Media
Walls & Checkdams
Subsurface Zone
Control Structure
Slotted Drainline
Drain Rock
Storm Sewer Connection
General Tasks
Structure, Health, Root Ball, Stability; replant on demand with Forestry input
Health, coverage (growth), weed suppression; replant loses annually
Remove excess sediment, remove weeds, confirm infiltration capacity remains
Not typically present; refresh and re-spread
Spring start up and winterization on same schedule as Parks; Inspect and Adjust
Inspection for damage or settling; inspect liner attachements when present
Potentially monthly; Clear openings, check inlet covers & frames for damage
Sediment & Trash removal (throughout facility, not just forebay)
Open lind, confirm operation, flush any sediment build-up
Yearly inspection, flush as needed and note any sediment build-up
Can't visually inspect; if sediment is noted in drainline it may need to be replaced.
As needed inspection

X = Quarterly visual inspection, typically; replant or repair as needed
X = Monthly visual inspection & maintenance as needed
X = Quarterly visual inspection & maintenance as needed

The O&MOperations and Maintenance plan should guide the development of the annual operation and maintenance budget. That budget should include all the money needed for operating and maintaining all the assets in the system. It is important to convey the full cost of operations to the financial managers, so they understand that providing any less money means some tasks are not going to be completed. Any tasks which do not get done will increase the risk to the organization. The more money that is cut from the budget, the greater the increase in risk to the facility. It is important to convey these risks and benefits of providing the full budget.

Integrating operations and maintenance plans into work order systems is an important step. Thinking ahead about the work order system, what it is capable of, and any limitations it has will be important when incorporating the operations and maintenance plans and will save the system time overall.