Learn how we helped a wastewater treatment facility reduce their total cost of ownership and improve maintainability.


A wastewater treatment facility is currently undergoing an estimated $1.7B capital expansion to increase water treatment capabilities due stricter regulations and increased population demand. The facility needed a long-term, cost-effective way to maintain critical assets and ensure the lowest total cost of ownership.


Pinnacle supported the facility’s objectives by introducing Reliability Centered Design (RCD) and Reliability Centered Maintenance (RCM) principles in the front-end engineering design phase through commissioning.


The facility is now able to start-up with a complete reliability and maintenance program in place from day one, ensuring compliance and the safety of its workforce and an estimated $100MM in cost savings over the life of the facility.

The Challenge

The Sacramento Regional Wastewater Treatment Plant (Sac Regional) serves a population of approximately 1.6 million and discharges treated effluent into the Sacramento River. In 2010, the facility received new, stricter treatment and discharge requirements from the state of California requiring the removal of ammonia and nitrate residuals from the treated water prior to discharge.

In response to the new requirements, Sac Regional began a major capital upgrade, which they named the “EchoWater Project.” The project involved upgrading the plant to include more advanced treatment capabilities and required the facility to design and build new treatment infrastructure which is currently in process and is scheduled for completion in 2023.

Sac Regional reports the EchoWater project will provide “…the most significant upgrade to [the] wastewater treatment plant since its original construction…[and] will produce cleaner water for discharge to the Sacramento River [or] for potential reuse as recycled water.”

To manage the costs of this expansion while also driving reliability and maintainability, the facility needed to implement strategies that would improve design, optimize capital and operational expenditures, and streamline operations and maintenance (O&M).  For these reasons, the facility leaders decided to implement RCD and RCM as a means to reduce total cost of ownership.  With their end goal in mind, facility leaders sought out a third party to assist with implementing these reliability and maintainability strategies.

Pinnacle’s Solution

Pinnacle was brought into the project during the front-end engineering design (FEED) stage to facilitate a RCD analysis.

RCD builds asset management principles into new construction by identifying key design deficiencies and recommending design changes to improve system availability and long-term maintainability. Once the design was completed, Pinnacle supported the implementation and buildout of a RCM program to ensure operations and maintenance personnel had a streamlined, safe, and cost-effective program in place prior to start-up.

RCM is an asset management approach that produces prioritized, condition-based tasks focused on sustaining system and equipment functionality. By prioritizing maintenance spend on critical functions, RCM delivers an optimized reliability and maintenance program that balances safety and performance objectives at the lowest cost.

The steps Pinnacle executed are described in the infographic below.

1. Reliability Availability Maintainability Modeling (RAM Modeling)

RAM Modeling is used to simulate probable future performance metrics of the process design. The output of RAM Modeling helps quantify performance criteria of equipment-related decisions such as redundancy, spare parts, equipment sizing, component quality, O&M practices and policies. RAM modeling assesses the longevity and long-term reliability of the system and its components.

2. Reliability Centered Design (RCD)

Reliability Centered Design (RCD) considers the reliability, maintainability and O&M lifecycle costs early in the design phase of greenfield projects or facility redesign. Before finalizing the design, RCD provides a complete review by key O&M staff, management, and process experts to improve performance and reduce O&M costs over a facility’s lifecycle.

3. Specification Development Assistance

Once the RCD is completed, the results and recommendations assist the design engineers with detailing the design specifications so that reliability is integrated into design documents. The specifications include information needed to build the asset register, asset properties, spare parts information, special operating control and mechanical features that may minimize hidden failures.

4. Reliability Centered Maintenance (RCM)

Reliability Centered Maintenance (RCM) is a risk-based approach to identifying critical equipment and cataloging the potential failure modes and mitigation strategies prior to an asset failing. This approach is pivotal in identifying hidden failures and ensuring that preventative tasks are in place to increase asset life. The RCM analysis and subsequent results are a foundational step in all preventative and predictive reliability and maintenance programs.

5. Task Selections

Once the RCM analysis is completed, operations and maintenance tasks are prioritized based on criticality. Completing this step reduces the number of redundant tasks, coordinates like tasks to reduce labor time, and helps optimize spare parts inventory management. Task selection ensures that all non-essential maintenance and monitoring tasks are eliminated without sacrificing the operability and reliability of the equipment.

6. Develop O&M Documents

A well-run asset management program must include documentation that assists operators in completing their tasks, including lock out tag out (LOTO), job plans, operator round sheets, and detailed maintenance and repair procedures. These records provide guidance to operators and a historical record that can be referenced when changes are made in the future.

7. Computer Maintenance Management System (CMMS) Upload

Once the asset hierarchy, PM/job plans, SOPs, Risk-Based spare parts and operator round duties are finalized, the data is used to populate the facility’s CMMS program. This step ensures that all asset information is captured, stored, and managed in a single system.

8. Reliability Training

Reliability training to facility personnel is necessary to ensure that the RCM skill set is understood and embedded in the facility’s process and systems. The training allows engineers, operators and maintenance to migrate towards a proactive culture mindset.

9. Management of Change (MOC)

Management of Change (MOC) employs best practices to control safety, health, and environmental risks when a company makes changes to O&M procedures, documentation requirements, equipment or staffing. The unforeseen health, safety and regulatory consequences of any change that affects processes, systems, people or organizational structure are reduced through planning, coordination and documented decision making.

10. Reliability Evergreening

The information contained in the CMMS is maintained in accordance with the site’s MOC program to incorporate any updates to assets. These updates can include, but are not limited to, partial or full replacement of rotating assets, fixed assets, isolation valves, gates and pressure relief valves. A reliability analysis may be needed every couple years to ensure program health.


By implementing reliability-centered principles and focusing on the total asset lifecycle, Sac Regional now has an optimized way to maintain the facility’s equipment and a means of categorizing equipment in order to prioritize corrective maintenance activities under various dynamic conditions. This is especially important during seasonal peak wet weather inflows. On top of that, an analysis projected that the facility would start to see a return on investment (ROI) in only nine months and would recognize an estimated $100MM in cost savings over the life of the facility as compared to traditional design-build-operate efforts.

Through Pinnacle’s support, Sac Regional received the following benefits:

Design Improvements

  • Hundreds of reliability-based, one-time opportunities for design improvements were identified, of which about 80% were implemented into the design. For example, Pinnacle discovered a flaw in the facility’s design that would have caused half of the system to be shut down if included. Maximizing process uptime and availability of all assets even during abnormal situations is a key feature of the RCD process.


Optimized Costs

  • The total operating maintenance cost was reduced through the implementation of reliability-centered maintenance principles and a focus on condition-based tasks.  For example, annual maintenance for HVAC equipment in one area was reduced by 83% from $12,000 to $2,000, maintaining the availability and performance while reducing the cost to own and operate.
  • Sac Regional’s spare parts inventory was optimized to ensure critical parts will be available when needed. This will help the facility save money by avoiding unplanned downtime and preventing an obsolete or overstocked inventory. In general, spare parts optimization typically results in cost reduction of around 20-50%, and in some cases, as high as 75% as compared to buy and stock methods. Updated storage practices were also recommended to keep the necessary spare parts from deteriorating due to exposure to Ultra-Violet (UV) radiation, electrostatic discharge, corrosive vapors, contamination, or moisture intrusion.
  • Streamlined warranty preventative maintenance (PM) from vendors. Instead of using every vendor recommendation, the approach only implemented the most beneficial warranty PMs on assets which were evaluated to have a repair or replacement value of $25K or greater.


Increased Reliability and Safety

  • Job plans, maintenance activities, standard operating procedures (SOPs), and other operating documents were uploaded into the CMMS prior to startup so that the facility would be ready to start tracking performance of assets and labor.
  • Operator rounds—in which operators take on basic maintenance tasks—were developed. Operators assisting with maintenance tasks can help minimize repair costs, reduce downtime, mitigate or eliminate safety hazards, and extend equipment life.
  • Lockout-tagout (LOTO) program development. Per OSHA 1910.146, LOTO is required for both proactive and corrective maintenance, to be in a zero-energy state. The facility’s existing practice was to develop LOTOs as needed. Pinnacle developed a LOTO program in which the LOTOs are predeveloped/preapproved and attached to the work orders when a job is scheduled, which reduces mean time to repair and subsequent labor costs.


Upon completion, the EchoWater project at Sac Regional is estimated to cost about $1.7 billion USD in capital expenditures and approximately $50 million USD in increased yearly operations and maintenance costs per year. While Sac Regional receives funding from the State of California’s Clean Water State Revolving Fund, the bulk of this expansion was funded from utility rate increases. A major concern with this a project of this scope is whether future rate increases will continue to impact the public as time goes on.

By implementing RCD and RCM, the EchoWater expansion now has a world class, risk-based reliability strategy built into its design and daily operations and maintenance program. This optimized program is focused on sustaining system performance and compliance at the lowest possible cost without impacting asset lifecycle costs. As the project nears completion, the results of optimizing the labor, energy, operations and safety requirements give Sac Regional and the surrounding customers the security of knowing they have state of the art, critical infrastructure protecting their health as well as the environmental stewardship of one of California’s most important resources at the pinnacle of efficiency.

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