Wastewater Master Planning: A Critical Element of the Business Plan for a Growing Business

Business plans typically look comprehensively at the goals of a business, the methods for attaining business goals, financial needs, and a projection of future growth. If water and wastewater is evaluated at all it would typically include a quick check of water and wastewater costs based on past billings and possibly a projection of slight increases in water and wastewater rates. This approach can fail to identify important limitations to water and wastewater services that can impact your schedule and possibly your ability to achieve your business goals. A closer look is required before you make major business decisions. Important factors to consider:

  • Are you outgrowing your current facility? Are you looking to expand in-place or looking for a new location?
  • Do you have corporate water or wastewater metrics or benchmarks that you are committed to achieving?
  • Do you have long-term plans to change your process chemistry or biology in response to the changing marketplace?
  • Is lack of reliable water and wastewater service likely to limit your growth?

A Wastewater Master Plan (Plan) would answer these questions and identify business risks and actions to address the risk. The Plan should also incorporate water and wastewater-related aspects of the business continuity plan and verify or update the information.

You can develop a Plan for a single existing location or a group of existing and planned locations that provide related production capacity. The Plan will identify current capabilities and compare those capabilities with current and projected business needs. The following concerns need to be addressed:

  • Reliability
  • Redundancy
  • Capacity
  • Cost


The reliability review would consider whether existing internal and external systems are capable of being trusted and relied upon to provide continuous service meeting the business needs. The evaluation should consider the entire “supply chain” from the water sources your facilities use, to services or utilities that you pay to deliver water or receive your wastewater, to the receiving water or waters where your wastewater is ultimately discharged. The reliability review looks at the big picture but can also become more granular when a risk is identified somewhere in this chain.

Most manufacturing facilities rely on off-site providers (typically a public utility) to provide water and wastewater/sewer service. Water and wastewater treatment providers may appear to be able to deliver the quantity of service required but a deeper look is needed. Some of the capacity may be limited by agreements with other companies, municipalities, or other customers that may take priority over your business. Reliability of these external services should be evaluated by reviewing public records of financial condition, record of gaining public and/or investor approval of recent projects, documentation of regulatory compliance, and other similar indicators. Even if the provider has a good track record there can be indications of future challenges that could ultimately affect your operation (e.g., is the wastewater treatment facility facing limits on nitrogen, phosphorus, or metals that will ultimately translate to tighter limits and expensive pretreatment for you?).

Master planning needs to address reliability of internal systems (systems within your control). The reliability of your internal wastewater treatment or pretreatment systems can be evaluated based on performance, maintenance costs, and age of equipment. The Plan should identify expected life expectancy of owned systems and include a plan for replacement.


Redundancy could be considered a component of reliability but our clients typically define it as the ability to receive a service or comply with a wastewater requirement when key equipment is not available or functioning as expected. Redundancy would look at events that are more frequent and less catastrophic than events typically reviewed in a business continuity plan.

Externally, does your supplier (utility, municipality, etc.) have adequate redundancy within its system to provide uninterrupted service? Your water supplier would be expected to have a number of water sources that will be available in the event that one of the sources has an issue that requires it to be taken off-line. This could be mechanical (e.g., a pumping or distribution system issue), quantity-related (e.g., drought conditions) or quality-related (e.g., the recent PFAS detections that cause well shutdowns). Examples of external redundancy for wastewater services could include the ability to respond to pump station issues and treatment plant issues. If you rely on a wastewater service to haul wastewater, the redundancy evaluation would look at limitations that may be imposed by the facility receiving the trucked wastewater.

Do your internal systems have the redundancy needed to meet your business needs when a key component is not available (e.g., “N+1” redundancy)? If not, is there a plan that can be implemented using an outside service or other temporary solution to meet your business needs?


In master planning, capacity review compares water and wastewater quantity needs to the supply. This review would consider bigger-picture capacity issues and external factors that may drive your business need for additional capacity.

Externally, individual water and wastewater utilities and sometimes entire watersheds can have limited ability to support water-intensive manufacturing. Utility upgrades are beyond your control, so you need to know whether upgrades are critical to your business plan. If upgrades are required, you may need to plan to pay for some of the capital improvements in the future and/or enter into a long-term agreement with the utility. When your business needs exceed the capacity available, this will either require relocation, expansion at a different facility, or require your business to absorb much higher water and wastewater costs.

Capacity of water and wastewater utilities need to be evaluated in a similar manner for each of your locations, because this can affect decisions regarding where to invest. Do the water utilities serving your facilities have sufficient capacity to serve your business and their other customers? If not, is the utility executing a plan to meet the demands? Are you located in a “sweet spot” in the water distribution and wastewater collection systems, or will you experience issues (water pressure, wastewater pump station issues) due to your location (high elevation, remote service area)? Will these become issues as you grow and at what point do they represent a limit to your growth at the location?

Do your internal systems have the capacity required to meet current and near-term business needs? If yes, does your crystal ball allow you to plan for longer-term future business growth and the required additional capacity? If not, are there adequate capital budgets and funding to address the needs? Capacity of your system can be difficult to evaluate when manufacturing processes are changing. Are changes in your industry likely to result in the generation of more or less wastewater per unit of production?


Your Wastewater Master Plan needs to translate future needs into estimated costs and timing for capital expenditures. The capital planning should include replacement and expansion of wastewater systems based on your business plan. This should be done for each location so location-specific costs can be considered in decision-making. The business assumptions (product mix, production levels) driving the planned capital projects and schedule need to be clear for people who will use and update the plan in the future. These estimates need to be re-evaluated periodically, especially when growth projections change.


Hopefully this post will help you develop a new or more useful and up-to-date Wastewater Master Plan and a fresh look at internal and external systems that are critical to your business. This will help support your decision-making as your business grows.