Over this past year, municipalities have faced a variety of water-related challenges, from the severe droughts striking the Western regions of the U.S. and decreasing potable water supplies to concerns over aging water infrastructure. These obstacles are driving facilities to turn towards more sustainable and efficient water solutions to most effectively serve their customers.
As 2014 comes to an end and 2015 hastily approaches, many municipalities will begin generating their own “New Year resolutions” in hopes of overcoming these hurdles as they continue to impact the water industry, including municipalities, dealers and end users.
What’s being done about the aging infrastructure challenges?
One of the biggest concerns heard echoed throughout the industry is the aging infrastructure around the country. Over the past few years, various facilities have already started to take action. “With aging infrastructure, more sediment was introduced into the water distribution systems and unique combinations of filtration equipment were used to safeguard downstream end users,” says Jim Lauria, a water technology expert, adding that these installations were especially pertinent to hotels, hospitals and urban high-rise buildings.
Lauria continues by offering another applied solution, “Cities have realized that they can augment their overstretched grids with decentralized microgrids, servicing new neighborhoods with small water treatment plants.”
When it comes to replacing and/or repairing water infrastructure, this task could cost billions. According to a release published by the McIlvaine Company, the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Appropriations heard testimony asserting the fact that upgrading and replacing the nation’s water infrastructure “may be the single largest public works need” facing the U.S., calling for major investment. The McIlvaine release also reported, “EPA’s [recent] needs survey estimates $187.9 billion is needed today by clean water agencies to comply with the Clean Water Act (CWA).”
With the amount of money and time needed to efficiently address the rising infrastructure concerns, major water organizations, such as the American Water Works Association (AWWA), the Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies (AMWA) and the Water Environment Federation (WEF), are urging members of the House and Senate appropriation committees to fully fund the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) pilot program in fiscal year 2015, which began Oct. 1, 2014, as stated in news published in WaterTech e-News Daily.
“The infrastructure will continue to age with more catastrophic events, as we have recently seen in Los Angeles and New York, until we as a society learn to value water more,” forecasts Lauria.
He continues by making a few industry predictions as a result of the infrastructure needs, “POE/POU systems should have steady growth especially for unique, critical applications. Connectivity between individual components, SCADA-type systems and mobile access will set systems apart. This will allow for a holistic approach to water management on a more local scale.”
And, as facilities and municipalities continue to add more filtration and treatment components into their systems, discussed earlier in this article, Lauria foresees the following, “The integration of different treatment components will require they better communicate with each other. Sensors will be more advanced, delivering real-time analysis, and there will be sophisticated brain controlling, measuring and reacting to provide the right quality [of] water as efficiently as possible.”
Supplying water more efficiently is an approach many are taking to help tackle another rising concern within the industry: Water shortages.
The rise in water management efforts
Rising water-related hurdles such as the ongoing drought striking the Western regions, particularly California, have caused many within the water industry to take a serious look at how water sources are managed.
Practicing better water management, efficiency and use are routinely being instilled within water utilities. And, many are turning towards better wastewater treatment and water reuse to avoid utilizing fresh water sources for nondrinking water needs.
A Bluefield Research report, “Water for U.S. Hydraulic Fracturing: Competitive Strategies, Solutions, & Outlook, 2014-2020,” indicated that water treatment and reuse are expected to significantly increase, accounting for 27 percent of total produced and flowback water by 2020, as a result of water supplies at risk, tighter regulations and increased costs of disposal.
Dow Water & Process Solutions recently released an infographic, “Reuse to the Rescue: Learn How Advanced Technology Can Help Combat Water Scarcity,” explaining how the water crisis is a worldwide concern with one billion people around the world without access to clean drinking water. The infographic focuses on the role reuse will play in addressing global water scarcity, highlighting a three-step process of microfiltration, reverse osmosis (RO) and ultraviolet (UV) light to treat wastewater.
Industry answers with advanced technology
In addition to addressing the aging infrastructure and water supply challenges, municipalities and utilities will continue to push toward advanced technologies to optimize overall operational productivity and efficiency.
“Everybody is looking to do more with less. And, as utilities continue to evolve, having a managed solution will allow them to concentrate on what they do best, which is being a water utility,” says John Fillinger, director of utility marketing for Badger Meter. “Our approach has been to develop a rich, user-environment, a software package that is easy to use but has all the power built behind it. And then by us managing it, we can help a utility run and optimize a system's performance through online education and through things that we can do to help prod a utility into becoming more efficient.”
These advancements in mobile technologies are continuing to shape not only the future for water utilities, but the future for business markets overall. “Data will drive innovation,” anticipates Lauria. “Whether it comes from research analysts speaking with technical experts or some sort of software slicing and dicing regulatory information, the winners will be the companies that understand where their markets are headed.”