1660601819409 Af14water2

Water Wastewater Forum: Automation Poised to Address Scarcity Issues

Nov. 19, 2014
Direct and Indirect Use of Treated Wastewater Requires Real-Time Quality Assurance
About Leslie Gordon
Leslie Gordon is Senior Technical Editor on Control, Control Design and Industrial Networking magazines.Globally, water treatment facilities face daunting problems such as water scarcity and aging infrastructure. Among the most intractable is the unequal distribution of fresh water around the globe, said Jim Hagstrom, executive vice president of San Francisco-based Carollo Engineers, in his context-setting presentation to attendees of the Water Wastewater Industry Forum held today at Automation Fair in Anaheim, California.

"In fact, only 10 countries have access to about 60% of the world's total fresh water supply. Other countries that are less fortunate are demanding water. This supply and demand creates a tension that drives the marketplace," Hagstrom said.

To pull together a model of the U.S. market in particular, the firm performs macro-level analyses using secondary research. "Sources we use include Global Water Intelligence, the U.S. EPA, Goldman Sachs and the U.S. Conference of Mayors, with the majority of data coming from the EPA," continued Hagstrom. "We also talk to company personnel in the field to get a micro-level feel for the market. This information goes into our company database."

According to Hagstrom, from about 2000 to 2007, the U.S. water industry was quite busy, and growing at a rate of about 10% a year. During the recession of 2008, industry activity tanked. "The good news is our analyses show the U.S. water/wastewater industry will achieve relatively stable growth around 2018 or 2019 and will reach about $30 billion per year in terms of expenditure."

"Facilities need to know right away that the water is safe." Jim Hagstrom of Carollo Engineers sees a growing need for real-time analysis and feedback in the U.S. water and wastewater treatment industry.

Key drivers for water/wastewater industry investment include scarcity, such as that brought on by the ongoing drought in the southwestern United States. Even as people continue to migrate southwest, water levels in the Colorado River Basin are dropping by as much as 12 feet per year. Population migration to Florida also is straining the capacity of water/wastewater systems in that part of the country, Hagstrom said.

Other industry growth drivers include more stringent regulations; water conservation and reuse programs; aging infrastructure that needs to be replaced; and alternative financing, such as the use of public-private partnerships to help finance water-treatment projects. Constraints to industry growth include lack of capital; rising costs to build plants; and the reluctance of conservative water facilities to take risks (for example, to modernize control systems) unless there is a guarantee of a large reward.

Of equal importance are incidents that need a quick response. Utilities will reallocate funds to address immediate issues, said Hagstrom. For example, wastewater containing nitrates was once discharged into rivers, but the EPA has banned this practice, requiring investment in treatment facilities.

Automation technology holds the potential to alleviate many of these problems, according to Hagstrom. "From a control system viewpoint, the use of a SCADA system can give facilities tremendous capabilities. The data can help them do a better job of being more efficient in distributing water. And intelligent technologies can help inform plants about how much water is being lost due to leakage. We might use the data to predict where breakages will happen."

Another scarcity solution is the indirect and direct reuse of treated wastewater. "Orange County in California has been taking wastewater, converting it to drinking water quality and then putting it back in the ground since the 1970s," says Hagstrom. "San Diego doesn't have a big groundwater pool, so it is looking at direct potable reuse, which involves placing potable water in storage basins to feed water treatment plants. We are seeing this happen all across the Southwest."

What is needed is a mechanism for real-time feedback to give confidence to the community that we are producing a safe water supply, explained Hagstrom. "Texas wants to do in two years what it took Orange County 20 or 30 years to accomplish in the area of indirect potable reuse," said Hagstrom. "To move quickly, Texas utilities must gather real-time water quality performance. In the past, it was okay to take a water sample to the lab, come back the next day and say, 'We met the limits.' But this practice is no longer acceptable. Facilities need to know right away that the water is safe."

Sponsored Recommendations

Measurement instrumentation for improving hydrogen storage and transport

Hydrogen provides a decarbonization opportunity. Learn more about maximizing the potential of hydrogen.

Get Hands-On Training in Emerson's Interactive Plant Environment

Enhance the training experience and increase retention by training hands-on in Emerson's Interactive Plant Environment. Build skills here so you have them where and when it matters...

Learn About: Micro Motion™ 4700 Config I/O Coriolis Transmitter

An Advanced Transmitter that Expands Connectivity

Learn about: Micro Motion G-Series Coriolis Flow and Density Meters

The Micro Motion G-Series is designed to help you access the benefits of Coriolis technology even when available space is limited.