August 2008, Vol. 20, No.8

Looking Around the Bend

Seven states search for sustainable ways to augment the Colorado River system

lookingaroundthebend.jpg (Ted) Way, and William E. Rinne
On Dec. 13, 2007, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne signed the Record of Decision: Colorado Interim Guidelines for Lower Basin Shortages and the Coordinated Operations for Lake Powell and Lake Mead. This decision is not only significant for what it will ultimately

achieve but also because of what it already has achieved: “a remarkable consensus” among stakeholders about sharing water during drought and charting a water management course for the future, according to Kempthorne.

Before signing this decision at the Colorado River Water Users’ annual meeting in Las Vegas, Kempthorne praised the seven Colorado River Basin states — Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming (which will be referred to here as “the Seven States”) — for banding together to seek innovative solutions in a spirit of cooperation and compromise.

This decision is only part of a story that began many years ago and has yet to unfold fully. A report published in March further demonstrates the Seven States’ commitment to pursue long-term water supply augmentation for the Colorado River system. Prepared by the Colorado River Water Consultants — a joint-venture team of Black & Veatch (Kansas City, Mo.) and CH2M Hill (Englewood, Colo.) — for the Seven States, the Study of Long-Term Augmentation Options for the Water Supply of the Colorado River System is a first step in increasing the basin’s water supplies.  Read full article (login required) 


Don’t Debate; Adapt

Adaptive implementation can help water quality professionals achieve TMDL goals

dontdebateadapt.jpg Paul Freedman, Len Shabman, and Kenneth Reckhow

We’ve come a long way in four decades. In 1972, the Cuyahoga River caught fire, Lake Erie was declared “dead,” and anyone who fell in the Potomac River was presumed to need a hepatitis shot. To cure these ills, the U.S. Congress passed the Clean Water Act (CWA). Its lofty goal was to restore all U.S. waters to swimmable and fishable conditions via a simple strategy: Eliminate the discharge of poorly treated municipal and industrial wastewater.

Effective wastewater treatment resulted in substantial progress by the 1990s. The Cuyahoga River sported water taxis rather than fire-patrol boats, Lake Erie became a $2 billion tourist mecca, and both striped bass and rowing enthusiasts returned to the Potomac. However, not all waters had become fishable and swimmable. Legal action was taken to enforce CWA Sec. 303(d), a provision requiring that total maximum daily loads (TMDLs) — a “pollution budget” — be developed for all waters that did not meet water quality standards. Suddenly, this once obscure, ignored provision of CWA became the centerpiece of water quality improvement programs.

We have since developed more than 20,000 TMDLs, and yet, roughly 40% of U.S. waters still do not meet water quality standards. Why? Is CWA flawed? Is the TMDL program ineffective? Or are the water quality problems unsolvable?


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It may be that our approach is out of date. Imagine trying to repair a 2008 automobile using a 1972 auto-repair manual. The manual would not address many of the car’s components (for example, electronic ignition, fuel injection, front-wheel drive, a computer control model, and a hybrid electric–gasoline engine), because these did not exist in 1972.

We are trying to fix today’s water quality problems using a 1972 instruction manual (CWA). Our major issues — managing pollutant runoff from farms and urban areas, reversing habitat and flow alterations, controlling invasive species, and limiting the effects of legacy pollutant problems — weren’t even conceived of 40 years ago.

A new approach is available: adaptive implementation. Adaptively implementing water quality improvement plans enables water quality professionals to make water progress while still managing the uncertainties and limits of the TMDL approach. Read full article (login required) 


Going for the Green

This water reuse project is expected to help China create an environmentally sustainable Olympics

goingforthegreen.jpg Bob Walczenko

As part of its preparations for the 2008 Olympic Games, Beijing is adopting eco-friendly transportation, power generation, and water management technologies. To realize their ambitious environmental goals, the ministry, the City of Beijing, municipal governments, and Olympics organizers have spent 1.86 B RMB ($254 million) on research and development for environmentally friendly technologies and facilities. The games are expected to leave a “green” legacy, spreading awareness of the importance of a healthy environment that should influence future generations. For example, hybrid vehicles will be used at all Olympic venues, and the showers in the athlete’s village will use solar-heated water. Although these eco-friendly projects sound simple, they involve many challenges, especially given their size and the magnitude of the effect if deadlines are not met.

One of the Chinese government’s goals during the games is to process 90% of the city’s wastewater and reuse 50% of the treated effluent. For example, it is expanding the Beixiaohe Wastewater Treatment Plant’s capacity from 40,000 to 100,000 m³/d, which will significantly improve the environment in northern Beijing.  Read full article (login required) 


Clear Alternative

Chloramination isn’t just for water treatment anymore

clearalternative.jpg James L. Brandes, Howard S. Matteson, and Glen D. Petrauski

Chlorine disinfection of nitrified wastewater effluents is an often misunderstood and difficult-to control process because of the complex interactions of chlorine, ammonia, and various chlorine-demanding substances. The key to understanding and controlling the process lies in the principles of chloramine chemistry. A pilot study conducted at the Somerset Raritan Valley Sewerage Authority (SR VSA ; Bridgewater, N.J.) found that optimizing wastewater chloramination could both disinfect treated wastewater effectively and minimize the formation of trihalomethane (THM) compounds. The project team is studying how to optimize chloramination to mitigate the release of hazardous compounds from wastewater treatment plants, extend the facilities’ useful life, and cast new light on a traditional disinfection method.  Read full article (login required)


Operations Forum Features

Wipe Out

One utility’s public battle against disposable wipes

wipeout.jpg Steve Sloan and Michelle Clements

Disposable cleaning and hygiene wipes are convenient, but improper disposable — namely flushing the wipes — can lead to collection system problems. To combat this increasing problem, the Portland (Maine) Water District declared an all-out assault on wipes and has developed a comprehensive program that attacks wipes using technology, legislation, and public outreach.
Since the beginning of the outreach campaign, PWD has heard from several other wastewater utilities dealing with the same problem. Numerous towns in Maine — from Winterport and Camden to Saco and Kennebunkport — are contending with wipes clogging. Wastewater facilities in Massachusetts and New Hampshire also have contacted PWD about the problems wipes are creating in their systems.  Read full article (login required)


Throw Open the Doors

Tips for outstanding wastewater plant tours

throwopenthedoors.jpg Mike Burnett and Brenda Miles

For your customers, what happens to wastewater after they flush the toilet, run the dishwasher, or wash the car is a mystery and rarely piques curiosity. Other than when a bond referendum is proposed or an overflow occurs, people typically pay no attention to the intricate network of pipes under their streets or the important processes taking place at the community wastewater treatment plant.

Inviting the public to tour your plant participate in an open house is a great way to bridge that gap in knowledge, spark some curiosity, and conduct important public relations at the same time. Tours and open houses benefit the community and may prove useful to you the next time an overflow happens or a necessary rate increase is proposed.  Read full article (login required)