This month's topics: SCADA • Membranes • Legislative outlook • Infrastructure renewal

January 2019 • Volume 31 • Number 1

This month's featured content

State of the Industry 2019

The intentional workforce
As the silver tide builds, water utilities need to become more proactive and cooperative about staff recruitment and training
Mary Bufe

Diversity and inclusion in the water sector
How to fit the parts together to make your organization a greater whole
Members of the 2018 WEF Water Leadership Institute

Examining unconsicous bias
Acknowledging and overcoming the instant reactions that can hinder our interactions and effectiveness
Members of the 2018 WEF Water Leadership Institute

Legislative and regulatory outlook 2019
What the midterm election results and latest U.S. EPA activities mean for the water sector
Amy Kathman and Claudio Ternieden

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A reflection and a potential alternative
Wastewater management and the design of its governing systems
Craig Lindell and Michael Hines

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Expect more from your membranes
Advanced cleaning protocol and performance-based procurement strategy help membranes operate better and cost less
Srinivas Jalla, J.C. Lan, and Jim Lozier

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Features

A reflection and a potential alternative
Wastewater management and the design of its governing systems
Craig Lindell and Michael Hines

The U.S. needs to spend about a trillion dollars on wastewater infrastructure to address nonpoint pollution, enhanced nutrient removal, integrated water resource management, reuse, and the energy costs associated with existing infrastructure. The governing and institutional systems through which we address wastewater management are more important in reducing costs and increasing effluent quality than any technological consideration. 

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Expect more from your membranes
Advanced cleaning protocol and performance-based procurement strategy help membranes operate better and cost less
Srinivas Jalla, J.C. Lan, and Jim Lozier

Membrane filtration is typically the most advanced and expensive of all the unit processes at a water resource recovery facility (WRRF). As membranes reach end of their life, utilities face an expensive replacement choice, particularly when all the membranes must be replaced at once. The Gwinnett County (Ga.) Department of Water Resources embarked on a path to explore options to total membrane replacement and succeeded in developing a multi-pronged strategy that extended useful life through a unique cleaning protocol, reduced operating costs, and allowed membrane replacement over an extended period.

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A 15-year journey to process automation
How DC Water's Blue Plains Advanced Wastewater Treatment Plant successfully implemented process control system automation
Duncan Mukira, Elkin Hernandez, Bob Manross, and Terry Brueck

In about 2002, DC Water (Washington, D.C.) began a process control system (PCS) automation project at the Blue Plains Advanced Wastewater Treatment. The $34 million, 10-year project was designed to provide comprehensive monitoring of the facility hydraulics from influent to final discharge. It also included alarm states, equipment on/off condition, flows, tank levels, and such qualitative information as dissolved oxygen, chlorine residual, and ammonia concentrations. Also, collection and storage of historical data performance began as soon as loop testing confirmed that inputs received by PCS were valid. This was better information than had been available for decision-making prior to PCS.

However, installing and operating this core system, while quite a leap forward, simply set the stage for Blue Plains staff to continue to add to and learn from the PCS. This system enables the operations and maintenance groups to control the overall facility and help coordinate large and changing upgrades and modifications.

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State of the Industry 2019

The intentional workforce
As the silver tide builds, water utilities need to become more proactive and cooperative about staff recruitment and training
Mary Bufe

When inmates are released from prison, they normally leave with a bus ticket and $25 in their pocket. But in Atlanta, one formerly incarcerated dad began his new life this past summer with a full-time job at the city’s Department of Watershed Management (DWM) and $7000 he earned from the DWM job he held while serving his sentence.

Elsewhere in Atlanta, judges are offering some youth offenders jobs as watershed trainees in lieu of strict sentences. Still in development: a program that will extend Atlanta DWM job opportunities to female victims of sex trafficking.

Atlanta DWM is not alone. From rural areas in West Virginia to large cities like Camden, N.J., and Chicago, water utilities are facing a “silver tsunami” of retirements. The Water Research Foundation (Alexandria, Va.) projects that in the next 10 years, roughly one-third of all current water and wastewater utility workers will retire.

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Diversity and inclusion in the water sector
How to fit the parts together to make your organization a greater whole
Members of the 2018 WEF Water Leadership Institute

An engineer. An operator. A treatment facility superintendent. Are you picturing someone male? White? Middle aged?

While the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that a disproportionate number of water-sector employees match these descriptors, dozens of studies show that diversity in the workplace benefits innovation, creative problem-solving, and recruiting outcomes while reducing employee turnover. In addition, organizations whose internal diversity represents the diversity of the communities they serve can provide a higher level of customer service to residents.

Today’s water sector leaders can maximize their team’s success at all levels by fostering a culture that celebrates differences in gender, race, and age.

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Examining unconsicous bias
Acknowledging and overcoming the instant reactions that can hinder our interactions and effectiveness
Members of the 2018 WEF Water Leadership Institute

Have you ever felt that an ad on your mobile device was too personal to be an accident? You didn’t ask to be bombarded with advertisements for that product. Without your knowing, a website you visited has tracked you to influence which ads you see. Unconscious bias manifests in ourselves in much the same way.

We are all a product of our experiences. As children, we absorb information from our parents, siblings, friends, and environment. Perhaps you grew up in a “Chevy family”. Your parents owned Chevys, and their parents owned Chevys, so when you turned 16 you got a Chevy. As we grow older, we are influenced by teachers, religious leaders, and even our employers.

As professionals, we need to acknowledge the opinions and biases that we carry and avoid letting our instant reactions overshadow our thinking selves. If these subconscious attitudes that span race, gender, appearance, age, wealth, and more are not addressed, they can impair diversity and retention rates and promote a disconnected culture. We can all actively work to improve ourselves, our teams, and ultimately our communities by setting aside our personal biases in decision-making processes.

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Legislative and regulatory outlook 2019
What the midterm election results and latest U.S. EPA activities mean for the water sector
Amy Kathman and Claudio Ternieden

On Nov. 6, the midterm elections took place in the U.S., and while the U.S. Senate remains in control of the Republicans, the U.S. House of Representatives is now controlled by the Democrats. That change, in addition to retirements in both bodies of Congress, will result in significant changes as things get under way this month in the 116th Congress. The final count for the House is 234 Democrats to 200 Republicans (at press time, one seat was still undecided); in the Senate, the count is 53 Republicans to 47 Democrats.

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Extra

No water, no life - no blue, no green
Guido Jouret

How can the world make better use of water, our most important natural resource? Many of the world’s worst geopolitical problems have a common root in this most basic element of life.

  • On five continents, desperate farmers and shepherds have been driven from their arid lands by drought and desertification and migrate to more industrialized countries that can’t handle the surge economically or politically, empowering hate-fueled nationalism.
  • In Syria, drought-stricken farmers crowd into the country’s overtaxed cities looking for nonexistent work, then turning in hopelessness to radicalism, which has fueled the Syrian civil war and the rise of ISIS.
  • The rise of merciless Boko Haram terrorists in Nigeria coincides with economic disaster as Lake Chad dries up.

It’s no surprise that the World Economic Forum says water crises are the biggest threat facing humanity over the next decade. Within the next 30 years, there were will be 1.2 billion more people on Earth. Eighty percent of that swollen population will live in cities. The world’s food system will require 50% more water; communities, cities, and industry will need 60% more; and energy production will use 85% more water, according to the World Business Council for Sustainable Development.

We need solutions. There is a four-faceted approach that ranges from such simple steps as collecting rooftop rainwater to such complex technical challenges as using the Hoover Dam in Nevada as the world’s largest energy storage battery. What unites and enables these four ideas is the growing power and capability of the globally connected, digital Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT).

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From the Trenches

Reconciling design ideals with imperfect infrastructure
Richard R. Roll and Michael S. Eagler Sr.

Undergraduate coursework for civil/sanitary students covers the basics of sewer collection system layout and design. One popular exercise is to compare the initial and ongoing costs of building a lift station on a sanitary sewer line versus conducting a deeper, more expensive sewer routing that avoids the operations and maintenance costs of pumping. Some courses also will cover material availability and selection, construction methods and equipment, and cost alternatives.

Given these extensive lessons on infrastructure design, even civil/sanitary students may suspect that not everything is built by the book. Likewise, aging infrastructure isn’t just a phrase that’s thrown around on the news. It’s essential for engineers and operator to understanding how deviations from planning documents may affect real-world situations.

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For a well-rounded, versatile engineer, technical and regulatory expertise must always remain a core competency. However, understanding and appreciating elements of human nature, team building, safe workplace practices, undocumented tribal knowledge, and unconventional diagnostic methods are just as important. These elements can’t be learned from books or most undergraduate courses. They will come from a blend of first-hand experience and memorable advice collected along the way.

In this series, some seasoned (and battle-scarred) professionals will try to ease the learning curve in collection system operations and maintenance for younger professionals by offering advice and insight based on real-life experiences.

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Splash Shot

Water reuse is crucial for the Padre Dam Municipal Water District (PDMWD) in East San Diego County, Calif., which imports 100% of its drinking water. On Sept. 7, 2018, the agency held its firstever East County Water Festival on the campus of its Advanced Water Purification Demonstration Facility (AWP). This pilot-scale facility has treated more than 379,000 L (100,000 gal) of recycled water daily for non-potable use since opening in 2015. As PDMWD aims to increase the facility’s capacity into a broadly accepted drinking water source, more than 400 people attended the festival to get an up-close look at the potential of potable reuse. 

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From the Editors

Stability and growth

Each year, right around WEFTEC, we start narrowing down topics for our annual State of the Industry section. Things that influence our choice include stories and trends in water sector publications, WEFTEC presentation themes and topics, and the issues being discussed nationwide. Usually this leads us to an area of technology or specific type of equipment. Last year, for example, we predicted the Internet of Things would continue its growth because of its underlying ability to improve and simplify communications.

This year, however, no technology surged ahead to grab the spotlight. Instead, much of the conversation has centered around who will invent, operate, and maintain all technologies. The water workforce is changing quickly — affecting who is participating now, how many newcomers will be needed, and what skills they should have.

The State of the Industry section (beginning on p. 26) looks at how some utilities are preparing for the challenge of filling more than 500,000 jobs across 212 different occupations. The water sector is well-positioned to attract top talent based on higher-than-average beginning wages and a clear and altruistic mission to provide clean and safe water. However, getting the word out to a new generation will require the entire water sector to step forward and speak up — something that the sector traditionally has been wary of doing. Water utilities will need to become more proactive and cooperative about staff recruitment and training.

This new recruitment will bring a more diverse workforce into the sector. Different generations, races, and genders will change the face of who provides water and wastewater services. The faces and perspectives of the water sector will resemble more closely those who we serve. But part of leading and working within a diverse workforce is acknowledging our engrained opinions and inclinations.

Acknowledging and overcoming differences requires effort, open minds, and new skills. The good news is that answers do exist (see pp. 30 and 34 for a start).

Along with these new people also will come new ideas on how to approach water management. Several of this month’s articles handle such new perspectives. It used to be that innovations and changes were put down with a curt, “we’ve always done it this way.” Now, that same statement may be delivered with a probing tone and used to justify trying something new.

— The editors

Viewpoint

Kickstart a new era of prosperity for the water and wastewater sector
Mahesh Lunani

The U.S. water and wastewater sector is at the cusp of a major renaissance. The next two decades, if managed carefully, will witness this sector attract a level of investment and a caliber of talent greater than in any previous period. To have a prosperous future the sector must take on two challenges.

  • Create economic value by adopting private sector efficiencies and consumer experience into public water and wastewater systems without negatively affecting public service.
  • Create societal value by capitalizing on the community’s increased awareness and executing well-formulated strategies on climate change, resiliency, resource recovery, infrastructure, and public health.

While both challenges should be pursued in parallel, the first challenge, economic value creation, is essential to ensuring the prosperity of the sector. It has two components.

First, by adopting from the private sector proven mechanisms of increasing efficiency, U.S. public utilities can realize $11 billion in annual gains and generate $220 billion in incremental public utility value over the next 20 years, without compromising public service. This requires utilities to adopt new strategies such as operations and maintenance (O&M) innovation, integration of digital platforms, cultivation of ambidextrous leadership, and innovative procurement. These approaches will attract investors that are willing to supply billions of dollars. These approaches also will attract top talent and breakthrough businesses who have historically shied away from this sector.

Second, a portion of this economic value is created by providing superior consumer experience and engagement. In the world of Uber, Amazon, and Apple, customer engagement is driven by fear of losing revenue or of being displaced. This motivation does not exist within the utility business as it is inherently monopolistic. At their core, water and sewer utilities are consumer enterprises, and have a huge unmet potential to better engage the customers. Cross-sector case studies have demonstrated that happy, engaged, and informed consumers are more willing to pay higher prices for their services.

To drive prosperity, the water sector needs a playbook versatile enough to be used at both a single utility and sector-wide. The strategies listed below form the core of a playbook that will ensure economic value creation and increase the societal value of utilities. Utility leaders should assess these strategies as a first step toward a new prosperous era.

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Facility Focus

The San Marcos Wastewater Treatment Plant, operated by Jacobs (Dallas), experiences the most stringent phosphorus removal permit parameters in Texas. To meet these parameters, requires chemical phosphorus removal. Over time facility staff developed, tested, and conducted pilot studies to reduce the use of ferric chloride. After years of testing and adjustments, the team created a program that uses existing treatment equipment to achieve enhanced biological phosphorus removal to further help reduce chemical use.

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Design Data

San Marcos Wastewater Treatment Plant
Location: San Marcos, Texas
Startup date: January 1969
Service population: 62,000
Number of employees: 13
Flow: 17 ML/d (4.5 mgd)

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Research Notes

Researchers quantify ‘tipping point’ for watershed phosphorus contents 

For the first time, researchers have quantified the average threshold for how much phosphorus watershed soils can retain before being overwhelmed and sending the nutrient into waterways. The team focused its analysis on phosphorus concentrations measured in 23 watersheds feeding the St. Lawrence River in Quebec, Canada.

To simulate watershed soils around the globe, selected watersheds covered a wide range of historical land uses, such as intensively farmed agricultural fields and untouched forest habitats. Researchers estimated the amount of phosphorus deposited into each watershed during the last 110 years by re-creating historical land-use patterns. They then compared their estimates with 26 years of phosphorus data for the watersheds made available by the Quebec government to identify whether and at what point phosphorus contents spiked in that section of the river.

On average, the study found that each square kilometer of land can hold about 2.1 Mg (2.3 tons) of phosphorus before discharging into waterways. Further, the team used an exponential decay model to estimate the time it would take to eliminate phosphorus from the studied watersheds altogether if emissions ceased immediately. Based on each watershed’s history of phosphorus-producing activity, removal estimates ranged from around 100 years at minimum to more than 2000 years at maximum. Together, the findings indicate that issues with phosphorus today are, in part, the result of yesterday’s land-use decisions.

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Also in this section

  • Reusable metal-and-dye-removal medium advances industrial wastewater treatment 
  • U.S. Clean Water Act reduces pollution, but at considerable cost 

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Waterline

Cornell study: Groundwater depletion is sinking Central California

Land in Central California is currently sinking at 0.5 m (1.6 ft) a year and Cornell University (Ithaca, N.Y.) researchers believe this is due to the effects of prolonged drought and frequent groundwater extraction.

“The subsidence we see is a sign of how much the groundwater is being depleted. Eventually, the water quality and cost of extracting it could get to the point where it is effectively no longer available,” said Rowenna Lohman, a study co-author.

These findings, which come despite higher-than-normal rainfall after it was declared the state’s most recent drought had ended in 2017, could become problematic for a region estimated by the U.S. Geological Survey to supply 8% of the total U.S. agricultural output. Lohman, a Cornell professor of earth and atmospheric sciences, and Cornell geophysics doctoral student Kyle Murray examined satellite imagery of Central California to estimate groundwater depletion and land subsidence over time.

According to previous research cited in their study, around 2 km3 (0.5 mi3) of groundwater per year had been depleted in the Tulare Basin between 1962 and 2011. Murray and Lohman approximate between 2012 and 2016, about 42 km3 (10 mi3) of groundwater was depleted from the basin despite periodic recharge from rainfall and snowmelt. 

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Also in this section

  • Wetter climates may increase frequency of venomous snakebites

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From the Field

Water Environment & Technology Watershed Moments Photo Contest

From Sept. 1 through Oct. 30, 2018, WE&T asked readers to share photos that show the ways the water sector works within the communities it serves to elevate the visibility of water issues, lift the veil on what goes on in a water resource recovery facility, and cooperate with colleagues to demonstrate the true value of water. By getting the Word Out for Water, utility professionals, equipment manufacturers, scientists, and engineers address global problems at the local level.

Congratulations to Meredith Brown, marketing assistant for the pump manufacturer, Global Pump (Davison, Mich.), who received the most votes for her photo of employees Jeff Dinnan and Gino Mersino talking shop with guests at the 2018 Water Environment Federation’s Annual Technical Exhibition and Conference (WEFTEC®).

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Behind the lens

In the wake of a destructive hurricane season that battered many parts of the eastern U.S., Global Pump recognizes that there is high demand for reliable, efficient pumping equipment in emergency situations. At WEFTEC 2018 in New Orleans, the Global Pump team discussed how choosing the right impeller can make a significant difference for pump effectiveness and operation during emergencies.

“As WEFTEC is recognized as the largest annual water quality exhibition in the world, the size alone of the show is attractive to us to showcase our products and services,” Brown said. “The large and diverse group of water professionals that attend are from many different industries, and because of that, we are able to reach out to many potential new customers, and connect with current customers as well.”

Brown said Global Pump’s presentations mean more than just selling products; they’re also about spreading expertise and building a stronger water sector. In addition to exhibiting at conventions, the manufacturer also routinely appears at educational community events in Michigan and hosts continuing education seminars for water professionals. 

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Problem Solvers

Optimizing services in England with the help of a custom water consumption portal

Problem: Installing smart meters to reduce water consumption required providing usage data to customers

Solution: Develop a customer engagement outreach strategy and water consumption portal

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Climate change, varying levels of precipitation, and population growth make balancing water supply and demand challenging for water companies. Anglian Water (Huntingdon, England) decided to implement a new metering strategy as a proactive approach to preserving the environment and reducing water consumption in east England.

The company originally installed traditional meter systems to measure customers water use, but meter readings were only taken once or twice a year. The company also only communicated with customers during calls some made to report a leak or through bills.

“Customers felt detached from their water bill and disempowered to control it,” said Paul Glass, Anglian Water smart metering manager. “It was clear a full customer engagement strategy was needed to help incentivize customers into reducing their water consumption and increase their satisfaction with Anglian Water,” he said.

As a large water and water recycling company providing services to more than 6 million domestic households, Anglian Water wanted to install smart meters and find a way to improve customer engagement. It also wanted to collect hourly consumption data and compare that to the norm of reading customers’ meters just once or twice a year.

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Products

Wireless sensor
OleumTech® (Foothill Ranch, Calif.); https://gp.oleumtech.com

The General Purpose (GP) Wireless Sensor Network Platform is designed specifically for vertically focused IIoT applications in nonhazardous locations. The system is based on the company’s industrially hardened, Class I, Division 1 platform. With approximately 400,000 wireless transmitters deployed worldwide in over 40,000 networks, the technology has been field-proven in some of the most hazardous environments. The GP Platform consists of sensor-agnostic wireless transmitters communicating with a choice of wireless gateways. The transmitters can either be externally powered or, with an optional battery pack, provide a completely self-contained solution and a battery life of up to 10 years.

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Mixer
Xylem (Rye Brook, N.Y.); www.xylem.com

Flygt 4220 mixer enhances the resilience and sustainability of wastewater treatment plants, enabling operators to easily manage changing mixing conditions by simply adjusting the mixer output. The mixer can be controlled to deliver only the output required. The mixer is based on the company’s Flygt Dirigo platform of integrated power electronics, including an IE4 super premium efficiency motor that delivers market-leading efficiency. It is available in 1.5-, 2-, 3-, and 4-horsepower versions.

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