Infrastructure improvements are essential for more than improved water quality and supply.
We've heard the need-based estimates time and time again: Annual capital investment in water infrastructure is approximately $36.4 billion, but to meet the needs of our population growth that annual investment must increase to $91 billion. With "just" an additional $9.4 billion per year during the next eight years, we would avoid $21 billion per year in costs to households and business.
A study by the American Water Works Association states that the cost of repairing and expanding U.S. drinking water infrastructure will be $1 trillion in the next 25 years if pipes are replaced at the end of their useful life. Looking at a 40-year period, replacement needs make up only about 54 percent of the national total and population changes make up the difference. Where will the funds come from to pay for it? Customers will pay higher water bills and local fees. The report, "Buried No Longer: Confronting America's Water Infrastructure Challenge," says many small communities will face the greatest challenges.
The costs are staggering. Both the capital costs and the potential toll on our country in terms of business, family finances, and water quality and supply is greater if aging infrastructure isn't prioritized. But this again is nothing new. Today, more and more reports, like a recent American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) report and one by Green For All, try a new tactic to emphasize the importance of investment in water infrastructure in business dollars, jobs, and boosts to our economy.
According to a report from the ASCE, "Failure to Act: The Economic Impact of Current Investment Trends in Water and Wastewater Treatment Infrastructure," aging water infrastructure will cost U.S. businesses $147 billion during the next decade, the average household about $900 in higher water rates and lower wages, and the workforce will lose 700,000 jobs. This report identifies that retail, restaurants and bars, and construction businesses face the greatest job losses as a result of aging water infrastructure because of less disposable income, increased water costs, and higher costs of water-based goods. This seems like information even non-engineers and utility managers will open their eyes to. Let's hope so, since the typical messages about threats to water quality and supply haven't resonated.
Green For All, in partnership with American Rivers, the Economic Policy Institute, and the Pacific Institute (the study was funded by the Rockefeller Foundation), reports that if a $188.4 billion investment was made in water infrastructure – the amount the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) indicates would be required to manage stormwater and preserve water quality – we'd add $265.billion into the economy and create 1.3 million direct and indirect jobs in related sectors, and result in 568,000 additional jobs from increased spending. Too bad we can't just sign a check and get started right way.
Fortunately, it's not all doom and gloom. Despite the critical lag, good projects are underway, communities and lawmakers are making smart decisions, and strides toward greener practices are happening every day. (Sigh of relief!) Following are some recent, notable projects in progress, recently completed, or coming down the pipeline. Also of note are some energy innovations to save money at water facilities in the accompanying article, "Saving costs with smart energy solutions."
Projects in progress or recently completed
Navajo-Gallup Water Supply Project – One of the 14 high-priority infrastructure projects identified by the Obama Administration, this project includes about 280 miles of pipeline, several pumping plants, and two water treatment plants to service more than 43 Navajo chapters, the city of Gallup, N.M., and the Teepee Junction area of the Jicarilla Apache Nation. Currently, more than 40 percent of Navajo Nation households haul water to meet their daily need. This project, targeted to be complete in March 2013, is the result of a water rights settlement and will benefit 250,000 Americans. (http://permits.performance.gov/projects/navajo-gallup-water-supply-project)
The Deep Rock Tunnel Connection and dewatering pump station in Indianapolis – Expected to be complete in 2017, this $280 million project will provide combined sewer overflow storage, collection for major sewer overflows, and future connections to other tunnels. The main tunnel consists of approximately 41,600 feet of 18-foot-diameter tunnel at a depth of 230 feet. The pump station has a discharge capacity of 90 million gallons per day (mgd).
Lawton Valley Water Treatment Plant replacement and Station No. 1 Plant upgrade in Rhode Island – The Lawton Valley 7-mgd plant will be demolished and replaced with a new, compact building, while the Station No. 1 plant will receive treatment upgrades to control total trihalomethanes. Construction should be complete in December 2014.
Red Lion Municipal Authority Water Treatment Plant in York County, Pa. – Engineering consultant, Gannett Fleming Inc. used building information modeling (BIM) to design the new water treatment plant, one of the first plants in the United States to incorporate this powerful design and collaboration process. Construction is now underway. Go to www.youtube.com/user/GannettFleming to view the plant BIM video.
Hetch Hetchy Regional Water System Infrastructure Seismic Upgrade of Bay Division Pipelines 3 and 4 in San Francisco – This unique water line project involves the construction of 72-inch-diameter ball joints plus slip joint and a 300-foot-long articulated concrete vault to provide safe crossing at the Hayward Fault in the event of a large earthquake. Extensive testing for the vault was conducted at Cornell University. This project is part of the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission's (SFPUC) Water System Improvement Program (WSIP) for the Hetch Hetchy Regional Water System, a $4.6 billion infrastructure upgrade initiative.
Calaveras Dam Replacement Project – Another project in the WSIP will replace the existing Calaveras Dam, built in 1925, with a 200-foot-high, seismically designed earth and rock-fill dam that will incorporate about 7 million cubic yards of excavated material, which is as much as the materials used to construct two Great Pyramids of Giza, according to SFPUC General Manager Ed Harrington. Other aspects of the project include a new spillway, fish passage screens and a fish ladder, a new intake/outlet tower, and three new tunnels to convey water to and from the reservoir. Major construction is expected to be complete in 2015.
Tampa Bay Water Regional Surface Water Treatment Plant – Tampa Bay Water's (TBW) new, 120-mgd water treatment plant in Brandon, Fla., is the largest design-build-operate drinking water project in U.S. history. Serving 2.4 million people, the project was completed on time and under budget by Veolia Water North America (formerly USFilter) and its partners, which included Camp Dresser & McKee and Clark Construction. TBW reduced its administrative and consulting costs through a single procurement and was able to establish guarantees for water quality and quantity, project timelines, and operations and facility maintenance through private-sector involvement. Previously, the region relied on groundwater supplies, a source that was unsustainable given population increases and damaged the natural ecosystem. Now source water is blended from area rivers, a canal, and a reservoir. The variability of the source water contributed to TBW's decision to team with Veolia, as it has a patented ACTIFLO clarification process to treat water with high variability. The plant is among the world's most sophisticated water treatment facilities. The first phase of the project began in 2000, with construction complete in 2005. The second, recent phase began in 2007. Note: The Seattle Public Utilities' 120-mgd Tolt Treatment Facility shares the honor of being the largest DBO project in the United States.
Monterey Peninsula Water Supply Project – This project includes a desalination plant that will draw water from under the sea floor past the high tide line to avoid impacts to marine life, as well as expansion of a current aquifer storage and recovery program.
Metropolitan Water Reclamation District (MWRD) of Greater Chicago Settlement – The EPA, the Department of Justice, and the state of Illinois announced a Clean Water Act settlement with the MWRD to complete a tunnel and reservoir plan to increase its capacity to handle wet weather events and address combined sewer overflow (CSO) discharges, as well as control trash and debris in overflows and implement a green infrastructure program to reduce stormwater runoff. The project will be completed in a series of stages in 2015, 2017, and 2029.
New York City CSO Consent Order Modifications – New York City Department of Environmental Protection is required to reduce CSOs under a 2005 Consent Order. While the city has modified the order in the past, this year it declared a significant reliance on green infrastructure to improve water quality in harbor waters. The city will invest about $187 million during the next three years to install green infrastructure technologies to manage stormwater before it enters the city's combined sewer system. Looking at the long term, an estimated $2.4 billion of public and private funding is expected during the next 18 years to remove approximately 1.5 billion gallons of CSO flows annually by 2030.
Philadelphia's "Green City, Clean Waters" partnership agreement – The EPA and the city of Philadelphia have agreed to partner in a $2 billion investment to manage stormwater with green practices and infrastructure and reduce sewer overflows. EPA will provide assistance to the city in identifying and promoting higher performing green infrastructure designs, convening technical expertise from around the country to advance green designs and support a green design competition, and help remove barriers to innovation in the city's plan.
Repair of the Delaware Aqueduct – A $2.1 billion plan to fix the leaking Delaware Aqueduct includes a pilot project that consists of construction of a three-mile bypass tunnel and repair work to leaking sections. The New York Department of Environmental Protection forecasts groundbreaking in 2013 and project completion in 2021.
New Jersey Distribution System Improvement Program – New Jersey has initiated a new program to accelerate its aging water infrastructure. Following an almost two-year public stakeholder process, the program is now operational. Projects are funded through a Distribution System Improvement Charge on customer bills, which will go into effect before the summer of 2013. New Jersey American Water has already submitted a $140 million foundational filing that would result in more than 400 infrastructure projects and 900 construction jobs during the next two years.
Here's hoping we can exponentially increase the rate at which smart projects are planned, designed, funded, approved, and constructed. Until then, we can learn from our collective successes and do our part to spread the word that clean water and ample supply are essential not only to life and public health, but also to business and our country's success.
Saving costs with smart energy solutions
According to the Black & Veatch survey findings, more than 75 percent of respondents have taken measures to reduce energy consumption within their utility operations. Since electricity makes up as much as 30 percent of water utility budgets, such initiatives are winners, especially when done in ways to incorporate sustainability practices. For example, several standout projects are using green initiatives to reduce their utility's carbon footprint, improve air and water quality, cut costs, and ensure continuous operation in the event of a power outage since they are producing their own power.
The Philadelphia Water Department (PWD) and Ameresco, an energy efficiency and renewable energy company, agreed that Ameresco will design, build, and maintain a wastewater biogas-to-energy facility that will generate 5.6 MW of power and reduce PWD's energy costs by more than $12 million during the 16-year contract. The PWD's Northeast Water Pollution Control Plant has been using half of the biogas generated as a byproduct of sewage treatment for heat processes; however, the other half was being flared – consuming energy and increasing emissions. The new facility will capture the previously flared gas and use it beneficially as a renewable energy source. The biogas project is expected to reduce carbon emissions by nearly 22,000 tons per year, which is equivalent to removing 4,833 cars from the road or planting 5,390 acres of pine forest. A grant from the American Recovery Reinvestment Act is helping to fund this project.
Ameresco, which partnered with San Antonio Water System on the first U.S. sewage facility to refine biogas for the grid, also teamed with the Dallas Water Authority on a waste-to-energy solution to create electricity and heat to be used onsite.
The Joint Meeting of Essex and Union Counties in New Jersey, which is a wastewater authority made up of eleven member and four customer communities, started a cogeneration facility in 2009. It recently won the 2012 National Environmental Achievement Award from the National Association of Clean Water Agencies for this project. This facility uses methane gas, a byproduct of anaerobic digestion during wastewater treatment, to generate approximately 69 percent of the total power needed to run its wastewater treatment plant and biosolids facilities. The community is benefiting from reduced fuel costs and power usage, and the actual savings are expected to increase as the system is optimized. The Joint Meeting works to share its experience with other facility managers, as it can be replicated on many anaerobic digestors.
Of course, biogas isn't the only resource plant owners have to capitalize upon to be more sustainable – the sun and open spaces provide a winning combination as well. Two New Jersey American Water facilities are installing solar arrays to be more cost efficient and reduce carbon use. New Jersey American Water, a subsidiary of American Water and the largest investor-owned water utility in the state, recently built a solar field of 3,565 panels at the Delaware River Regional Water Treatment Plant in Delran. This installation produces about 1.2 million kilowatt hours per year and was completed in April. This summer in Mansfield, N.J., American Water erected 3,290 solar panels that produce more than 1 million kilowatt hours of power per year.
Shanon Fauerbach, P.E., was formerly the editorial director of CE News.