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Droughts and Dollars: Keeping The Water Flowing

Despite this year's El Nino bringing more rain to parts of California — not to mention recent heavy rains in the southern half of the United States — drought conditions remain a significant threat for the West. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA's) spring forecast predicts a new drought will likely develop across most of Arizona and western New Mexico from April through June.

This requires many city and county leaders to grapple with a seemingly intractable dilemma: how to manage their communities through the scarcity of a drought while contending with rising operating costs and increasingly constrained annual budgets.

The solution for many has been to “spend to save.” Many public entities are finding creative ways to both reduce costs and improve their communities by investing in water renovation projects that enable them to become more technologically savvy cities. Water and wastewater processing accounts for nearly 4 percent of the total electricity used in the U.S. For municipalities, the average treatment plant, distribution and collection system can be 30 to 50 percent of their total energy use.

Honeywell helps utilities maximize their energy and operational efficiency to maintain water supply and quality through audits and benchmarking, water system analysis and plant design, water reclamation and conservation solutions and infrastructure upgrades. These programs help utilities reduce their operating costs, increase capacity and operate more efficiently.

For example, in Lamar, Colorado, the city's water utility suffered an annual water loss of 20 to 30 percent from its main raw water pipe, which transported water from its raw water field to the water treatment facility. Simply put, the pipe was far too old and was, expectedly, in poor condition. Honeywell helped assess where and how the City of Lamar could best improve their water treatment facility, which led to a retrofit project to revitalize the city's water infrastructure. As part of the project, the city's water pipe was replaced — a simple move that stopped water loss and also improved the quality of water the utility delivered to its customers. The new pipe also reduced the amount of horsepower required in transporting the water and enabled the city to further reduce overall energy costs.

Lamar exemplifies how efforts can not only help improve day-to-day operations in facilities and city infrastructures, but also end up saving money in the long run. In Lamar, for instance, the city no longer flushes away 20 to 30 percent of its water through a leaky pipe.

Furthermore, municipalities have access to financing options from numerous infrastructure vendors. These options have also played a significant role in helping leaders overcome financial barriers and enable their cities and counties to make critical building and infrastructure improvements without the large, upfront capital cost.

Lamar is not alone &endash; and reducing water waste itself is not the only way to save. A 2005 report by the California Energy Commission found that water utilities are significant consumers of the state's energy resources. Nearly 19 percent of California's energy requirements are tied to water operations such as raw water pumping, water treatment and finished water pumping, among other activities. Additionally, water operations account for more than 30 percent of California's natural gas consumption, according to the report.

Often the issue is that water and wastewater utilities operate with existing systems that are old and inefficient. Updating equipment such as pumps, pipes, facility lights and other systems can significantly help boost operating efficiency and cut costs. East Valley Water District in California's San Bernardino County, for example, underwent an infrastructure and facility retrofit effort with the help of Honeywell experts who helped identify and implement improvements including replacing existing, inefficient pumping systems and changing electrical rate schedules and pumping schedules to operate during the utility's off-peak rate periods. As a result of these improvements, the water utility saved nearly $523,000 in annual energy and operating costs, and reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 1.3 million pounds per year &endash; equivalent to removing about 248,282 cars from the road.

Funding options available to public entities such as water and wastewater utilities are vital to these types of retrofit projects. Both East Valley Water District and the city of Lamar were able to fund these upgrades through guaranteed energy savings performance contracts, enabling both entities to finance the cost of these upgrades with expected annual energy and operating savings, which are guaranteed by vendors such as Honeywell.

Additional Resources:
Get more information on Honeywell's wastewater efficiency solutions.
Learn more about Honeywell Building Solutions.
Jessie Timmerman
Building Technologies
+1 (763) 257-4245  - Mobile