On May 24, I had to take a flight through Atlanta to Nashville. I took a look at the airplane magazine and found a couple of articles I thought might be interesting. However, one surprised me in its impact.
As you probably know, there is concern in the water and wastewater industries that we are losing talent rapidly. I have also heard that some are concerned that this talent pool will be hard to replace. The fear is that the younger generations may want to pursue computer-based or more “glamorous” jobs.
The article that I read ("The Millennials," Sky Magazine, May 2010) relates to this and shows an interesting change in the new generations. The magazine refers to these people as the “Millennials.” They were born between the early 1980s and 2000. The main difference in the Millennials is what they expect from work. Personally, I think this is a good thing for water/wastewater.
The Millennials want to feel that they are making a difference to the world, and they want to feel like they are contributing something of value. They also like to be heard and they want to be innovators. Finally, they want to know that they are succeeding, and they want to express who they are through work. According to this article, the Millennials will accept a lower wage if these needs are fulfilled.
This is good news for our industry. After all, we can fulfill these needs. What we do results in very tangible impacts on our environment and the literal health and wellbeing of our community. If you don’t feel like you are making a difference in water and wastewater, there are few jobs that will give you this. Also, it can be proven ─ not only by the anecdotal statistics but by examining operational data that goes to the state.
It is also my opinion that the energy fluctuations, the issue of global warming, and the recent environmental catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico will drive home the importance of our environment to this generation. Because one of their needs is to express themselves through work, they will want to express this environmental consciousness. Thus, water and wastewater wins again.
As for the innovation needs of the Millennials, this field is ripe with challenges, begging for innovation. If you don’t believe this, look at the tightening regulations, aging infrastructure, and ever-tightening budgets.
For every generation, there are those who make it to the top of the socioeconomic ladder. For this generation, the top spots belong to Katy Perry, Saun White, Michael Phelps, Luke Russert, Princes William and Harry, and others who will arrive. For every one that hits the top, many, many more either don’t want this level of notoriety or lack the opportunities to reach this level. However, that is not to say that these individuals won’t feel the pull and needs of their generation. Quite the contrary. Let’s face it; we can’t all do what Brad Pitt is doing for New Orleans, no matter what our desire. This is where we shine. Our field is everywhere, and it employs all kinds of people from the socioeconomic strata. Thus, we can satisfy a Millennials’ generational desires, no matter what their circumstances or physical location.
Finally, this article indicates that the Millennials will probably be a larger generation than the Baby Boomers. Thus, the challenge is not the lack of talent, but our ability to spin the story to attract this generation. To me, we have a great story. Now we have to sell it.
Posted by Grant Van Hemert, P.E., Schneider Electric Water Wastewater Competency Center on Jun 01, 2010 at 12:43 PM0 comments
Sometimes we get so caught up in the day-to-day that we fail to see the magnitude of the importance of our efforts or of the field we work in. Let’s pull our heads up from our tasks and take a look around at the Big Picture.
Here are some interesting facts, trends, and developments from a variety of sources.
Size of the wastewater problem. “Globally, 2 million tons of sewage, industrial and agricultural waste is discharged into the work’s waterways and at least 1.8 million children under five years old die every year from water related disease, or one every 20 seconds.”
Hospital impact. “Over half of the world’s hospital beds are occupied with people suffering from illnesses linked with contaminated water…”
Comparison with wars and other forms of violence. “…more people die as a result of polluted water then are killed by all forms of violence, including wars.”
Return on investment. “According to a recent report from the Green Economy Initiative, every dollar invested in safe water and sanitation has a pay back of US$3 to US$34 depending on the region and the technology deployed.”
Food production. 70-90 percent of the available fresh water is used to produce food. Much of this water returns to the ecosystem with additional nutrients and contaminants.
Day-to-day illness. Approximately 88 percent of all diarrhoeal incidents are related to unsafe water and poor hygiene.
Water availability. Ninety-seven point five percent of all water is salt water. Thus, only 2.5 percent is fresh water. Seventy percent of the fresh water is locked in Antarctic and Greenland icecaps. Approximately 29 percent of fresh water is soil moisture, or too deep underground to be accessible. Thus, only 1 percent of fresh water is available for human use. In other words, for every 100 gallons of water on the Earth, only 0.25 gallons is usable by people.
Water usage. The top three water users for agriculture are North America, Oceania (South Pacific islands including Australia and New Zealand), and South Asia. The top three domestic water users are Europe, North America, and Oceania. Europe and North America are almost tied for industrial water use, followed by Oceania, Asia (not including south Asia), and Latin America.
North American death rate. Here is a fact that all of North America (including Mexico) can be proud of. According to a report from UN-HABITAT, fewer than 15 people of every 100,000 died from waterborne illnesses. This is the lowest ranking possible.
Agricultural usage. The approximate gallons of water needed to produce 2.2 pounds (1 kilogram) of a food product is 11.9 for rice, 5.28 for soybeans, 4.00 for wheat, 1.32 for potatoes, and 1.32 for corn. This compares with 494.0 for beef. This is approximately 5.5 times the combined total for rice, soybeans, wheat, potatoes, and corn.
Industrial usage. This category uses between 5 and 20 percent of total water usage.
Desalination. Saudi Arabia is the leader in desalination capacity (no surprise). But did you know that the United States is in second, followed by the UAE and Kuwait?
Impact of United States bottled water usage. “In the United States, it is estimated that the production of the bottles alone requires 17 million barrels of oil a year and it takes three liters of water to produce one liter of bottled water.”
Water related diseases and contaminants. The Centers for Disease Control lists more than 100 water related diseases and contaminants. Some of these are among humanities most known diseases, including Cholera, Typhoid Fever, Malaria, West Nile Virus, Yellow Fever, Dengue Fever, and others. Many of these diseases, such as Cholera and Typhoid Fever, have been stopped by modern water treatment.
Water cap and trade? We have all heard about the concept of carbon cap and trade. Could this be the future of the water industry? In London, the Carbon Disclosure Project has led to another effort, The Water Disclosure Project. According to Steve Maxwell's "Water Market Review 2010 Update and Executive Summary," the new project “will gather data to inform and alert concerned investors as well as governments and the general public about corporate water usage and behavior." The idea is that “by forcing businesses to improve the measurement of their water usage, efforts such as this hope to also incentivize better management of water.”
When you look at the data, North America is doing an exceptional job at keeping the waters clean and protecting the public heath. All of you operators in this “Silent Service” should be proud. However, we are in jeopardy of losing all of these accomplishments. Decaying infrastructure, increasing population, decreasing global water quality, and the impacts of global warming will make water scarcer and more expensive to treat. That is why we need to listen to the experts and dramatically increase the amount of money invested into our field.
Posted by Grant Van Hemert, P.E., Schneider Electric Water Wastewater Competency Center on May 11, 2010 at 12:43 PM2 comments
Welcome to Environmental Protection’s Quiet Waters blog. "Only in quiet waters do things mirror themselves undistorted. Only in a quiet mind is adequate perception of the world.” – Hans Margolius
There has been a lot of talk recently about energy and energy savings. The aftermath of Hurricane Katrina taught us all just how volatile energy costs can be. When gas goes up, so does everything else.
But how much energy is used in water and wastewater plants? Not much, right? Wrong. As paraphrased from a a previous blog: Water and wastewater facilities' energy usage equates to 56 billion kilowatt hours (kWh) and $4 billion. Pumping represents more then 87 percent of a water utility's energy usage, and aeration and pumping represent more than 70 percent of a wastewater utility's energy usage.
Do you know if your plant is efficient? Many operators don’t because the energy bill is routed through accounting, and most facilities don't have a benchmark to judge their usage by. Both of these problems can be solved easily. First off, get accounting to send the bill to you and study it closely. Second, EPA has extended the Energy Star program into the water and wastewater market, allowing you to compare your facility against others. Studies have shown that just monitoring a criterion against a benchmark can affect its behavior.
But what do you do for larger energy savings? Many plants only have a single meter at the point of utility tie-in, and it is used for billing purposes. More power meters will allow you to see where energy is being used and when. Of course, the equipment you are using can make a big difference. Many facilities are using inefficient means to aerate. This could be the blower, aerator, or diffuser. Also, pump impellers can have an impact. Once these have been examined, look at variable frequency drives. Did you know that for a pump or blower, a motor at 80 percent of full speed only uses 50 percent of full power? That is why VFDs are so popular. To make them more attractive, many power utilities provide a rebate for using VFDs.
How you control a facility also can save energy and money. A lot has been written about dissolved oxygen control and energy savings in aeration basins. This is all good stuff. Also, changing the time when towers are filled can eliminate or minimize demand charges.
What if you want serious energy savings? For these opportunities, advanced modeling is the key. Pump modeling or multi-parameter aeration basin control can have a dramatic impact on energy savings.
Your facility may not be able to purchase more efficient equipment outright, but engineering firms and suppliers are starting to look at performance contracting,, which uses energy savings to pay for upgrades. In this model, a facility is given a guaranteed energy savings from the supplier or engineer. Then the supplier or engineer provides all the equipment and pays for the installation cost. Once installed and running, the energy usage is measured. If the energy savings meets or exceeds the guarantee, then the facility pays the supplier or engineer from the energy savings until the system is paid for. If the energy savings is less then the guarantee, then the facility is paid the difference between the energy usage and the guarantee. Performance contracting can provide a win-win solution for the facility and the supplier or engineer.
So what are your experiences with energy savings? Are you looking at your energy bills? If so, what do you see? What is your facility's viewpoint on energy?
Posted by Grant Van Hemert, P.E., Schneider Electric Water Wastewater Competency Center on Apr 06, 2010 at 12:43 PM1 comments
Photo courtesy of Texas DOT.
Frost and Sullivan created a survey about water and wastewater end users' purchasing criteria. In our market, an end user is the water and wastewater facility. In the survey, Frost and Sullivan identified reliability as the first concern.
Of course, reliability takes many forms, ranging from part reliability to the distance from the facility to the place a replacement part can be purchased.
Let’s look at a real example: I was starting a facility in the California’s central valley, and the PLC that I was working with had a problem with its processor. I was several thousands of miles from home, and I had to get this going. In this case, I got lucky: The closest distributor was about 30 minutes away in Modesto.
However, I realized later that if I had used another popular PLC platform, the nearest distributor would have been more than two hours away in San Francisco. This got me thinking: If I, as an original equipment manufacturer’s start up-person, could be impacted by distance, then what was the operator or facility maintenance guy facing?
The answer is rather scary. In August 2004, EPA provided a report to congress on CSO and SSO impacts. It named Mechanical and Power failures as the No. 3 leading cause of SSO failures at 11 percent (there was not a similar breakdown of CSO events). Let’s face it, pump stations are all very similar in how they work, just in different configurations. They are used for SSOs, CSOs, or water distribution; they all use motor starters, or VFDs; and they all have valves and pipes. Therefore, similar findings to the SSO situation must exist for all areas of pumping. Actually, mechanical and power failures may be more important criteria since the leading two causes, blockages and wet weather I/I, are not found in water distribution.
Nevertheless, if a pump station is down and you don’t have the proper valve, relay, or whatever, you could be in a world of hurt. How do you stop water flow when the part is 2.5 hours away one way by car? Not a good situation.
My experience does not allow me to comment on the distribution policies of equipment such as valve and instruments, but I can comment on the electrical aspects of the facilities. Some electrical suppliers are mostly focused on original equipment manufacturers; thus, they will have distribution centers in these areas. Some may have a broader focus but only have parts available in some areas. And then some may allow all of their parts to be sold everywhere but may not have technical support at all locations. Some suppliers are so small that they cannot provide a wide distribution network. So how do you determine which one? That is tough.
My advice is to be proactive during the design phase of your system. Find out what the proposed devices are, then go onto their Web sites and see where the nearest distributor is. Once you find out, ask yourself what the worst case scenario would be in order for you to drive that distance. Of course, the obvious question is what the distance should be. If you are in the sparsely-populated Southwest states, where distance is large but traffic is light, a 100-mile distance may be O.K. However, in the densely populated regions of the Northeast, 30 miles may be too far.
So what are your horror stories? Has distance proven to be a barrier or a bad situation made worse? Speak up!!
Posted by Grant Van Hemert, P.E., Schneider Electric Water Wastewater Competency Center on Mar 17, 2010 at 12:43 PM0 comments
Welcome to Environmental Protection’s Quiet Waters blog.
"Only in quiet waters do things mirror themselves undistorted. Only in a quiet mind is adequate perception of the world.” – Hans Margolius
Sustainability is a growing concept. I have asked Lee Ferrell to comment on this topic and its application to water and wastewater. Lee Ferrell is Schneider Electrics’ Water and Wastewater Energy and Process consultant. He has a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering and a master's in environmental science, both from Clemson University. He is a Board-certified Environmental Engineer and a Professional Engineer. The following are his thoughts.
Sustainability is most likely the word of the next decade. However, what is sustainability? The most widely accepted definition is “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs."
The obvious question is “How is sustainability applicable to water and wastewater treatment facilities?”
I like to say it is a puzzle with four pieces balanced to include operational, water, energy, and carbon efficiency solutions. Water and wastewater treatment facilities are able to reduce operation and maintenance costs with it; and because the production of energy is directly related to greenhouse gas (GHG) production, energy reduction is directly related to carbon reduction and dollars saved.
Water and wastewater facilities need a substantial amount of electrical energy to conduct unit processes and operations. This usage equates to 56 billion kilowatt hours (kWh), $4 billion, and 45 million tons of GHG production. Thus, it is evident that significant savings in energy is a key to a sustainability solution.
Pumping is the largest consumer of energy for a water treatment facility — representing more than 87 percent of the total energy consumed. The most opportunistic energy savings for wastewater treatment plants are primarily found in aeration and pumping applications. This includes aeration for activated sludge and aerobic digestion as well as return and waste activated sludge pumping representing more than 70 percent of the energy consumed.
Energy and water are finite resources due to aging infrastructure, increased demand, more stringent legislation, limited resources; slow technological advances and, finally, a low interest in renewable or reuse of energy and water resources. That makes energy and water management the easiest and fastest way to achieve sustainability solutions in a facility. What are your thoughts?
Posted by Grant Van Hemert, P.E., Schneider Electric Water Wastewater Competency Center on Feb 01, 2010 at 12:43 PM0 comments
Welcome to Environmental Protection’s Quiet Waters blog. "Only in quiet waters do things mirror themselves undistorted. Only in a quiet mind is adequate perception of the world." – Hans Margolius.
My name is Grant Van Hemert and I think this quotation fits the purpose of this blog – to discuss the field, share perceptions, and view the water field undistorted.
I work in Schneider Electric’s Water Wastewater Competency Center. Before coming to work for Schneider Electric, I worked with Veolia’s Kruger division and also with Parkson Corporation—both of these companies are water and wastewater oriented OEMs. I am also chair of the American Water Works Association Instrumentation and Control committee.
The purpose of this blog is to provide a forum for all water and wastewater issues, not just those related to power and control of water and wastewater facilities. So pipe up, fellow bloggers. Let’s hear about things that are of interest to you and your area of expertise.
Let me start by discussing something I call “bidability.” Bidability is the process of developing a current project to ensure competitive bids on future projects. From my viewpoint, few utilities actually consider how the choices on a current project affect future bidability. Do you believe this is true?
I have seen utilities commit to a control system that has a streamlined sourcing and integration methodology. Often times these suppliers will offer a strong system at a very low installed cost. Then years later, the supplier charges a very high price per input/output to expand the system. Why? Because the supplier knows that the utility is locked to that system and their exclusive source of supply. Thus, a decision made years ago sacrifices the utility's ability to bid future projects. I believe that this runs counter to the legal spirit of competitive bidding. Have you seen this? Please share your stories, but please do not mention the supplier or systems' trade name.
So what should utilities do? From my point of view, they should look at a supplier's support network and pricing policies. For the support network, a utility should look at how many local suppliers can secure parts. Also, how close is technical knowledge with the desired supplier or with authorized third parties? Finally, I think a good understanding of the supplier’s pricing structure can help to ensure bidability. If the sourcing is limited, then the supplier may be able to modify price on a given utility. If the sourcing is broad, then chances are that price agreements exist with contractors and subcontractors that go beyond any single project. These existing pricing agreements can provide stability from a supplier through its sourcing agents. This means that the variability in an agent's cost is more likely to be due to an agent's overhead; not to a supplier’s whim. This viewpoint is from a control geek’s standpoint. Valve guys, instrument guys, and water process OEMs, what are your viewpoints?
I look forward to hearing your opinions, and please, don’t be shy!
Posted by Grant Van Hemert, P.E., Schneider Electric Water Wastewater Competency Center on Jan 07, 2010 at 12:43 PM0 comments