Utilities Are Working Toward the Future

Preserving and protecting our water resources is an industry-wide mission.

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We’re all looking for better ways to do things. Better ways to do our jobs. Ways to eliminate waste. Everyone wants to run their utilities more efficiently – to replace and rehabilitate more, to lose less and leak less, and everyone’s trying to do it without letting it cost more.

I’m writing this month’s column from the American Water Works Association’s ACE15 in Anaheim, California. There are so many people here looking for new ways to lead their utilities into the future, and so many manufacturers pushing the latest and greatest in everything from manhole rehabilitation to membrane purification systems. I like attending industry trade shows. The Water & Wastewater Equipment, Treatment & Transport Show is my favorite, but ACE and WEFTEC provide great opportunities to meet MSW readers and the people who make all the equipment they use. Everyone has their best on display at these shows and it provides a look into the future of water and wastewater.

This month’s profile on the Victor Valley Wastewater Reclamation Authority, located right here in Southern California, is a great example of everything mentioned above. The authority is working tirelessly to eliminate waste from every corner of its operation, and it has its collective eyes trained squarely on the future. Things are changing, especially in California, and if you’re not looking forward, you’re falling behind.

The VVWRA is located at the southwestern edge of the Mojave Desert northeast of Los Angeles. It serves 250,000 residents and treats between 12 and 13 million gallons of wastewater per day at its Victorville wastewater treatment facility. In recent years, the authority has increased efficiency at its wastewater treatment plant, reduced power consumption and inaugurated the Omnivore Biogas Renewable Energy Project, a unique wastewater-to-energy program. The mission to improve efficiency and eliminate waste goes far beyond treatment and has permeated throughout the utility’s operations. It also stretches beyond Victor Valley.

Last night I had dinner with the Top Ops team from Palm Coast, Florida. They’ve done great things with their system. On the treatment side, they’ve become one of the top utilities in the country. One of their three wastewater plants has a 0 percent net liquid discharge. Every drop is recycled. Another of their plants is at 98.5 percent. They’re ahead of the curve, and it was great to hear their story. Of course, this show is in California, which is in the midst of a historic drought and unprecedented new regulations on water use.

I read and write about water every day, but I live in one of the most water-rich areas of the country. My office is on the largest freshwater chain of lakes in the world. Water is not scarce here, but that doesn’t mean we take it for granted. Quite the opposite. It drives the local economy, as well as the lifestyle. But people tend to lack perspective on the things that aren’t immediately at hand. I write about water, but I can also look out my window and see a lake. The woods are green. Drought is easy to grasp on an intellectual level, but it’s not something I’ve ever lived with.

Now here I am in Southern California, with reminders all over my hotel room about saving water however and wherever possible. I’m actually thinking about the impact of short showers and turning off the water while I brush my teeth. And I’m also talking to the people who have made it their mission to find better ways to do their jobs and preserve our precious water resources. That’s one of the fun parts of this job. And it provides some perspective on the work it takes to ensure we’ll continue to have an adequate supply of clean, safe water.

Enjoy this month’s issue.


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