Energy Management in Water Treatment

If there is one thing that is evident from our trip to Washington, D.C., for AWWA ACE11 last week, it’s that across the country communities are continuing to look for new ways to decrease their energy demand and use, especially with their water treatment facilities.

Water treatment facilities are among some of the largest individual energy users and represent approximately 3% of total energy consumption in the United States. This percentage is equivalent to 75 billion kilowatt hours (kWh) and results in 45 million metric tons of greenhouse gasses being pumped into the atmosphere per year. Even more stunning, was according to a report from Smart Energy Design Assistance Center (SEDAC), energy costs in U.S. water treatment facilities amount to $4 billion annually and can account for one third of a municipality’s total energy bill.

However, the good news is that even though the population of the U.S. continues to grow, per-capita water use has actually dropped by more than 25% from its peak in the late 1970s. Luckily, people are getting the message and reducing their water footprint at home by using innovative and efficient products. So regardless of whether it’s a water treatment plant or other commercial facility, it is a critical to adopt energy-efficient methods to maximize savings.

One way to address this is to implement measures of the ENERGY STAR® 7 Steps of Energy Management. By implementing these energy-efficient measures at treatment facilities, it could reduce energy consumption by 10%, which could save $400 million annually and significantly reduce treatment facilities’ carbon footprint in the United States.

The savings may not be this big at our businesses or home, but the following energy-savings tips can help all of us do our part.

  • Make a Commitment Recognize that the economic, environmental and political impacts of energy consumption are sufficient motivation to change our energy use patterns.
  • Assess Performance Make a personalized accounting of energy use and costs. Benchmark your facility by comparing its energy performance with similar sites.
  • Set Goals Review your objectives and constraints. Establish priorities and set measurable goals with target dates.
  • Create an Action Plan Define the technical steps. Apply proven methods to increase energy efficiency or get specialized guidance. Assign roles and resources. Consider rolling savings from earlier efforts into future, more complex initiatives.
  • Implement Action Plan Install equipment and change operational procedures. Establish a maintenance schedule. Train equipment operators and building occupants on the changes. Track and monitor conditions.
  • Evaluate Progress Compare current performance to established goals. Understand what worked well in order to identify best practices. Adjust procedures, goals, and schedule the next evaluation.
  • Recognize Achievements Provide internal recognition for the efforts and achievement of individuals, teams, and facilities. Seek external recognition from government agencies, media, or third party organizations.

For new facilities, the best time to make these choices is during the design phase of a project. For many existing facilities the tendency is often to ask: “If it’s not broken, why spend more money retrofitting?” Although the initial costs of new systems can be expensive, these investments will help save significant operation and maintenance money in the long run.

What are you doing to reduce your carbon and water footprint?