By Paul McRoberts, President
The most prevalent complaints I hear from water treatment operators is that they’re spending too much on energy. Given the amount of pumping required to collect, cleanse and distribute large volumes of water, these complaints don’t surprise me. I read on Oxymem’s blog that wastewater treatment is estimated to consume roughly 3% of a developed nation’s electrical power, and as much as 60% of this energy is used in biological treatment alone. The costs are real—generating enough power to pump millions of gallons of water or treat a million gallons of wastewater a day is expensive.
What does surprise me about these cost complaints is that they appear to be perpetuated by a few misconceptions:
1. If we’re not running efficiently, just pump harder.
In my experience, a common solution to an inefficient water system is to just try to make the system work harder. While this may help you hit production metrics in the near term, this approach can chew up power and bloat energy costs over the long term.
2. If we have questions about our efficiency, we should evaluate the asset.
There can be dramatic differences between the way a pump, for example, operates in a manufacturer-controlled environment versus the real world. In a plant environment, there are so many variables that can affect an asset’s performance and efficiency, and the other assets are chief among them.
For this reason, we encourage you to assess your infrastructure’s system curves when troubleshooting inefficiencies, as opposed to looking at individual pump curves or asset behavior. It’s possible, given the variables of an environment and the way assets are interacting with each other, that a system may never reach the peak efficiency outlined by the manufacturer. It’s also possible that an inefficient pump may be the result of underperforming infrastructure further upstream, and a small adjustment may be all that’s needed to get the entire system back up to par. Either way, the only the way to accurately gauge your efficiency levels is to look at your system as a whole, then drill down to individual asset issues from there.
3. Smart sensors are too expensive to deploy and manage.
This idea is false. The advanced sensors used to monitor water and wastewater infrastructure are more affordable and available than ever before. What’s more, the quality and precision with which these smart devices operate has improved dramatically over recent years. Now more than ever the market has been democratized so that roughly 13,000 small- to mid-sized water and wastewater treatment plants across the U.S. have greater access to analytics solutions that had historically been available only to large operations.
The water industry faces the same asset management challenges plaguing organizations in the industrial space—assets are diverse and untapped data is everywhere. This means there have never been more opportunities to reduce costs and optimize performance—all operators have to do is make the leap to finding a solution.
Learn more about how our products can help you widen visibility over infrastructure, detect issues faster and forecast equipment performance and life expectancy.