will assume responsibility for operations, but not take ownership of the assets. These types of arrangements are very public
transactions and sometimes are never completed for political
and other non-operational or non-technical reasons. Public/private partnerships are not always the most beneficial option but,
under the right circumstances, they can be a powerful tool in
moving toward a One Water approach to utility management.
In what ways are the water/wastewater industries
linked with the energy sector?
In a water treatment plant, you’re always looking for ways to
reduce your electricity costs. In many systems, electricity is the
highest-cost line item in the budget next to labor. It takes a
great deal of electric energy to produce water and to pump it
through thousands of miles of distribution pipeline. Reducing
energy cost is a big focus in a water and wastewater utility.
Conversely, certain plants in the electric industry require a
great deal of water to generate electricity. The electric industry
is always looking to reduce its water costs. Electric utilities
often purchase large quantities of expensive potable water
for ancillary functions, such as for cooling purposes. This is
clearly not cost-effective; however, depending on geography
and other factors, it may be the only viable option. These
conditions bring the concept of water reuse to the forefront.
The use of “grey water,” non-potable water that is treated to a
minimum quality standard, can often be a viable alternative
to using drinking water for cooling purposes. While there are
some inter-relationships there, I have seen only limited direct
collaboration between an electric utility and a water utility
trying to figure out how to do it cheaper and in a more environmentally sustainable fashion. I believe if the electric and water
industries were to collaborate more aggressively, it would
become increasingly obvious how each could more effectively
generate even greater economic and environmental value.
Why do you think there is hesitation to
Everybody these days talks about the Water Energy Nexus.
However, I believe there must first be a compelling business
reason for collaboration. If the sole catalyst for collaboration
is the production of environmental benefits, that is certainly a
noble objective. I don’t believe, however, that environmental
benefits alone would motivate all parties to actively collaborate
as effectively as, perhaps, the opportunity to derive financial
benefits. My company came very close to completing a deal
like that, working with a planned co-generation facility where
they needed a very large amount of water for cooling purposes,
but they did not want to buy expensive potable water. We were
working with them to have our company design, build, own,
and operate a pipeline that would deliver gray water from a
municipal wastewater treatment facility to the co-generation
facility. My view is that you start with the most sensible techni-
cal solution and then figure out how to structure the legal and
contractual relationships to make it work. As long as each party
negotiates in good faith, doesn’t get greedy, and commits to
keeping politics out of process, I believe there is considerable
opportunity to achieve a truly beneficial One Water solution.
How do you see the One Water approach changing
the industry moving forward? How can research
support the One Water approach?
Many of us in our industry like to say “there’s no such thing
as wastewater.” We’re seeing more every day that wastewater
is not simply something to be disposed of, but rather can
be used as a resource, whether it’s gray water or recycled
water. There are many products and services companies
who continue to build their business models around the
One Water approach and I believe there is even more innovation to come. The relationship between the production
of potable water and treatment of wastewater is increasingly becoming one thing to many entities. One Water has
significantly increased in people’s thinking in the last few
years, and I think we’re going to see even more of that.
The Water Research Foundation has already been
collaborating with the Water Environment Research
Foundation for years on various projects that have
value to both the water and wastewater industries, and
there is much more research to be done in the future
that will provide value in a One Water environment.