Birmingham Water Works Board (BWWB) of Birmingham, Ala., has consistently achieved the rating of the number-five water system in the United States...
Invariably, when discussing the dynamics that may affect the water and wastewater industry in the near future, a number of topics are broached, and only a handful can be addressed.
Recently, Water & Wastes Digest interviewed Daniel W. McCarthy, president and CEO of B&V Water, the water business of Black & Veatch Corp., to find out how they, as a consulting firm, are addressing various water-related dynamics.
WWD: What are your thoughts on the current status of the water industry from a consultant’s perspective?
McCarthy: Utilities are faced with substantial challenges and issues, so from a consulting/engineering perspective, the water industry offers substantial opportunities to apply expertise such as ours. Aging infrastructure, increasingly stringent treated water quality requirements, and the ever-increasing demand for safe drinking water despite a decline in the quantity and quality of water resources all fuel the need for infrastructure improvements.
In addition, multiple regions in the world are experiencing or have recently experienced drought, which has put pressure on watershed management and resulted in more propensity to seriously consider methods of reuse and desalination. Although the demand for engineering solutions is strong, constraints on financial and human resources affect the ability of the water industry to effectively address these needs.
WWD: Where do you see the water industry in five to 10 years?
McCarthy: We can expect the water industry to become more focused on the implementation of process technologies more amenable to automation, with treatment processes that can respond directly to online water quality monitors. Distribution system operations are increasingly directed by water quality models that are fed information by online distribution system water quality monitors.
The B&V Water global management team also envisions the water industry becoming more committed to reduced water loss in distribution and collection systems.
WWD: What trends or technologies may impact a shift or change?
McCarthy: A major change agent would be additions to the list of regulated contaminants—such as endocrine disruptors and disinfection byproducts—and further tightening of existing standards. In many parts of the U.S. and elsewhere in the world, the water industry feels constant pressure to make the most of existing facilities and optimize operations. Small-footprint technologies are in demand and can be expected to remain so.
WWD: How is B&V preparing its clients for the future of the water industry? Can you give specific examples?
McCarthy: We are making sure that expansions and upgrades are all consistent with our clients’ long-range plans, in terms of both treated water quality and quantity.
A specific example would be the Passaic Valley Water Authority’s Little Falls Water Treatment Plant, where the plant upgrade was completed in accordance with a plan that would permit increased treatment capability and further enhancements to finished water quality simply by increasing the flow through existing processes or through the addition of parallel units that can be brought online without interrupting treatment.
On the wastewater front, residuals disposal is increasingly taking center stage, with the not-in-my-backyard sentiment as strong as ever despite advances in biosolids management.
We’ve assisted clients such as Madison, Wis., with implementing Class A processes largely within their existing facilities.
WWD: What is the most important detail you remind your clients of when it comes to preparing for future trends in the water industry?
McCarthy: We remind them to give careful consideration to unanticipated consequences to treatment changes.
For example, a change implemented to increase the removal of organic carbon may result in increased volumes of sludge that may have different dewatering characteristics or may increase the corrosion potential of the finished water. Distribution system water quality problems could arise from a treatment solution. Overall, we emphasize flexible systems that keep doors open to address new regulations and treatment objectives.