The “Utility of the Future” program has given a name to the management and organizational principles that will be needed for wastewater organizations to thrive in the years to come. Features include professional training programs, labor recruiting programs, CMMS programs, improved public and customer relations, collaborative working relationships with regulators, resiliency for extreme events, energy management programs, etc.
But, what about the physical plant? In many ways, most of the new plants being built today would look familiar to a time-traveling engineer from the 1950’s. Part of this is expected – for very good reasons, our industry is slow to embrace new ideas until they are proven out through many years of full-scale use.
My hypothesis is that our industry could create some VERY different facilities if the design requirements were changed. I propose to collect, organize, and share ideas from volunteers from at least 10 separate PNCWA-member engineering firms and vendors who will help answer this question: If you were asked to design a 5 MGD, greenfield facility located near Coeur d’Alene, to meet a 5/5/1 standard, year-round, that would minimize the total carbon footprint of its construction and operation over 30 years, what features would you include? You must select from materials, equipment, and processes that are currently commercially available somewhere in the world, though it does not need to be used currently in the wastewater sector. Ideas for collection and disposal alternatives will also be welcomed.
For the conference, we will present a design summary of each major process area and briefly describe the alternatives and the reasoning for them suggested by the survey participants. The calculations and assumptions for embedded and operational CO2e will be summarized along with the pros and cons of each alternative. The names of volunteers will be shared but will not be associated with specific solutions.
The over-arching goal of the presentation is to provide new ideas to the audience and show what might be achieved when efforts are focused not on lowest first cost but on lowest ultimate impact to the environment.