Water/Wastewater: Developed World is Ripe for Automation’s Advances

April 1, 2013
Globally, years of neglect, doing more with less and a need to save water-processing-related energy costs are driving the adoption of new automation solutions.

While many organizations work to ensure humans in developing countries have safe and abundant drinking water, the need to upgrade water and wastewater treatment systeme in developed countries is also getting attention.

In the U.S. alone, an Environmental Protection Agency survey predicted that the nation's 53,000 community water systems and 21,400 not-for-profit noncommunity water systems will need to invest an estimated $334.8 billion between 2007 and 2027. Much of that investment will be in automation technologies, according to a recent report from ARC, “Automation Expenditures for Water & Wastewater Industry Global Market Research Study.”

Allen Avery, senior analyst and co-author of the report, said, “Both developed and developing regions are seeing improving economies and thus are looking to either upgrade or install new water and wastewater treatment and distribution systems.”  The study team for this report includes  Avery, G. Ganapathiraman, David Clayton and Piyush Dewangan. 

According to the report, automation expenditures in the water and wastewater industry will grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 7.8 percent over the next five years. 

“Throughout much of the developed world—including North America, Western Europe, and Japan—the existing water and wastewater infrastructure is aging rapidly and often suffering from neglect,” said Avery. This “represents one of the greatest opportunities for the automation business through the next 20 years. ”

Automation improves operational efficiency, and enables staff at these plants to do more with less. When Waterford Township of Michigan Department of Public Works installed a new operational dashboard, for example, Director Bill Fritz said, “first and foremost, it’s a time saver. By pulling everything into one environment, it… becomes a one-stop shop to view all of my web-based applications” for overseeing both water and wastewater operations, including vehicle locating, SCADA, flow monitoring, security and HVAC.

Not just for utilities

Water and wastewater automation solutions are not just for governments and utilities. There are clear commercial challenges for the use water and treatment of wastewater that automation can address. Water is not only essential for producing fossil fuels and for generating electricity from both conventional and non-conventional energy sources; water withdrawal, treatment, and distribution are all highly energy-intensive activities, says Avery.

On the energy consumption side, for example, transporting and treating water are both highly energy-intensive activities, requiring a significant amount of water to operate pumps, motors, and filtration systems, Avery adds.

What is critical, says Avery: Strategic planning for water and wastewater infrastructure investments, and transitioning the operation and management of existing assets to incorporate new advances in technology. 

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