Short Showers Replace Deep Baths: Drought Conditions Changing the Way Society Thinks About Water Infrastructure

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Courtesy of Pure Technologies - a Xylem brand

While proactive water conservation is a smart way for consumers to react to climate change, the crisis puts increased pressure on water utilities to better manage their resources and pipeline networks.

Change is in the air. One only needs to check the daily news to understand why climate change, drought and water infrastructure have become frequent buzzwords heard around the water cooler.

For residents of states that stretch from the Pacific Coast to across the southwestern United States, the summer of 2015 may go down in history as one of the driest seasons on record, with widespread restrictions on water usage.

This past spring California Governor Jerry Brown proclaimed mandatory water cutbacks for all residents. Calling this “perhaps the worst drought California has ever seen since records began being kept about 100 years ago,” the Governor ordered cities and towns to cut usage by as much as 36 percent.

With the stroke of a pen, the simple act of washing your car, watering your lawn or taking a shower instead of a bath has become a conscious decision. The repercussions of water restrictions are even changing kitchen habits for cooks, restaurants and food producers, and across the nation many water-thirsty crops are forcing consumers to pay higher prices at the grocery store.

Water supplies and delivery systems threatened

Population growth, drought and severe climate changes have resulted in declining reservoir and aquifer levels, threatening water supplies and delivery systems. The water level in Lake Mead, the largest drinking-water reservoir in the United States, has dropped so much that the city of Las Vegas agreed to spend US$800,000 to build a deeper 3-mile long intake pipe to address the problem for residents and visitors.

“We have to think differently,” said Michael Connor, the deputy secretary of the Interior Department. “It’s not enough just to conserve water. We have a lot of infrastructure, but a lot of it doesn’t work very well anymore. We need to undertake what amounts to a giant re-plumbing project across the West.”

Daunting challenges demand innovative solutions

Although there are no simple solutions, the crisis has given us ample opportunity to reconsider how we use water and what we can do to conserve, reuse and repair. And while proactive water conservation is a smart way for consumers to react, the crisis puts increased pressure on water utilities to better manage their resources and pipeline networks.

One of the biggest drivers for utilities is finding ways to reduce the loss of water from leaky pipes. According to the American Water Works Association, that loss can range between 14 to 18 percent, nationwide. When a state like California distributes an estimated 38 billion gallons a day, the savings potential is immense, from both a financial and resource standpoint.

Cutting edge leak detection technologies help preserve water

Pure Technologies, a world leader in infrastructure management, has been helping utilities and water authorities manage the life cycle of their pipeline assets for more than a decade.

To date Pure has assessed, analyzed and monitored more than 8,700 miles of pressurized pipeline, everything from distribution and transmission mains delivering drinking water to wastewater pipelines carrying raw sewage.

Through our technical platforms and engineering services, Pure’s condition assessment technologies have helped clients prevent more than 2,300 failures worldwide, resulting in billions of dollars in savings, not to mention hundreds of billions of gallons in water savings. Pure has also located more than 4,000 leaks on water mains using our leak detection technologies.

Not surprising, the real job is just beginning, as society becomes acutely more aware of water issues.

You can’t manage what you don’t measure

Globally, utilities have come to value Pure’s expertise in helping them to sustainably manage their water networks using inspection as the cornerstone to understanding what needs to be addressed.

Getting a firm handle on water loss means taking a holistic approach. Utilities can effectively reduce their real water losses by completing regular leak detection in their distribution network using traditional leak detection tools, like correlators, combined with a transmission main leak detection program using inline tools that can accurately locate high-loss leaks.

Service providers such as Wachs Water Services can also reduce water loss through a valve management program, which improves valve condition and location information for field staff. An effective valve program allows a utility to reduce their response time – and the associated water loss – when a pipe failure does occur.

Regular condition assessment of water mains can also identify pipes that are at risk of failure, and can effectively reduce failures that result in large water losses.

All this operational efficiency is going over well with stakeholders and a more informed public that appreciates sustainable efforts and has embraced singing shorter songs in the shower.

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