wastewater treatement plants

SCE Newsroom: Energy-Efficient Design Helps Visalia Boost Precious Water Resources

The central California city is eligible for $500,000 in incentives from SCE for its largest-ever capital project.
Water scarcity is nothing new in Visalia, a city about 45 miles southeast of Fresno.
Since 1991, Visalia’s City Council has enforced water restrictions. And for decades, water from the regional aquifer has been depleted faster than it can be replenished.
“This area has been water deficient for a very long time,” said Kim Loeb, Visalia’s natural resource conservation manager.
Part of Visalia’s long-term water conservation strategy is the upgrade of its water treatment plant. The upgrade will enable the plant to treat wastewater to a higher quality, producing recycled water that meets state and federal standards required for irrigation use. At $140 million, it’s the largest capital project in the city’s history, and possibly the most challenging.  
The completed facility will also require much more power from the electric grid.
“We decided early on in the process to bring in Southern California Edison at the ‘ground floor’ as we designed the project,” said Jim Ross, Visalia’s public works manager.
Engineering, planning and design started nearly eight years before the project broke ground in April 2014. When the project was conceived, the goal was energy efficiency and a reduced carbon footprint.
“But after four years of the drought, the project became even more critical,” said Mark Okino, an account manager in SCE’s Business Customer Division.
Treating Visalia’s wastewater to the higher standard, while remaining energy efficient and moderating any hike in electricity costs, was a tall order. Yet, by participating in SCE’s Savings By Design program, the city is eligible for up to $500,000 in incentives by implementing energy-efficiency recommendations in the facility’s construction.
“Energy efficiency is the cheapest and cleanest method of supplying the growing need for electricity,” said Traeger Cotten, an SCE field engineer. “Incentives paid to Savings By Design customers help encourage efficient designs and help defray a portion of the costs associated with high-efficiency equipment.”
By implementing SCE’s recommendations, Cotten estimates the plant — which processes 12 million gallons per day — could reduce its energy consumption by more than 10 million kilowatt-hours annually.
Once the upgraded facility is online in April 2017, Visalia will be able to complete an innovative water exchange agreement. The city will provide the majority of its treated water — of high enough quality for farmers to use for irrigating their crops — to the downstream Tulare Irrigation District.
In return, the district will allocate potable water from its federal allotment upstream to Visalia who can then recharge the groundwater under the city. Visalia will also keep some of its treated water to irrigate its golf courses and some parks.
“All of this is being done by gravity,” said Ross, “so no electricity is needed to facilitate the exchange.” With SCE’s help, Visalia is taking wastewater that would otherwise travel outside the city boundaries and turning it into recycled water that benefits its citizens. 
* Article written by Ron Gales from the SCE Newsroom. To follow more of their coverage please Click Here.

Wellness Wednesday: Wait, What the WWTF?

It’s easy to take what seem like the simple things in life, like running water, for granted. You turn on the faucet and out it comes. You flush the toilet and there it goes. Your sprinklers go off like clockwork. I was taught the importance of water conservation (e.g. turn off the faucet while you brush your teeth and whatnot) but not until a recent visit to the City ofWoodlake’s Waste Water Treatment Facility (WWTF) did I truly grasp the consequences of my actions and the ‘big picture’ when it comes to water use.

A waste water treatment facility is the destination for all waste water that travels through our complex sewer systems. This can be from our homes (toilets, baths, showers, kitchens, sinks, etc.), industry, and storm water runoff. A lovely combination of human waste, animal waste, oil and grease, and whatever else finds its way into the system go through a series of processes at the facility in order to treat it so that it may be discharged into a body of water, used as irrigation, or even put back into the groundwater supply. That is the overly simplified explanation so you can visit good ol’ Wikipedia for some great diagrams. The largest gag reflex point of Courtney and my tour of Woodlake’s WWTF would have to have been at the very beginning where solid wastes that cannot proceed through the treatment facility are disposed of into the trash to be taken to the dump. Nothing was even processing at the time we stood there but I could only imagine. Close second was standing on the catwalk over the bubbling waste water as it was being treated – see photos for full effect. The most amazing part of our tour was that while I was thoroughly disgusted, I was also equally fascinated.

It doesn’t take a genius to realize that these complex processes to treat waste water take a huge amount of energy. My personal adventures in benchmarking municipal energy use and seeing the utility bills related to running these facilities caused my jaw to drop. According to the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE), ‘municipal water supply and waste water treatment systems are among the most energy-intensive facilities owned and are operated by local governments, accounting for about 35% of energy used by municipalities’. You can’t deny the obvious link between water and energy; in fact, this is something the VIEW Partnership hopes to address in the coming year. The City of Woodlake wisely incorporated energy efficiency measures into the development of their treatment facility which will help with operation costs.

I think it goes without saying that these facilities are not only related to energy but also to our health. Without these treatment facilities…well, I don’t need to spell it out - just think about it. Proper collection, treatment, and disposal of waste water are crucial for human and environmental health. Water contamination can lead to cholera, typhoid, parasites, and Hepatitis – just to name a few illnesses.  

My visit to Woodlake’s facility was a reminder to be cautious as to what I put down the drain and to be thankful for our municipalities for allowing us safer and healthier lives.  Hats off to you, Woodlake, and congrats on the grand opening of your new facility!

PHOTOS (from C. Kalashian)

These Water Treatment Plants Won't Go to Waste With Sun Power

Increasingly, solar and water mix nicely.

Here in the sun-rich San Joaquin Valley, cities are looking at solar as a way to cut power bills at energy-sucking wastewater treatment plants. Tulare and Madera have them, as does Parlier, while officials in Atwater are on tap, so to speak. It would be the city's biggest-ever endeavor, but one that could save millions of dollars in years to come.

We've written about the proliferation of solar in and around water sources. Check out this blog from May.

It makes sense. Water is heavy, and wastewater plants, which are among the largest energy users in most cities, have lots of space atop and near their water tanks. In fact, Greentech solar asks in this article, "Are wastewater plants the new frontier for muni solar?"

(And maybe not just for solar. Here's a story about Bill and Melinda Gates financing technology that would convert converting organic waste sludge into biodiesel and methane.)

Maybe wastewater plants are just ONE frontier for the world's most renewable resource. Rooftop solar projects could abound across the country. Research into solar roads is under way, and some places are installing solar-powered street lights. Read about streetlight projects in Missouri and Florida here and here.

What does all this mean for the San Joaquin Valley? The possibilities are eye popping. The Valley's $20 billion agriculture industry is starting to embrace renewable energy, including solar.
The Valley already has dozens of proposed solar projects waiting in the wings, and cash-strapped cities and businesses are looking for ways to slash their power bills, especially during the my-shoes-are-melting-into-the-pavement summer heat extremes.

Meanwhile, solar energy prices are dropping, and coming close to parity. In a few years, the sun could be shining even brighter on the Valley's solar industry.

(Image of Tulare's wastewater treatment plant)