Non-Revenue Water

I learned a new acronym today. NRW – Non-Revenue Water. What is Non-Revenue Water? It’s the difference between the amount of water supplied into a distribution system and the amount of water that is billed to the customers.

Why isn’t it billed for?

  1. Apparent Losses – inaccurate metering, data handling/billing errors, and theft
  2. Real (Physical) Losses – leakages and overflows
  3. Authorized Unbilled – system flushing, firefighting, special users

I learned about NRW in this white paper produced by the State of Green (more about the State of Green in a later post).

I was shocked to learn 25% – 50% of distributed water is not paid for. That’s like a company’s delivery truck going down the street with the rear door open and the products falling out the back. I don’t know how any business can be sustainable if 25% – 50% of their product is not paid for. Water is a scarce resource. The UN projects water consumption will increase 30% by 2050. This is why every water utility should be focusing on reducing their NRW.

There are several steps utilities should take now:

  1. Decide the reducing their NRW is necessary and make it a priority.
  2. Create a NRW reduction Master Plan starting with a Water Audit.
  3. Make sure the resulting NRW master plan is understood from the highest level of the utility to the lowest.
  4. Conduct the Water Audit annually and modify or correct the master plan as necessary.

The four levers a utility has to pull to reduce their NRW are:

  1. Active leakage control
  2. System pressure management
  3. Speed and quality of repairs
  4. Pipeline rehabilitation

The utility should pull these levers based on the highest return on investment. Basically starting where they will get the most “bang for the buck”.

When investing in equipment and materials the utility should consider only quality products with long warranties. Selecting them based on the principals of Total Cost of Ownership, not just the purchase price. For instance, the purchasing cost of a pump is only 5% of the pump’s total cost over its lifetime. Maintenance cost accounts for 10% and energy costs accounts for the remaining 85% of the Total Cost of Ownership. Total Cost of Ownership demands that engineers and owners approach equipment selection from a different perspective. This will be a topic I’d like to cover in a later post.

Training is also a critical component. Having a well trained staff across the organization will help make each “lever” more effective. Innovative on-line training is available to help in this regard. The on-line platforms provide consistent and accurate training information across an organization.

Utilities should also keep their eye trained on innovations within the industry such as on-line training. The continuous innovation in equipment and process development that is taking place within the industry should be evaluated and incorporated into the program as seen fit.

At the beginning I said I found this NRW Reduction white paper on the State of Green Website. Here’s a link to the webpage for the white paper so you can download it for yourself if you’re interested.

We’re Ready to Pilot!

We have reason to celebrate! Smith Environmental received an order from Peterson Construction Co. for two Neutralox Odor Control systems in February. Peterson is in contract with the Delaware County Regional Sewer District to construct the Lower Alum Creek Relief Pump Station. This project has two Neutralox odor control units on it, one being installed at the pump station, and one being installed at the Alum Creek WRF headworks building. These will be the first Neutralox systems operating in Ohio.

This order is a result of a pilot demonstration conducted at the Alum Creek WRF in August 2018. This was the first pilot demonstration Smith Environmental did with Neutralox. It’s only fitting that our first Neutralox order is a result of our first pilot. Obviously, the pilot was a success. The Neutralox system was shown to be very effective at eliminating the odors from high concentrations of H2S in the influent chamber at the plant headworks.

Neutralox Pilot in operation at the Alum Creek WRF Headworks Building

In fact, all odors in the air treated by the Neutralox unit were eliminated. The H2S removal efficiency was verified by Odaloggers. But, more importantly, a basic sniff test proved that all odors were eliminated. Simply putting your nose in the pilot exhaust and taking a deep breath was all that was really needed to know that the Neutralox system worked, eliminating all odors.

Basic Sniff Test

Since Neutralox is relatively new to Ohio you may not be familiar with it. Neutralox uses photoionization to oxidize and neutralize odorous compounds such as H2S, mercaptans, and dimethyl-sulfide. Photoionization is a non-proprietary process using low pressure UV lamps and a catalyst to create strong oxidants such as OH and ozone. We like to say, “Neutralox doesn’t discriminate, it oxidizes all odors!”

There are more than 30 Neutralox installations in North America. They’re at locations where no odors are acceptable. Pretty much wherever there are people living, working, shopping, going to school, etc… You’ll find them treating odors at sewer lift stations, treatment plant headworks, sludge storage tanks, and sludge dewatering facilities. Utilities find Neutralox systems very attractive because they are so effective at eliminating odors and because they need very little attention with low operating costs.

Spring is just around the corner and with the warmer weather come increased odors. The COVID vaccines are rolling out in ever increasing numbers which means we’ll be able to get back to pilot demonstrations. Maybe as early as this summer. We’re currently getting our Neutralox pilot all tuned up so we’re ready for a season of piloting. Contact me about arranging a pilot demonstration. I’d love to show you what we can do on your worst odors.

Passion for Our Work

I have the good fortune of representing Grande Water Management Systems for the state of Ohio. I’ve been working with Grande for almost 20 years. Over that time I’ve had the pleasure to work with Nick Grande, the owner and president of the company.

I enjoy working with Nick for many reasons, but the main reason is that he has a great passion for his work. I don’t know about you, but I think there’s no better person to work with than one that is passionate about what they do. You see his passion soon after meeting him. Nick’s an engineer, so every problem he hears about is an opportunity to provide a solution. You can practically see the number crunching taking place in his head as you’re talking to him.

Nick’s company specializes in designing and manufacturing equipment that helps to minimize combined sewer overflows (CSOs) and to lessen the impact they have on our rivers, streams, and lakes.

What got me thinking about Nick and writing this blog about his passion were photos I found on my phone of Nick the last time he was with me here in Ohio in early 2020. The photos are of Nick in a CSO storage basin working with collection systems operators. He was there to help them reconfigure and adjust equipment in the storage basin to improve its performance. It was a cold February day and Nick was harnessed up and down in the tank getting the job done. He wasn’t down there just giving directions. He was down there with a wrench in his hand showing how to properly install and adjust the equipment.

While the donuts and coffee brought to the site helped make it a little nicer, but they didn’t make any less frigid that morning.

This is not a rare occasion for Nick. This has been my experience with him for the past 18 years. He’s been down in a sewer helping a contractor correct the installation of a bending weir or out in a cold and muddy farm field helping a contractor install a flow regulator.

You have to care a lot about your job to endure these kinds of conditions to make sure the job is done right. This kind of passion is not unusual in the water and wastewater industry. It’s pretty typical for operators and maintenance crews to be called out in the worst conditions to correct a malfunction in the collection system or at the treatment plant. Look no further than what was taking place in Texas last week. Operators were out in single digit temperatures repairing broken water mains.

As an operator at a treatment plant, isn’t Nick the kind of person you want designing and manufacturing the equipment that goes into your collection system or treatment plant? His hands on, down in the trenches, work ethic means he knows what it’s like to work in the often inhospitable environments you work in. He’s going to make sure his equipment performs so you don’t have to go into those places on that cold wet night.

Contact me if you’d like to learn more about Nick, his company, my company, and the kind of solutions we can provide for your wet weather challenges.