By Frances Bernards, DEQ, and Robert B. Sowby, Hansen, Allen & Luce, Inc.
The “water-energy nexus” has been getting a lot of press lately — the nexus between how much water is used to generate and transmit energy and the energy costs to deliver water to homes, businesses, and industry.
The energy price tag for water is significant. The Utah Division of Water Resources estimates that seven percent of the state’s energy consumption is used to produce, treat, and pump water. Jordan Valley Water Conservancy District (JVWCD), one of Utah’s largest public water suppliers, is doing their best to reduce that price tag using strategies in DEQ’s Drinking Water Energy (Cost) Savings Handbook (Handbook).
In 2014, JVWCD set a goal to save one million kilowatt-hours (kWh) of energy in one year. The district not only met that goal, but nearly exceeded it by a factor of four. After just one year, Jordan Valley has saved close to 4 million kilowatt-hours (kWh) of energy, a value of $435,000.
“Energy efficiency in water supply is a sustainability opportunity that has often been overlooked,” said Steve Jones, an engineer at Hansen, Allen & Luce who helped with the project. “We now know that water delivery can be much more efficient without sacrificing level of service or water quality.”
Energy requirements, energy savings
How did JVWCD achieve such impressive energy savings in just one year?
The district took a hard look at the energy requirements of each water source. By identifying and implementing no-cost operational strategies, such as prioritizing low-energy surface water sources over energy-intensive groundwater, JVWCD optimized energy and power savings and saved money. Extended-period hydraulic models and other tools also helped in the process.
“Simply understanding the energy requirements of each water source — which ones are most efficient — can be powerful,” said Jones.
The energy savings is only one part of the success story. In order to meet their energy efficiency goal, JVWCD strived for a culture change — a real shift in the way their staff thinks about energy and their role in and ability to contribute to the energy-saving effort.
Todd Schultz, a member of JVWCD’s team, described how it evolved. First, a management team was established to provide direction and support, and then a multidisciplinary action team was selected to provide and execute ideas. “Our goal was to model the energy-management culture similar to the excellent safety culture at JVWCD. Enhancing a greater culture of energy management is a long-term investment, where we gain employee buy-in through training and collaboration over time,” he explained. “When employees started to see savings, interest and commitment increased.”
“Several project and operational adjustment ‘wins’ have demonstrated the value of the team’s efforts,” said Alan Packard, the district’s assistant general manager and chief engineer. “Jordan Valley is committed to continued improvements in efficiently using electricity.”
Energy Savings Handbook
DEQ’s Division of Drinking Water (DDW) recognizes that water systems cannot operate without energy. To address this issue, DDW put together a comprehensive Handbook to provide water system operators and managers with energy efficiency strategies to help them save a significant amount of money on their power bills — not just today, but in the coming years, when future rate increases could impact the costs of water delivery. DDW is also partnering with the Rural Water Association of Utah (RWAU) on training courses for water system operators that offer ways to implement these cost-savings measures.
In the past, civic leaders and drinking water professionals addressed water and energy as two separate issues. JVWCD’s energy savings demonstrate the value of considering them together.
Interested in learning more about energy cost-savings strategies? You can register to attend the second annual Water and Energy Nexus Forum, on January 21, 2016, at the Davis Conference Center in Layton, Utah. The Forum, sponsored by RWAU and the Governor’s Office of Energy Development (OED), will explore the present-day water-energy nexus and lay future foundations for smart energy and resource utilization through conservation and technology. More than a dozen experts will be presenting including Dr. Laura Nelson (OED), John Baza from the Utah Division of Oil, Gas and Mining, Travis McLing from the Idaho National Laboratory, Matthew Bekker from Brigham Young University, and Alan Packard and Todd Schultz from JVWCD.
For more information on how water system operators and managers can reduce their energy costs, check out the Drinking Water Energy (Cost) Savings Handbook and watch for upcoming trainings on the RWAU Training Calendar.
Frances: I am an environmental scientist working as a consultant for DEQ’s business assistance program. I provide businesses with pollution prevention and sustainability resources. Outside of work I am an avid mountain/road biker, hiker, and skier and enjoy the music scene in SLC.
Rob: A native Utahn, I am a project engineer at Hansen, Allen & Luce, where I consult on a variety of water projects throughout the state. I also study the water-energy nexus as a Ph.D. student at the University of Utah. I enjoy hiking, travel, and classical music.