Climate Change Report Identifies Myriad Needs For Water Industry
Filed under: Blog

The federal government recently released its fourth National Climate Assessment which focuses on the impact climate change will have on the U.S. economy over the next century. As mandated by the Global Change Research Act of 1990, the U.S. Global Change Research Program takes a comprehensive look at climate change and its effects on the natural environment, agriculture, energy production and use, land and water resources, transportation, human health and welfare, human social systems and biological diversity.

And the impacts for the water industry will be significant where rising air and water changes accompanied by changes in precipitation will intensify droughts and wet weather events, reduce snowpacks and negatively impact surface water quality.

The intensity of the recent droughts experienced in much of California, Texas and the Southwest is expected to continue, with prolonged periods of water scarcity making water availability an ever more critical issue.

But it’s changes in the relative amounts and timing of snow and rainfall that will lead to mismatches between water availability and needs which will threaten the future reliability of hydropower production in the West. Power plants will struggle to find a reliable supply of water for cooling operations and saltwater contamination from rising sea level is expected to impact water supplies in coastal areas as well as Hawaii and many U.S. Caribbean and Pacific Island communities.

Taken as a whole across the twelve areas of the economy the research focuses on, the annual losses caused by climate change could stretch into the hundreds of billions of dollars. Citing a 2017 study published in Science, the report suggests that US GDP will recede by 1.2 percent for every 1 degree Celsius increase in the global temperature.

But that’s if we do nothing. And the water and wastewater industry has already begun down the path of becoming more resilient. Water reuse and zero liquid discharge initiatives continue to gather pace as they make sound economic sense. Smart cities are installing the sensors and digital monitoring technologies to react quicker to wet weather events before they become catastrophic. Regulatory hurdles to change and new processes are being reduced as government oversight between federal and state departments are streamlined. Water and wastewater departments are being united to form different entities and job responsibilities in the future.

Although aging and deteriorating water infrastructure continues to burden the industry, climate change is likely to bring an unprecedented level of investment and innovation to the US water market in the 21st Century that has never been seen before. And that’s a good thing for all of us.

New York Launches Campaign to Fight Pipe-Jamming Fatbergs
Filed under: Blog

Long thought to be an issue that plagued the United Kingdom most acutely, the scourge of fatbergs has been making itself known stateside.

Fatbergs, the pipe-jamming, motor-blocking globules that form when people dispose of so-called “flushable” wipes through their toilets, have been known to reach the size of buses in London’s sewers. Despite their whimsical name, they pose very real dangers for wastewater systems, potentially causing sewage floods and breaking expensive equipment at treatment facilities. In a sign that the issue isn’t going away soon, New York City has recently taken efforts to inform its citizens of the dangers of flushing these wipes.

“Recently, the city has launched a campaign to make residents more aware of fatbergs, or ‘fat icebergs,’ which are human-created nightmares found in our sewer systems,” Gothamist reported. “These ‘masses of congealed grease and personal hygiene products’ have caused big problems across the pond, and NYC’s Department of Environmental Protection [DEP] wants to make sure we don’t reach British Fatberg Levels.”

Though New York’s problem with fatbergs hasn’t quite reached the epidemic proportions of that in England, the campaign appears much needed. A DEP official told Gothamist that the city experienced more than 2,100 sewer backups as a result of grease and wipes — 90 percent of all backups in the city. In 2017, New York City removed over 53,000 tons of debris from its treatment plant screens, most of which was comprised of wipes.

But sometimes wastewater treatment operations aren’t able to catch and remove fatbergs before they cause real damage. Last year, for instance, local residents felt the fallout.

“A woman in New Jersey has a warning for fellow homeowners after raw sewage flooded her basement, causing over $50,000 in damage,” per CBS New York. “Anne Pryor, of Chatham, was one of three victims of something called a ‘fatberg.’”

As in the UK, New York City officials seem to see a solution to the problem in changing consumer behavior. Through the public awareness campaign, they hope to keep residents from flushing these wipes in the first place and change the perception that these wipes are truly “flushable.”

“The city is calling it the ‘fight against fatbergs,’ with the goal of having a fatberg-free NYC,” according to CBS New York. “The DEP says New Yorkers also need to trash wipes that are labeled ‘flushable.’ They may make it down your toilet, but none of them make it through sewer pipes.”