Utilities Use Multi-Faceted Approaches to Please Public, Save Money
Designing skateboard parks isn’t a typical task for a district sanitation engineer. But that’s just one of many things Bruce Husselbee, director of engineering for the Hampton Roads Sanitation District in Virginia, is doing as the district—like many other water and wastewater utilities—tries to solve more complex problems with fewer resources and higher expectations from the public.
The proposed 20,000-sq-ft skateboard park would sit atop a 5-million-gallon stormwater tank, which is needed to hold stormwater during wet weather to prevent overflow in Virginia Beach. “We’re challenged to find locations for these tanks.Neighbors don’t want it in the city park,” says Husselbee. So, partnering with the city’s parks-and-recreation department, the district will foot the bill for the $23-million park, which provides a “good outcome” for everyone, Husselbee says.
Increasingly, water utilities are having to look at similar out-of-the-box solutions not only to solve traditional wastewater and water problems but also to provide benefits to the community. The Hampton Roads utility also is building out its program to highly treat and inject into the ground wastewater, reducing subsidence and saltwater intrusion and provide groundwater. It has a $1-billion plan to treat and inject 100 million gallons per day at seven plants within the decade.
In metro Atlanta, maximizing the amount of surface water available for future drinking water by returning treated wastewater to Lake Lanier and Lake Altoona is a key tenet of an integrated plan for the 15 counties and 110 water and sewer utilities in the region, says Danny Johnson, the Metropolitan North Georgia Water Planning District manager responsible for that management scheme. “An integrated approach values wastewater,” he points out.
The district was an early embracer of integrated planning—the “one water” approach to water planning—that allows utilities and districts to examine more closely and plan what is being done with all forms of water. Such planning can lead to increased customer buy-in and cost savings for utilities, Black & Veatch says in its 2017 “Strategic Directions” report.
In this era of shifting, competing priorities, even the expansion of a drinking-water plant isn’t just a simple expansion. In September, Houston started a seven-year, $1.4-billion expansion of its Northeast Water Purification Plant that will increase its capacity to 320 mgd from 80 mgd (ENR 6/26-7/3 p. 68). While the expansion is necessary for Houston’s growing population, another equally important driver is to reduce subsidence by moving to surface water from groundwater.
Currently the world’s largest such expansion, the project shows how utilities increasingly are looking at water holistically, says Ravi Kalagadi, Houston senior assistant director, project manager.
“We’re getting into things you never would have expected,” says Hampton Roads’ Husselbee. “It takes more time, and it takes more thought. You really have to look for those win-win opportunities.”