Category Archives: Utilities

The Power in Water Infrastructure

Source: Anne E. Sibree, Journal AWWA, Volume 112 Issue 2, February 2020
(subscription required)

Key Takeaways:

  • Municipalities, water districts, and the agricultural industry can use new streamlined hydropower authorizations and exemptions to offset business costs by producing hydroelectric energy.
  • Small hydropower opportunities include experimental and hydrokinetic projects, conduit projects, and projects relying on manmade dams or natural impoundments.
  • Hydropower is a clean energy that provides benefits at multiple levels, adding resilience to the energy grid with a lower carbon footprint.

Tiered Water Rates: Understanding Their Equity and Impacts on Customer Bills

Source: Greg Clumpner, Journal – AWWA, Volume 111 Issue 9, September 2019
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Key Takeaways
Rate design affects individual customer bills and the equity of individual ratepayers within (not just between) customer classes.

A better understanding of tiered rates may lower the risk of ratepayers seeing water and wastewater rates as inequitable.

Water utilities should demonstrate the cost basis of water rates, especially how tiered rates reflect water supply costs and quantities.

Meeting the Need: Developing Certification for Advanced Water Treatment Operators

Source: Steven Garner, Journal – AWWA, Volume 111 Issue 9,
September 2019

(subscription required)

Key Takeaways
The California–Nevada Section of AWWA and California Water Environment Association sought a new industry certification for operators working with advanced water treatment (AWT) processes.

A diverse set of stakeholders and experts added their perspectives on the development of the new certification.

The AWTO Grade 3 exam was released in July 2019.

Autonomy matters: Insights from U.S. water utility managers on governance structure

Source: Jennifer C. Biddle, Karen J. Baehler, AWWA Water Science, Vol. 1 no. 3, May/June 2019
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Organizational autonomy and insulation from political interference were cited as key attributes of governance influencing managers’ perceptions of utility performance according to 22 U.S. water utility managers. The further removed from direct management by local government, the more likely utilities were to experiment with true‐cost pricing and innovative management strategies that may lead to improved whole‐system performance. In addition, findings from this qualitative study support claims made by water sector professionals of the growing need for a shift in water utility governance systems to adapt to changing conditions and better respond to stressors and shocks. This research is part of a larger study that seeks to contribute to our understanding of which governance features are important for improving water utility sustainability. It also raises important questions for further research into the linkages between governance structure, larger sociopolitical factors, and water system performance.

Using wastewater‐based analysis to monitor the effects of legalized retail sales on cannabis consumption in Washington State, USA

Source: Daniel A. Burgard, Jason Williams, Danielle Westerman, Rosie Rushing, Riley Carpenter, Addison LaRock, Jane Sadetsky, Jackson Clarke, Heather Fryhle, Melissa Pellman, Caleb J. Banta‐Green, Addiction, Early View, First published: June 18, 2019
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
To perform a wastewater‐based analysis to explore the impact of newly legalized retail cannabis sales on its use and to determine if this approach could estimate the size of the legal market place, which began 1 August 2014 in the study area.

Laboratory study of raw wastewater samples collected and analyzed over the 3‐year period from 2014 to 2016.

Setting and Participants:
Samples obtained from the two wastewater treatment plants that serviced a municipality of 200 000 people in the state of Washington, USA.

Quantitative analysis of 24‐hour composite influent samples for the metabolite of the active ingredient in cannabis, 11‐nor‐9‐Carboxy‐Δ9‐tetrahydrocannabinol (THC‐COOH) were performed by liquid chromatography coupled to mass spectrometry.

Wastewater estimates for THC‐COOH increased by 9% per quarter, suggesting a doubling in cannabis consumption from 1 December 2013 to 31 December 2016. State‐sold THC increased at nearly 70% per quarter, while stores operated from 1 August 2014 to 31 December 2016. Estimating the proportion of the total cannabis market supplied by state‐regulated cannabis from these data is not currently achievable.

A wastewater‐based measure of cannabis consumption suggests a significant increase in consumption in Washington, USA following legalization, and that legal sales appear to have displaced a large portion of the illicit market.

Shift to Legal Pot Shows Up In Wastewater
Source: Futurity, June 24, 2019

Cannabis use has both increased and substantially shifted from the illicit market since retail sales began in 2014 in Washington state, report researchers.

Water and sewer utilities – Medians – Financial performance signals continued stability

Source: Steven Goodman-Leibof, Matt Jaffe, Orlie Prince, Leonard Jones, Moody’s, Sector Profile, Water and sewer utilities – US, May 29, 2019
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Municipal water and sewer utilities continue to demonstrate a stable to modestly improving financial performance, according to our fiscal 2017 medians data. Operating results are primarily driven by utility systems’ (water, sewer and combined enterprises) willingness and ability to raise rates to support debt service coverage and liquidity. Declining asset conditions across the sector, however, indicate an underinvestment in capital infrastructure. These trends are reflected in our stable outlook for the water and sewer utilities sector…..

Endotoxin and Hydrogen Sulphide Exposure and Effects on the Airways Among Waste Water Workers in Sewage Treatment Plants and Sewer Net System

Source: Kari K Heldal, Åse D Austigard, Kristin H Svendsen, Elin Einarsdottir, Lars Ole Goffeng, Liv Ingun Sikkeland, Karl-Christian Nordby, Annals of Work Exposures and Health, Volume 63, Issue 4, May 2019
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
The purpose of this study is to investigate whether airborne exposure to endotoxins, hydrogen sulphide (H2S), and inhalable particles negatively impacts the respiratory system and inflammatory blood proteins in sewage plant and sewer net system workers and, further, to determine dose-response associations between exposure and health outcomes.

In total, 148 waste water workers (WWWs) from urban and rural sewage plants and the sewer net system participated. One hundred and twenty-one workers were exposed to sewage, 46 from sewage plants and 75 from the sewer net system. Twenty-seven workers were characterized as little or not exposed and served as an internal reference group. Personal inhalable samples were analysed for endotoxins (Limulus assay), particle dust (gravimetrically) and Salmonella and Yersinia spp. (polymerase chain reaction method, PCR). Levels of H2S were measured using personal electro chemical sensors. Intercellular adhesion molecule 1 (ICAM-1), interleukin 8 (IL-8), surfactant protein D (SP-D), club cell protein 16 (CC16), and macrophage inflammatory protein (MIP) were determined by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay and C-reactive protein (CRP) by an HS-MicroCRP assay in blood samples.

Workers in sewage plants were exposed to significantly higher levels of endotoxins compared to workers in the sewer net system [median 55 EU m−3 (4–262 EU m−3) and median 27 EU m−3 (1–304 EU m−3), respectively]. The estimated H2S index showed higher values when working in the sewer net system [median 3.1 (0.5–78.1)] compared to workers at the sewage plants [median 1.3 (0.5–9.3)], and the most excessive exposure was collecting sewage from cesspools (273 p.p.m.). No viable airborne Salmonella and Yersinia spp. were detected. The exposed workers had significantly higher CRP compared to the referents [1.2 µg ml−1 (0.1–19.0 µg ml−1) and 0.8 µg ml−1 (0.1–5.0 µg ml−1), respectively] and lower forced expiratory volume in 1 s (FEV1)% [92.6%, standard deviation (SD) 14.6 and 102.0%, SD 10.1, respectively], with numbers given as mean and SD. The serum concentration of CRP was significantly and negatively associated with FEV1% (β = −7.7, R2 = 0.05) and forced vital capacity % (β = −8.5, R2 = 0.08), and the serum concentration of ICAM-1 with the estimated exposure to H2S (β = −19.9, R2 = 0.07).

Despite moderate levels of endotoxin and H2S exposure, the results indicate an impact of these agents on lung function and the adhesion molecule ICAM-1, and a low-grade systemic inflammation was indicated in increased levels of CRP.

Water and sewer affordability in the United States

Source: Manuel P. Teodoro, AWWA Water Science, Vol. 1 no. 2, March/April 2019
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
The ability of low‐income families to pay for basic water and sewer services is a subject of increasing concern. Large‐scale assessments of affordability across large numbers of American utilities are rare, however, and are limited by poor measurement and biased samples. The present study uses improved metrics and data from an original, representative sample of water and sewer utilities in the United States to calculate the affordability of basic single‐family residential water and sewer service for low‐income households. Results indicate that low‐income households must spend an average of 9.7% of their disposable income and/or work 9.5 h at minimum wage to pay for basic monthly water and sewer service but also that these values vary considerably across the country. Community‐level demographic and economic data are used to identify some correlates of affordability. Region, utility size, and local income inequality emerge as strong correlates of affordability.