Water and waste water infrastructure | EnVisioneering Exchange podcast ep. 16

John Masters, Industry Affairs Advisor for Danfoss Drives and the former Vice President of Sales, Water Division at Danfoss, joins host John Sheff for episode 16 of the EnVisioneering Exchange podcast. The two Industry Affairs experts have a comprehensive conversation about water infrastructure and the outsized role you may not realize it plays in maintaining our daily lives―what it is, what challenges current infrastructures face, how it can be improved, and what the future of water infrastructure may look like.

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Guest bio

John Masters is Industry Affairs Advisor for Danfoss Drives and former Vice President of Sales, Water Division at Danfoss. Starting his career in the municipal water/waste water industry as a consulting engineer, John transitioned into sales about 30 years ago, 20 of which have been Danfoss.

Episode summary

Host John Sheff speaks to John Masters about water and waste water infrastructure. They speak on what water infrastructure is, what challenges current infrastructures face, how they can be improved, and what the future of water infrastructure may look like.

Main points

  • Water infrastructure includes the water source (such as a well or lake), the pumping system, the piping system, even a water treatment facility, water users, waste water treatment facility, and finally the water discharge (into a lake, river, or stream).
  • Many water systems are decades old.
    • Masters helped design systems in the 1980s that are still in use today, with few upgrades.
  • Water shortages are anticipated in the future, especially with urban expansion and extreme weather acceleration.
  • If water systems are not properly maintained, they will be more susceptible to failure, such as leaks and water main breaks.
    • System failures can lead to water shortages and water contamination.
  • Even if water systems do not fail, small leaks can be costly.
    • 1/4 inch hole at 100 psi can waste up to 100 million gallons a year.
  • If the system fails on the waste water side, raw waste water can leak into and contaminate source water.
  • Even if systems do not fail, many older systems are simply inefficient, which could be addressed with some newer innovations.
  • Older systems were built according to standards that looked forward 20 years, taking into account anticipated population sizes, projected industrial expansion, etc.
    • This “looking forward 20 years” is still part of the process when designing new systems today.
  • If an area does not expand as projected, pumps are over-sized and work inefficiently. Conversely, if an area experiences greater-than-anticipated growth, the under-sized pumps have to work hard to meet demand, resulting in inefficiency.
    • Multiple, smaller pumps tend to perform more efficiently than a single, large pump.
    • This trend of over-sizing systems was also seen in the HVAC industry.
  • Systems built today use new technology, such as better materials for pipes and pipe linings.
  • However, most new systems use existing technology that has been modified, such as improved aeration diffusers, membrane bioreactors, and monitors, flowmeter sensors, oxygen-diffusion sensors, and ammonia-nitrogen sensors.
  • Variable-speed technology offers better water supply based on demand. However, variable-speed can only work based on good data supplied by sensors.
  • The push towards greener infrastructure has looked for ways to reduce demand.
    • San Francisco, for example, requires all new buildings to incorporate green infrastructure in their water systems.
  • Green water system infrastructure includes things like using grey water—waste water from sinks, showers, baths, washing machines, or dishwashers—to water plants.
  • Water infrastructure requires a lot of energy, so any way to improve energy efficiency will lessen the load on the electrical grid.
  • The current push in the industry is to reach energy neutrality.
    • For example, anaerobic digesters produce methane gas, which can be used for energy generation.
  • Danfoss has enabled several communities to achieve 180% energy generation through controlling pumps, variable-speed drives, combined heat and power (CHP) process, better gas production, and so on.
  • Water infrastructure, especially waste water infrastructure, is one of the most energy-demanding part of any community, so reducing the energy footprint frees up energy for other essential services.
  • On the clean water side, past systems erected water towers and pumped water in at 100 psi. Water let out of the tower would then control released water at various pressures based on demand.
  • Today, many new systems use ground water, which does not require such high pressures to fill.
  • Variable-frequency drives (VFDs) have improved tremendously in the past 20 years.
    • Danfoss’ aqua drive VFD incorporates software to improve performance of pumping systems and aeration systems and perform levels up to 98% efficiency.
  • Depending on the drive and the software used, today’s VFDs can offer advantages such as cascade control, empty pipe detection, leak detection, end-of-curve detection, pre-loop implementation, flow compensation, clogged-pipe detection, and condition-based monitoring.
  • From the planning side, some politicians favor other, more showy forms of infrastructure development and improvement, such as roads and bridges, rather than water infrastructure, which is largely unseen by the public.
    • Building new water towers are a very visible piece of water infrastructure, but as previously discussed, water towers are not the most efficient way to store and control water distribution.
  • Most states have a state revolving fund, which are often funded by federal contributions, and are used to fund local community improvements. Communities who take advantage of the state revolving fund, pay back into, filling it again for the next community.
  • In contrast to trends seen in energy grids, water infrastructure is moving towards centralization and privatization.

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For more information and additional episodes of the EnVisioneering Exchange podcast, visit https://www.danfoss.com/en-us/about-danfoss/insights-for-tomorrow/envisioneering-exchange/

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