The value of water is often overlooked and taken for granted due to its abundance. Although water makes up 70% of our planet, only 2.5% of this is fresh water, and of this scarce supply, less than 1% is freely available in non-glacial forms. The demand for water grows in parallel to the competition for access to clean potable water. Meanwhile, failing infrastructures, combined with a continuous increase in our global population and decreasing supply of groundwater, are driving up the costs of water. Consequently, water pricing for both the industrial and residential sectors are on the rise and as a result, our sustainability hangs in the balance.
There is a strong link between failing infrastructures and increases in water costs. Many major cities throughout North America face severe structural issues. It is estimated that 1.7 trillion gallons of drinking water is lost yearly through infrastructure leaks and breaks in the US. To offset the growing costs of repairs, cities have been implementing hikes in water pricing. Over the last 5 years, the price of water has gone up more than 50% in Charlotte, Chicago and San Francisco. In St. Louis, local authorities are predicting the price to triple over the next 20 years, in order to achieve an infrastructure replacement rate of 1% per year. At that rate, it would take 100 years to complete a replacement assuming there are no unexpected repair expenses!
These effects are also felt in Canada, even if the country holds 20% of the worlds fresh water supply. The Toronto City Council has approved an 8% general water increase rate and similar major cities have followed suit with Winnipeg and Calgary discussing a 9.2% and 4% price increase respectively. Similar increases are expected in the following years as well, with water prices in the GTA expected to double within the next 8-10 years. It was also recently reported by La Presse that in Montréal, Québec about 1/3 of the potable water being supplied is lost through infrastructure failures. In Canada, these significant rate increases are partially due to strict water quality guidelines, ongoing maintenance and funding of substantial investments made years ago. Price increases and repairing failing infrastructures are costly short term solutions that do not work in favor of the consumer. An action plan that includes sensible future infrastructure planning and long term contingency strategies is required to meet the demands of population growth while preventing future water losses and price hikes.
Consumers in the industrial sector will feel a greater impact with the increasing costs of water. Cooling towers, steam boilers and hydronic systems are costly investments that consume large volumes of water. With today’s rising water costs, it is critical to follow industry best practices to minimize operating costs while maximizing efficiency. These practices include metering and monitoring your water usage, maintaining your plant’s assets by conducting timely inspections, repairs and replacements, and implementing an effective water treatment program. The objective of an effective water treatment program should be to reach the Least Cost Operating Solution. This is not achieved by reducing the price per lb of treatment product required, but by reducing the overall amount of water treated and therefore the total lbs of treatment product required. It is important to work with a water treatment expert that will get your applications operating efficiently using proven treatment programs and improvement opportunities that will ultimately preserve and extend the lifespan of your plant’s infrastructure while minimizing water, fuel and energy costs.
This water dilemma poses great challenges for both current and future generations, however, the opportunities that arise through these obstacles should not be ignored. The value of water rising globally introduces the opportunity to invest in sustainable decisions now. To tackle this planet size issue, we require global thought leaders to drive change and help increase the awareness of taking on a conservative approach to reduce our water footprint. Eldon Water trains engineers and chemists that engage with industrial consumers to help them follow industry best practices to reach their Least Cost Operating Solutions, often by first minimizing the water consumption at a facility. Last year alone, we saved our clients over 125 million gallons of water across North America. With increased awareness and proactive efforts, utlizing our limited resources effectively while minimizing costs become achievable goals.
Image Sources: http://water.usgs.gov/edu/earthhowmuch.html, http://thevalueofwater.org/resources