AJ: Centralized systems vulnerable to climate change conditions

via: Alternatives Journal, Jan. 2013 / Lifecycles 39.1

Best in Flow

by Stu Campana

YOU JUST TOOK A WATER BALLOON TO THE FACE. The good news is that, as a Canadian, you are rarely so pressed to think about the quality and abundance of your water. Globally, there is enough clean and fresh water for everyone. Nevertheless, huge shortages remain in many parts of the world due to the naturally uneven distribution of the water cycle (among other factors). Even more problematic, the cycle is easily disrupted: small climatic shifts can quickly bring too much or too little, wreaking havoc on conventional water management systems.

These systems are proving inadequate to the challenges created by climate change. Because Canada has been spared the harshest impacts (so far), we are largely unprepared for major water cycle shifts. Fortunately for us, there are lessons to be learned from many communities (including a few homegrown examples) that have already adopted decentralized water management strategies. What we need to absorb are not the designs themselves, but the principles of resilience and low-impact development, which are essential to building a water system that can withstand shocks.

To clarify, the concept of decentralized systems is intended as a geographical distinction rather than a political one. In this context, both centralized and decentralized systems can refer to public or private and municipal or federal initiatives.

Most Canadian cities use water from a single source and dispose of it in a single location. The system works well enough under normal circumstances; there’s no real need to recycle when freshwater remains in ready supply. This centralized structure, however, is like an 18-wheeler on a treacherous highway, struggling to cope with changes in speed and direction. Enough of both, and it might crash.

Increases in the intensity of flooding, droughts and storms are all expected impacts of climate change on water cycles. “New patterns of wind, humidity, and ambient temperature are already dramatically altering the weather map,” wrote Chris Wood, author of Dry Spring: The Coming Water Crisis of North America, in a 2005 article. “Some parts of the country are receiving more rain than ever before; other regions are drying up.” Moreover, Wood argues that “Canada’s multibillion-dollar investment in water infrastructure” is already outdated: “It will not be able to either contain the massive floods or ameliorate the droughts of the future.”

No, perhaps not. An anecdote from our nation’s capital may help explain why.

For most of one day in early September 2012, it rained heavily in Ottawa – not an uncommon event for the time of year, or one likely to raise alarms. Yet the capital region’s residents were unpleasantly surprised to find that the rainfall had caused 63.5 million litres of diluted sewage to overflow into the Ottawa River. Ottawa’s stormwater system is typical of a mid-sized Canadian city: made up of no less than 1500 kilometres of pipes, including some overlap with the sewage system. The labyrinth of pipes is not designed to handle large influxes of water, and the results are more or less catastrophic when it happens.

Like most of the world, Canada’s cities are ill equipped to handle sweeping problems such as contaminated water supplies and widespread flooding. Ottawa’s sewer system can’t cope with an enormous rain deluge any more than India’s water reserves can withstand weeks of drought. Centralized systems are vulnerable to climate change conditions because the size and nature of the infrastructure makes adaptation difficult. Breaking water management structures down into discrete, independent and decentralized systems builds resilience against fluctuation.

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Economist Intelligence Unit: Waterless in 2030?

(via: Water Efficiency Journal)

A recent study by the Economist Intelligence Unit (sponsored by Oracle) reveals that if water utilities plan on meeting water supply, large-scale infrastructure investments must be made—or else demand will outstrip supply by 2030.

The study, entitled “Water for All?”, compared the water resource management strategies of 10 countries—the US, Canada, UK, Australia, France, Spain, Brazil, Russia, India, and China—and surveyed 244 water utility managers and executives, including 20 “in-depth” interviews with water executives and independent experts. The participants’ answerers led researchers to conclude that while water providers are optimistic about their ability to meet future demand, that ability will be amplified or hampered by government action and consumer education. And all water purveyors will have to “think outside the box.”

“The leading overall response to water stress in the future is expected to be a sharp focus on demand management,” explains a statement released by Oracle in relation to the report. “This represents a shift in utilities’ traditional emphasis on continuing to supply increasing quantities of water in response to increasing demand.”

Meanwhile, developing countries have a tougher row to hoe. The study’s survey of water resource management strategies in the developing world reveals that climate change and erratic weather patters will increasingly influence the creation and maintenance of infrastructure in those countries.

“Utilities in the developing countries, in contrast, are more likely to focus on rolling out or expanding basic infrastructure,” states the report.

Other key findings:

* Increased water stress by 2030. Due to growing demand for water, caused by increasing populations, changing climate patterns, and wasteful consumer behavior, 39% of executives surveyed believe that the risk of national water demand outstripping supply by 2030 is “highly likely,” while 54% believe such a risk is moderately likely. Failure to address this could result in significant economic, social, and health implications.

* Barriers to conservation. Forty-five percent of utilities—especially in developed markets—see wasteful consumer behavior as their biggest barrier to progress, while another 33% believe tariffs are too low to stimulate greater investment. In developing countries, a lack of capital for investment tops the list (41%), while worries over climate change stand third overall (34%).

* Encouraging consumer engagement. Half of respondents (49%) believe pricing structures need to be changed to encourage conservation, while under four in 10 water utilities think water prices must be held down to ensure fair access to water for all (38%). With consumer behavior being the biggest barrier to conservation, it is critical for water utilities to engage with consumers to overcome this challenge.

* Increased investment. Almost all respondents stated that they are increasing investment to meet supply challenges (93%), with more than one in five (22%) increasing investment by 15% or more within the next three years.

* Innovative industry. Prompted by necessity, the water sector is becoming an increasingly prominent innovator, due to the implementation technologies such as smart meters and desalination solutions. For instance, one-fifth of water utilities in developed markets regularly evaluate new technologies, compared to one-third of developing countries. However, more water utilities must improve their ability to identify and implement such advances, with over one-third (36%) unaware of the innovation options available to them.

* Stumbling blocks. Drought and increased water pollution are seen by respondents as the biggest risks faced by water utilities, and are considered the most likely to occur. Similarly, half of respondents polled felt that that information and support from government bodies is lacking; while 43% recognize they must develop their management techniques to more precisely model future water availability or rainfall.

 

Water Canada: Water Quality Forecasting for Better Infrastructure Spending

Via: Water Canada, Posted on October 1, 2012
Written by Greg Rose and Tim Webster

Water resource conflicts are becoming increasingly prevalent as the intensity of competing uses of nearshore environments increases. Given the complexity of environmental systems, successfully managing and cost-effectively addressing these conflicts can be challenging. To address such challenges, a five-partner collaboration, comprising Golder Associates, Esri Canada, the Applied Geomatics Research Group, Scotia Weather Services and GeoNet, is developing and testing a water quality forecasting and infrastructure optimization system piloted in Nova Scotia’s Annapolis Basin.

Funded by the Atlantic Innovation Fund of the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, the research project leverages geospatial technology for advanced mapping and analysis of various factors affecting water quality. When completed, the system will allow municipalities in the basin to focus their infrastructure investment strategies to maximize environmental returns and allow shellfish harvesting to be planned in a way that maximizes existing resources.

The issue

Shellfish harvesting is a key part of the economy of the Annapolis Basin, an arm of the Bay of Fundy in eastern Canada. For the region’s famed Digby clams and other seafood to be marketable, the water from which they are harvested must be sufficiently clean. This can be a challenge given the area’s proximity to sources of potential contamination, such as municipal wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs), watershed runoff, and concentrated deposits of fecal matter from seabirds and seals, as well as high tidal flows that can carry contaminants far from the source and render the harvest from some of the basin’s shellfish growing areas (SGAs) temporarily unsafe.

While current legislative controls in Canada, administered via the Canadian Shellfish Sanitation Program (CSSP), provide the necessary checks and balances for protecting human health, their application is relatively labour intensive and expensive. Understandably, the current protocols are geared to exercising precaution. This often leads to closures of growing areas, in cases where these have the potential to yield high-quality harvests under optimal environmental conditions. Conversely, where shellfish harvested from non-prohibited areas are identified as contaminated during the testing process, the harvest is inevitably worthless unless it can be purified cost-effectively.

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Water Canada: Wastewater Effluent Regs and FCM reaction

(Via: Water Canada) Feds Implement Wastewater Effluent Regs 
Posted on July 18, 2012

After over three years of discussion, including very public feedback the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) and the Canadian Water and Wastewater Association, the federal government has announced that it will finally implement the national Wastewater System Effluent Regulations.

“We want water that is clean, safe, and plentiful for future generations of Canadians to enjoy,” said Minister of Environment Peter Kent this morning in Delta, British Columbia. “Through these regulations, we are addressing one of the largest sources of pollution in our waters. We’ve set the country’s first national standards for sewage treatment. These standards will reduce the levels of harmful substances deposited to surface water from wastewater systems in Canada.”

The feds worked with provinces and territories, and also engaged municipalities, to finalize these regulations. According to a release, it is expected that about 75 per cent of existing wastewater systems already meet the minimum secondary wastewater treatment standards in the regulations. Communities and municipalities that meet the standards will not need to make upgrades to their systems. The other 25 per cent will have to upgrade to at least secondary wastewater treatment.

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Massive project in Timmins called the biggest one the city has ever taken on

Massive project
$60M upgrade of treatment plant
By Ron Grech, The Daily Press

City officials call it the biggest single project Timmins has ever taken on.

The upgrade to the Mattagami Waste Water Treatment Plant will cost $60-million which is unprecedented for a municipal project in Timmins.

City residents will likely begin seeing the first signs of work being done on Airport Road, across from the Bozzer baseball diamonds in the early fall.

Construction on the site is expected to take more than two years.

“I hope by September and October to see equipment on site and excavation to start,” said Luc Duval, director of public works and engineering. “And then from that point onwards, depending on the season and the weather there will be activity on that site.”

The upgrades to the plant were made mandatory in the wake of the Walkerton tragedy in May 2000 in which seven people died and more than 2,000 others became ill from drinking E. coli contaminated municipal water.

The cost of this provincially mandated project is being divided three ways by the municipal, provincial and federal governments.

“It all fits in our capital investments for sewer and water” budgeted over the next decade, explained Duval.

“We’ve talked about how that plant is going to be upgraded to secondary treatment. We’re in the final stretches of awarding a construction contract for that project. The City of Timmins received tenders (two weeks ago) so we’re in the process of reviewing the tenders and reviewing the amounts and then eventually making a recommendation to council.”

Duval anticipated that recommendation will come to council within two to four weeks.

“Once we award that contract, assuming we award it in August some time, we should start to see activities on that site in September,” he said.

“The chunk of land we got vacant today will be filled with infrastructure in two-and-a-half years from now. So there will be new buildings, a lot of processing tanks where we’re going to be aerating the treated effluent as it comes through the secondary process… There are a lot of new processes being introduced as well and all to better treat the sewage and be better stewards of the environment.

NDRC: Testing the Waters: A Guide to Water Quality at U.S. Vacation Beaches

via: Grist: Here’s just how dirty that beach water is

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) has released its annual “Testing the Waters” report, an overview of the nation’s beaches.

You’ll want to read this before taking a dip.

Over the 22 years the NRDC has created the report, 2011 saw the third-highest levels of beach closings and advisory days. What does that mean? What, exactly, would you be swimming in?

Most beach closings are issued because beachwater monitoring detects unsafe levels of bacteria. These unsafe levels indicate the presence of pathogens — microscopic organisms from human and animal waste that pose a threat to human health. The key reported contributors of these contaminants are (1) stormwater runoff, (2) sewage overflows and inadequately treated sewage, (3) agricultural runoff, and (4) other sources, such as beachgoers themselves, wildlife, septic systems, and boating waste.

Oh, neat. Here’s how that pollution has varied as a cause of beach closures over the years:

Click to embiggen.

The organization also compiled a list of the worst-offending beaches, those that repeatedly had bad, polluted water. That data includes this caveat:

It is important to note that while a high percent exceedance rate is a clear indication of contaminated coastal recreational waters, it is not necessarily an indication that the state’s beachwater quality monitoring program is deficient or fails to protect public health when beachwater quality is poor.

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OBJ: US Clean-tech Firm Opens Ottawa Office

An American water treatment technology firm says it plans to establish its Canadian presence by opening an Ottawa office and hiring 18 employees over the next three years.

via: Ottawa Business Journal, February 1, 2012

The local office of Koester Environmental Ltd. will be headed by Kevin Bloodworth, who was previously CEO of Ottawa-based Upcom.

“Our goal within 36 months is to expand beyond our environmental technology sales, maintenance and operation services,” Mr. Bloodworth stated.

The New York State-based firm plans to add original equipment manufacturing services to its offering.

Koester represents more than 30 manufacturers of water and wastewater treatment equipment, and handles their marketing, sales, service and maintenance in Ontario, New York and New Jersey.

The company has clients in several sectors, including first nation communities, oil and gas, mining and municipal government. Its business model takes a client from a product’s design, to systems installation and ongoing maintenance.

Before opening its Ottawa location, the company worked in Canada on a contractual basis. The company has been named a finalist for a 2012 Bootstrap Award by local business incubator Exploriem.