Addressing the Water Supply Challenge
Unprecedented droughts and "water wars" among historically lush Southeastern states are just a couple of factors that have raised concerns about how a lack of reliable, clean and affordable water could impact our quality of life.
Balancing supply, demand and budgets
When it comes to the water supply, the increasing demands of citizens and industry must be met within the constraints of state and local government budgets. Although providing for future demand has direct and immediate economic impacts on present planning decisions, demand predictions are based on many uncertain assumptions regarding economic, social, political and climatological factors. Such uncertainties pose a major challenge for the planners and policy makers charged with providing water for present and future generations and finding balance among objectives for water security, economic growth, cost control and quality of life.
The conventional approach to the increasingly acute water supply challenge has largely consisted of combining relatively modest conservation tactics with a focus on increased supply. Increased supply is often realized via capital-intensive projects such as new reservoir development or other new supply sources such as aquifer storage and recovery. Hence, the conventional approach has a predilection for high fixed-cost capital improvements aimed to maximize supply. Alternative approaches like conservation, loss control, improved system operations and other solutions are viewed largely as stopgap measures, if considered at all.
Failure to carefully and adequately consider all viable options, however, can result in the imposition of unnecessarily high costs on current rate payers for expensive capital projects that are plagued by feasibility risks, unanticipated costs and inaccurate estimates of future need. The inherent nature of such capital-intensive projects means that current rate payers absorb all the risk for uncertain future benefits that may or may not be realized decades in the future when the projects are completed. The demand projections used to justify capital-intensive infrastructure are dependent on local, regional, national and even international trends and forces that become increasingly ill-defined as one looks further into the future.
Without adequate information upon which to make decisions in the near term, capital-intensive project development, unlike a more diversified, cost-efficient and timely alternative, may “lock in” a community to financially and technically inflexible solutions. Due to long time lines and technical and legal challenges, project costs often exceed initial estimates or even render the proposed solution entirely infeasible.
Smart Water Grid SM Services
When searching for solutions to the array of challenges faced by water supply and management decision makers, it is readily apparent that the multidisciplinary problem of adequate and cost-efficient water supply demands a multidisciplinary solution.
The Smart Water Grid Consortium, unveiled in the summer of 2012, leverages decades of expertise drawn from environmental engineering consultants NewFields and River To Tap Inc., and the lawyers of Smith, Gambrell & Russell, to comprise a diverse team of engineering, science, financial and legal experts. The Consortium is collectively offering Smart Water Grid services to provide comprehensive, solution-neutral decision-making tools that help water and wastewater planners successfully identify issues, gather and process information, and implement cost-effective and sustainable solutions based on the unique demographic, environmental, economic, technical, social, legal and political challenges faced by a particular community. Smart Water Grid services include an innovative, streamlined deployment of legal services in conjunction with technical services to meet unique challenges posed by the need to supply today’s and tomorrow’s demand for water.
Smart Water GridSM SERVICES
A solution-neutral approach to water management
Smart Water Grid services provide an innovative, powerful tool for use by planners to make more realistic, cost-effective and practical decisions free from the inherent weakness of a “one-size-fits-all” approach. Smart Water Grid services include technical, financial and legal perspectives to more economically, effectively and efficiently manage water supply and the delivery of water from utility to consumer.
Free of bias toward any single solution, in providing Smart Water Grid services, the Consortium carefully considers all possible options drawn from industry experts in all disciplines relevant to water supply. When all options are considered, the probability of pursuing the most appropriate solution(s) is maximized. Smart Water Grid services include gathering and evaluating data at an unprecedented level of timeliness and useful detail to present an array of proposed solutions evaluated by cost, efficiency, timeliness and certainty of verifiable outcome from technical, financial and legal perspectives. Rather than being predisposed to offering a single given solution, Smart Water Grid services provide innovative, powerful tools for use by planners to make more realistic, cost-effective and practical decisions free from the inherent weakness of a “one-size-fits-all” approach.
Water supply options given equal consideration (depending on availability and suitability to the relevant jurisdiction) may include: enhanced conservation measures deployed in proportion to need; consideration of alternative existing supply options, including identification and re-purposing or enhancement of existing water supply sources, lakes, aquifers and reservoirs; facility- or community-based rainwater harvesting and stormwater management; new reservoir development; financial analysis of revenue-generation options presented to a given community; and consideration of legal, land use, political, trade, permitting or legislative factors.Proposed solutions mean little if they fail to deliver as promised or if there is no means for validating projected outcomes after they are deployed. Until recently, realtime data on user demand, usage, loss and other system-wide water data was impossible to gather, process and use meaningfully in a timely manner. Harnessing revolutionary developments in data gathering and processing capabilities adapted from applications in the realms of finance and defense, Smart Water Grid services provide the capability to accurately and cost-effectively process massive amounts of data to obtain real-time usage and operational information from any point in the water supply and distribution system.
Such a capability enables faster, more informed decision-making that allows ongoing evaluation of whether planned or implemented solutions will actually meet anticipated need at an affordable cost. In the planning phase, the data-mining techniques feed decision/consequence analysis, allowing planners to comprehensively evaluate the future effects of their decisions and to select the options with the highest certainty of success and the highest degree of efficiency. Emerging techniques used in providing Smart Water Grid services also include new sensor capabilities for better leak mitigation, enhanced protection against threats to water systems via real-time monitoring, and vastly increased distribution and usage information. This enables the most efficient allocation of resources to the places and at the times they are most needed, and provides a means to validate previously projected results.
The key goal of providing Smart Water Grid services is to preserve and enhance the quality of life for communities by ensuring that the most efficient, cost-effective solutions for effective water supply are considered, implemented and maintained. Many water supply solutions such as conservation, loss control and efficiency measures can be implemented swiftly and cost effectively. Others, such as re-purposing existing lakes or developing new reservoirs, can take far longer. A multi-faceted mix of solutions – planned for implementation as needed –can provide the highest certainty and most cost-effective use of ratepayer and taxpayer money in the delivery of needed water supplies. The Smart Water Grid Consortium is capable of producing the most effective solution mix to meet the unique needs of particular jurisdictions.
Diversity Equals Strength
Offering a diverse but coordinated array of expertise to evaluate and produce a customized mixture of alternative solutions, the Smart Water Grid Consortium provides powerful planning and decision-making tools for use by those charged with ensuring a community’s current and future water supply. SGR’s participation highlights the firm’s commitment to innovation in offering sustainable solutions to even the most daunting challenges.