From The Editor | June 27, 2013

10 Eye-Popping Water Technologies From ACE13

By Kevin Westerling

If you were among the thousands of water professionals at AWWA’s Annual Conference and Exposition (ACE) in Denver last month, you no doubt saw the Big Blue Bear peering through the glass of the convention center. If you weren’t at the show, you may be wondering, like Big Blue, what was going on inside — particularly on the show floor. To help answer that question, here’s a small roundup of some of the more interesting technologies that were on display. Even if you made the trip, with over 500 exhibitors showcasing, there is likely something you missed (more likely if you also missed the 40-foot bear in the window). Either way, I hope you find the following technologies helpful in your search for water solutions.

Type XA Underdrain
Leopold -- A Xylem Brand

Xylem helped kick-start ACE13 with a Monday morning presentation touting the Type XA Underdrain, which is notable for its range of applications. The new model, part of the Leopold FilterWorx system, can be used for drinking water, wastewater, and desalination plants. There are three unique features of the underdrain:

  • Grout pockets capable of resisting up to 30 psi (pounds per square inch) of uplift pressures
  • Dual water recovery channels to enhance backwash air and water distribution
  • Arch design for improved efficiency and longer lateral runs of up to 32 ft.

The arch design of the Type XA Underdrain attracted a lot of interest.

Learn more about the capabilities of the Type XA Underdrain here.

VoiceWave Communication Service

Some may say the water industry is behind the times with regard to customer communications. I’ve thought it too, but I’ve also seen and heard from many utilities determined to update their messaging, both in substance (what they say) and format (how they say it). With VoiceWave, utilities can deliver messages the way people are accustomed to getting them — via phone, text, email, and social media. These customer-friendly delivery options not only increase the visibility of the message, but they also improve public perception of the utility by facilitating more positive engagement. Rather than limiting communication to the dreaded boil-water alert and past-due reminders on bills (though these are covered), the automated service can send helpful content such as appointment reminders, service notifications, special offers and promotions, conservation tips and ideas, and more.

Communications companies like PhoneTree are starting to proliferate on the ACE tradeshow floor. Todd Jones was on hand presenting VoiceWave.

Consumer Engagement Platform

Another, more technologically advanced way to connect with customers was showcased by Aclara, a company that specializes in AMI (advanced metering infrastructure). The Consumer Engagement Platform is a software package that can be integrated into a municipality’s AMI network and accessed directly by the customer through the Web. The platform provides consumers with insight into their own behavior, enabling them to change that behavior and thus promote conservation (and save themselves money). The most dramatic example is in the case of a leak or abnormal water use, which can be quickly identified and reported, but visibility into “normal” use is just as critical. Trends are presented according to a variety of parameters such as time (hourly, daily, monthly, year-to-year, etc.) or temperature. Billing information can be parsed out and analyzed as well, providing a complete picture of usage and making billing surprises (read: complaints) a thing of the past.

Aclara’s Consumer Engagement for Water platform is beneficial for consumer education, customer service, and the environment (conservation).

Sigelock SPARTAN Hydrant
Sigelock Systems, LLC

As I scoured the tradeshow floor for the most unique technologies, the Sigelock SPARTAN caught my eye based on its space-age design. Or perhaps it just seemed futuristic because fire hydrants have looked the same — and essentially operated the same — for about a century. SPARTAN inventor (and former New York City firefighter) George Sigelakis hopes to turn the industry on its ear by updating the traditional hydrant. Made of ductile iron and stainless steel, the SPARTAN features a “clamshell” design that, according to Sigelakis, enhances reliability, water conservation, community and firefighter safety, and water-supply security.

The presentation (and demonstration) of the Sigelock SPARTAN garnered plenty of attention.

The nozzles and operating nut are fully encapsulated to avoid tampering, making sure water pressure is available when needed. Only authorized personnel can open the hydrant, doing so in less than five seconds using a specialized tool (demonstrated by Sigelakis himself). The design elements, including a patented tri-arm configuration in the main valve assembly, are meant to overcome common issues such as frozen hydrants, unstable valves, and undermined soil.  The SPARTAN even offers a sprinkler cap option for kids to cool off in the summer — but, unlike other hydrants, control stays in the hands of municipal personnel.

SedVac Sediment Dredge System
Polychem Systems, a division of Brentwood Industries Inc.

For spick-and-span sedimentation basins, I had yet to see, prior to ACE13, a system quite like the SedVac. Whereas vacuum pipes are the conventional method, you can imagine (or you know full well) that they are prone to leave residue behind. This system actually cleans the basin floor with flexible wipers that extend all the way to the basin walls, completely removing the compression zone layer of sludge. The triangular head sucks up sludge and grit more efficiently and with higher solids concentration than competing vacuum pipes, according to Stephen Antolich, the SedVac product line manager and designer of the system. Antolich also notes that it resists clogging, regardless of influent quality. Intended for single water/wastewater systems operating in basins over 300 ft. long, the SedVac supports both vacuum and pump configurations. See it in action below.

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Just imagine there’s actual sediment in this basin.

Water Body Monitoring/Analysis
Blue Water Satellite, Inc.

Nutrients: We can’t live without them, but they are certainly no friend to water bodies and treatment professionals. While wastewater plants increasingly deal with effluent limits for phosphorus and nitrates going out into the waterways, it’s the end result that worries the drinking water community. The blue-green algae formations of cyanobacteria caused by excess nutrients are toxic and can lead to cyanosis, often called “blue baby syndrome.” Blue Water Satellite provides a service that can monitor your watershed — from space — to identify areas of contamination, trends, and root causes.

Data on cyanobacteria, chlorophyll-a, and phosphorus concentrations are available all the way back to 1984, and concentrations are tagged with latitude and longitude for use with GIS (geographical information systems) software. Besides promoting proactive water body management, this information can save the municipality money by clearly defining the area in need of treatment, so they can get after it quickly and efficiently. According to the company, treating algal blooms as they emerge has the potential to reduce a $2-million alum treatment cost to around $300,000. When remediation is needed, municipalities can avoid treating 1,000 acres, for example, if perhaps only 100 acres are truly impacted. The imaging also aids with sampling protocols by providing in-depth, qualitative data on targeted areas, with parts-per-billion accuracy that, according to the company, rivals laboratory testing.

As Reid McEwen of Blue Water Satellite explained, the company’s imaging of dangerous algal concentrations is enabled by patented algorithms.

StruxureWare for Water
Schneider Electric

Data collection and proactive management practices were definitely themes at ACE13, and efficiency has been trending in the industry for quite a while now. Schneider Electric ties all of these sought-after characteristics together with its new StruxureWare software suite. There are a range of applications under the StruxureWare umbrella —Power Monitoring Expert, SCADA Expert, Network Operation, Asset Operation/GIS, and Security Expert, to name a few — all of which can be incorporated into third-party or legacy systems. The program caters to large and small facilities alike with completely scalable components, allowing utilities to incorporate only what they need and what they’re ready for. On the whole, however, StruxureWare has shown the capacity to increase operational efficiency by up to 25% and reduce energy consumption by up to 30%, according to Schneider Electric’s Water & Wastewater Industry Segment Manager Mark Leinmiller.

"The whole idea is getting the right information to the right person at the right time, to be able to make good decisions," said Leinmiller.

The crux of StruxureWare is visibility, offering a broad overview of system performance — at the plant and throughout the distribution network. With the slew of data made available, utilities can make strides in asset performance, water loss management, energy optimization, customer communication, carbon footprint, and a host of other areas. Learn more here.

The screenshot above provides just a glipse of the data available through StruxureWare.

Fixed Transmission Main Leak Detection
Echologics, a division of Mueller Water Products

While leaks can be detected through GIS, as with the Blue Earth Satellite entry above, Echologics has been fine-tuning (pardon the pun) acoustic-based leak detection for years. This technology “listens” to your pipes with noninvasive components, set up every 2000 ft. or so, capable of locating leaks with approximately 3 to 6 ft. of accuracy. The solution combines the capabilities of the company’s LeakFinderRT leak noise correlator with cellular-based or broadband data transmission to give a complete picture of pipe conditioning. Armed with this information, utilities can not only pinpoint leaks (thereby reducing nonrevenue water), but they can also avoid catastrophic main breaks by identifying and prioritizing potential issues.

Like a doctor with a stethoscope, Echologics monitors the health of your pipes.

AquaCarb CX Enhanced Coconut Shell-Based Carbon
Siemens Water Technologies

With the Stage 2 Disinfectants and Disinfection Byproducts Rule (DBPR) kicking into full gear, discussions of DBPs were plentiful at ACE13, both in sessions and on the show floor. When I visited with Siemens, they were hosting a packed house of attendees.  Christopher Rinaldi, carbon business manager for the company, explained to me the differences between Siemens’ AquaCarb coconut shell-based carbon and traditional coal-based activated carbon, namely the former’s higher microporous structure and increased adsorption capability.

There was no shortage of interest in Siemens’ drinking water solutions.

According to Rinaldi, AquaCarb CX carbon has a lower life-cycle cost than coal-based carbon due to a 30% to 50% longer bed life, with the bonus option of reactivation in place of disposal. AquaCarb CX was developed to help municipalities achieve regulatory compliance and enhance water quality by removing DBPs and their precursors, organic and total organic carbon (TOC), and volatile organic carbon (VOC). Suitable for treating any groundwater or surface water destined for the faucet, the coconut-shell solution was also touted at the booth for taste and odor removal.

BERMAD Air Valves
BERMAD Water Control Solutions

Rounding out the Top 10 is a new line of air valves from BERMAD. I confess that I’m a sucker for sharp styling, and these valves stopped me in my tracks (no small feat for an intrinsically unexciting item). More importantly, however, I was impressed with the performance data BERMAD’s Scott Yakel shared with me. I was also appreciative of the background information speaking to the importance of air valves.

As you may or may not be aware, air pockets created by changes in flow velocity, temperature, or pressure in the distribution system can lead to excessive pressure, blockages, and water hammer. On the other hand, the lack of proper air intake can cause a vacuum. In both cases — too much or too little air — the result is mechanical damage to pipes and their components, sometimes even pipe collapse.

To remedy the situation, BERMAD developed this line of metal (available in 2 to 8 in.) and plastic (¾ to 2 in.) air valves featuring built-in, anti-slam surge protection. They operate at a seat pressure of just 1.5 psi, compared to the 6- to 10-psi range typical of competing valves, according to Yakel. Three types of outlets are offered — downwards, sideways, and circular — with various applications in municipal water/wastewater, irrigation, and fire protection.

The BERMAD C70, made of ductile iron, features a side outlet that can swivel 360 degrees.

Certainly, there were many more products and technologies to see in Denver during AWWA's annual June exposition, but this list of 10 was intended as just a peek inside the ACE13 proceedings — not too long, not too short, hopefully just right. Please let me know in the comments section if you enjoyed the view, or share with the audience some of what you found to be interesting at the show.

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