From The Editor | September 7, 2021

Powering Up: Perspective On America's Infrastructure Plan


By Kevin Westerling,

human hand holding a graphic splash of water

Envisioning an America where every community has access to clean water and resources to live a quality life is pretty powerful — and it is enough inspiration to power a transformation that could make America’s future much stronger.

The recent federal stimulus initiative passed by the U.S. Senate will fund major improvements to the nation’s aging infrastructure, including $55 billion aimed at improving access to clean drinking water.

Aging water systems threaten public health in thousands of communities nationwide, and modernization of our country’s water systems is imperative to ensuring every American has access to clean water. To learn more about what it will take to help water districts and utilities improve system uptime, increase safety, and improve energy efficiency, I spoke with Kerry Tingley, the vice president and general manager of Eaton’s Industrial Controls Division.

What do you think about the water-centric investments included in the bipartisan infrastructure bill?

When it comes to water, the goal is to improve access to clean and safe drinking water. In my view, this is a powerful goal that envisions an America where every community has access to clean water and resources to live a higher quality life while reducing our environmental footprint. At Eaton, we see the federal stimulus initiative as support for both the nation’s aging infrastructure and its impact on the environment, and we stand ready to help through the use of power management technologies.

How can power management technologies help this work be successful?

Kerry Tingley, VP/general manager, Eaton Industrial Controls
Whether you need to power a new plant, expand operations, or modernize systems, electricity is critical to day-to-day operations that provide clean water. Experts at designing, installing, maintaining, and modernizing electrical equipment stand ready to help water districts and utilities advance sustainability and energy efficiency, improve system uptime, support remote monitoring and control, and enhance safety with modern and digital power distribution, quality, and control solutions.

In short, we are helping our customers prepare for and continue to operate with reliable, resilient power — even during a pandemic, a major storm, or both.

Why is it important to make these investments today?

From my perspective, investments in infrastructure will help keep water and wastewater treatment plants operating far into the future and optimize how they work — keeping equipment in service longer, reducing energy and maintenance costs, and advancing resilience and sustainability. Here’s why I know these investments are critical:

  1. Modernizing water systems is imperative to ensuring every American has access to clean water. It’s important to recognize that aging water systems threaten public health in thousands of communities nationwide. Many water and wastewater treatment plants are using equipment that may be unsafe and/or beyond its anticipated useful life. This equipment is more likely to fail and needs to be updated, upgraded, reconditioned, or retrofitted to continue to work more effectively and efficiently every day.
  2. Energy delivery systems and sources are changing. The energy transition created a new power paradigm. Power used to flow in one direction, from where it was generated to where it was used. Now, power must flow bidirectionally between distributed energy resources (DERs). Today and in the future, electrical infrastructure needs to do much more than receive power from the grid for distribution to plant loads and equipment. For water and wastewater treatment plants, the proliferation of DERs such as renewables and energy storage provides new ways to meet energy goals and power operations.
  3. Energy efficiency improvements will create dramatic cost savings. I’ve seen figures from the U.S. EPA that indicate as much as 40 percent of operating costs for drinking water systems can be for energy, and incorporating energy efficiency practices into water and wastewater treatment plants can yield significant savings for municipalities and utilities.
  4. Resilient operations are a must. Water and wastewater treatment plants have to operate around the clock, every day of the year — so keeping the power on for critical operations is essential. Resilience requires preparation and an approach that prioritizes cybersecurity and keeping the power flowing during utility outage events.
  5. Safety is a critical consideration. Protecting the personnel working at water and wastewater plants is essential and electrical safety considerations (and codes) are constantly evolving. It’s important that the water and wastewater industry adopts new technologies and approaches to help reduce risk.

Here’s the bottom line as I see it [and this editor concurs] — there’s a dramatic opportunity right now to optimize systems through smart investments that will continue to provide financial, health, safety, and other benefits for years to come.