From The Editor | May 21, 2014

ACE14: Water Solutions For Any Size Utility


By Kevin Westerling


What follows is an attempt to bring order to chaos, as well as a snapshot of the water industry’s most pressing challenges. Identify your issue, then set out to conquer it at ACE14.

The American Water Works Association’s (AWWA’s) Annual Conference and Exhibition (ACE) offers something for everyone in the water industry, with more than 550 technical sessions to choose from.  While options and breadth of topics is a sure benefit, the program is so dense that it can bewilder.  With that in mind, this preview presents a handful of sessions offered at ACE14 — a five-day Boston marathon from June 8 to 12 — geared specifically toward utilities based on size. Following that, I would be remiss not to mention some of the exciting events and speakers that keep ACE attendees coming back, with 12,000 more expected at the Boston Convention Center this year. Even if you won’t be attending, these program highlights provide a state-of-the-industry overview of common issues.

Combined Utility Issues

Counterfeit Materials: Critical Components of Water and Wastewater Systems Are Falling Victim (MON03)

I’ve heard of knock-off watches and clothing, but counterfeit water/wastewater products? This surprising and distressing trend may be affecting public health and safety, and certainly has an impact on utility operations. This discussion introduces the problem and the associated risks, with tips on how to avoid the purchase of bogus materials.

Managing Water, Wastewater, and Stormwater Assets in a Combined Utility (MON07)

Managers of combined utilities must be experts, or at least well-versed, in integrated resource management. This session will provide concepts for dealing with the varied assets of water/wastewater/stormwater systems in a sustainable way, as well as contingency plans for emergency situations.

Direct Potable Reuse: Opportunities to Meet Current and Future Water Demands (TUE28)

Water reuse may seem to some, particularly the public, as a necessity thrust upon us — that is, “we’re only doing it because we have to.” The optimist, however, sees the trend toward water reuse as an opportunity for efficiency. Direct potable reuse (DPR) may be the most efficient means to protect the water supply of arid regions, but it also has a steeper road to acceptance. Learn how to overcome the obstacles to DPR in this Tuesday session.

Exploring the Connections between Drinking Water Resources and Stormwater Management (WED26)

Stormwater’s effect on watersheds and drinking water is an important but sometimes overlooked consideration. Monitoring and protection of the watershed allows utilities to optimize treatment for higher-quality water. A number of strategies for mitigation of stormwater impact will be shared.

Unique Approaches to Design and Construction of Water Infrastructure (WED36)

Water utilities can gain considerably from recent technological advances, but the value opportunity is different for every municipality. This session explains the opportunities and capabilities offered by the smart grid, cloud computing, GIS deployment, and AMR/AMI, among other trending utility management options.

Small Utility Issues

Solutions for Small Systems Challenges (THU08)

It’s not uncommon for small systems, many without the budget and personnel advantages of larger utilities, to struggle with challenges such as manganese removal and disinfection byproducts (DBPs). This session gives detail on the evolution from slow sand filtration to advanced treatment, and how small utilities can equip and assert themselves to overcome big challenges.

Practicing Assessments and Implementing the New RTCR Requirements (TUE06)

Speaking of small-system struggles, there is likely no greater concern for a limited-resource utility than an upcoming regulation to contend with, such as the U.S. EPA’s recent Revisions to the Total Coliform Rule (RTCR). The good news is that utilities have until April 2016 to ensure compliance. Get prepared for the new regulation and its requirements with hands-on exercises provided in this three-hour session.

Maximizing the Value of Your Assets and System: Asset Management and Long-Range Planning (TUE36)

We’ve heard the dollar estimates (over $1 trillion) and grades (D) attributed to America’s water/wastewater infrastructure, but what are some practical solutions to addressing the problem? The questions around repair/replacement/renewal can be answered with a sound asset management plan, which is the focus of this session. Attendees will get educated on asset management principles and how to develop a long-term plan for sustainable infrastructure.

Sustaining Small Systems: Tools and Case Studies (WED19)

Sometimes the most effective learning tool is the example set by others. Case studies lend credence to theory by providing measurable, real-world results. For small systems concerned about water resources, this session spotlights utilities and practices that are successfully combating threats to their supply.

Mid-Size And Large Utility Issues

Let's Talk About Rates: Exploring Cost-of-Service, Public Outreach, and Pricing Strategies (MON01)

Yes, let’s talk about rates. Utilities have been struggling with funding levels that fall far below their needs, but rate increases have long been seen as a last resort. Much of the mindset is based on the perception of consumers, who often view rate increases as tax hikes, but the writing is on the wall: future infrastructure needs demand rates that more closely align with cost-of-service. The Professional Sessions program kicks off on Monday (@ 1:00) with this three-hour event featuring expert advice on how to navigate the thorny world of rate-setting.

Water Main Rehabilitation:  Planning, Prioritizing, and Processes (TUE19)

Many old cities, including the ACE14 host city of Boston, rely on a network of water mains that have largely outlived their life expectancy. Only a small portion can be fixed at a time, making asset management and prioritization key components of the pipeline repair schedule. This session will present evaluation tools and repair techniques to enable better decision-making.

SCADA: Effective Planning, Delivery, and Maintenance (WED16)

Supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) is intricately tied to operational efficiency, service levels, and regulatory compliance, ranking it among the most important assets a utility owns. Learn how to get the most out of your SCADA system — and how much SCADA you really need — by hearing from IT experts and experienced utility managers. 

Asset Management: Practical Applications (THU09)

If you’re not a practitioner of asset management, you probably should be … or perhaps you still need convincing. This session presents the business case for asset management, and also provides specific methods of managing infrastructure to maximize its usefulness. The varied set of topics covered includes in-pipe leak detection, prediction of valve failure, asbestos-cement water main replacement, steel pipe condition assessment, and surge control.


Outside the meeting rooms and onto the tradeshow floor, some 500-plus booths will be featuring the latest technologies and solutions available to utilities of all types and sizes. Water Online will be there as well, at booth 724, broadcasting Water Online Radio and registering visitors for the chance to win a free iPad Air.

‘America’s Mayor’ Speaks

The Opening General Session (Monday, 8:30 to 10) features a keynote address by former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who will be discussing the plight of America's infrastructure (his address is sponsored by HomeServe USA), but is sure to inspire confidence for the future.


Walk the showroom floor and you’ll no doubt hear and see the excitement gathering around the annual ACE competitions: Pipe Tapping, Meter Madness, Top Ops, and the World Water Cup. These events are always a fan favorite; stop by and you’ll understand why.

A more subdued but equally competitive contest will also unfold at the exposition, as utilities put their tap water to the test — a taste test — to lay claim to the title of “best-tasting water.” The People’s Choice Taste Test will be conducted at stations set up throughout the show floor, with the winner determined by poll results. The “experts” have their say on Tuesday at 3:00, when they announce the “Best of the Best” Tap Water Taste Test winner alongside the People’s Choice winner.

Innovation Pavilion

The Innovation Pavilion, located at booth 1834, will feature award-winning technologies with the potential to not only overcome today’s challenges, but meet many needs for the future, particularly in the areas of sustainability, efficiency, and water scarcity.  Imagine H2O has partnered with AWWA to bring the showcase pavilion to ACE for the first time.

Of course, this is but a snippet of the activity that will be taking place over the five days in Boston. There is much more to see, do, and learn — a rich program tirelessly put together by AWWA, and thoroughly catalogued here to help plan your visit and prepare for success.