manhole on a trail

Challenges & Opportunities for Today’s Water, Sewer Utilities

North America’s underground infrastructure has been under siege for years. Take your pick: age, condition, increasing costs of rehabilitation and construction, available funding and an experienced workforce are just a small part of what today’s system owners and utilities face every day their boots hit the ground.

But among the sea of challenges come just as many points of opportunity — new innovative and enhancing technologies, funding options and a more advanced, next-generation workforce ready to tackle daily challenges with tenacity and vigor.

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There are approximately 2.2 million miles of underground pipes delivering safe drinking water to millions of customers in the United States. On the wastewater side, we have more than 16,000 wastewater treatment plants, which, on average, on at 81 percent of their design capacities, with 15 percent having reached or exceeded that capacity. According to ASCE’s 2021 Infrastructure Report, the state of our drinking water graded out at a C-, while our wastewater received a D+ — not terrific grades but since the previous report in 2017, strides have been made in upgrades and financial options to address the utilities’ needs.

We asked some utilities/system owners for insight into what they face each day. Below are their responses.

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Participating in our Utilities Roundtable are:

  • DC Water
  • City of Galveston (Texas) Public Works & Utilities Department
  • City of Hull (Massachusetts) Public Works
  • Pinellas County (Florida) Utilities
  • City of Vancouver (Washington) Public Works Department

Describe the area you cover and the type of system you have.

DC Water: DC Water distributes drinking water and collects and treats wastewater for about 700,000 residents and 21 million visitors in the District of Columbia. DC Water also provides wholesale wastewater treatment services for 1.6 million people in surrounding counties. To distribute drinking water, DC Water operates more than 1,300 miles of pipes, 44,000 valves, and 9,500 public hydrants. To collect wastewater, DC Water operates 1,900 miles of sanitary and combined sewers. The average age of our distribution and sewer systems is approximately 80 years old. We have used many types of trenchless technologies in the past, but cured-in-place pipe (CIPP) is the most common when measured by length of installation. We have also used chemical/mechanical root control, chemical grout, cementitious lining, slip lining, spiral-wound pipe, shotcrete, geopolymer, repointing, tunneling, and microtunneling. The predominant issue in the sewer system is structural degradation. In the water system, the predominant issues are water quality and watermain breaks.

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City of Galveston, Texas: The City of Galveston Public Works & Utilities Department maintains all street, traffic, drainage, water and wastewater infrastructure throughout the Galveston Island. Our Water utility serves ~28,000 connections over 412 miles of pipe. Our utility manages a 37 million gallons of storage capacity and a 21 million gallon/day water supply. Additionally, we maintain 65 miles of storm mains, 256 miles of sanitary sewer mains and 4 wastewater treatment plants with a max capacity 24,550,000 million gallons. The age of the systems varies across the island, with the majority of our water/wastewater mains being very old in age. Our city has the full gambit of pipe materials known to our industry, and every challenge that comes with each material type. Our City has used pipe bursting, static bursting, boring, cured in place pipe, pipe patches, cues-locks, chemical grout injection, and root control with pipes. On manholes our city has used cementitious materials, mortars, epoxy coatings, polyurethane liners, polyurea liners and fiberglass inserts, and composite manholes covers (super covers). These technologies have been used to deal with full replacements of failing pipes, service renewals, and manhole failures.

City of Hull, Massachusetts: Hull is a small coastal town, on a peninsula, just south of Boston. The collection system is 42 miles of a series of pipes ranging in size from 6-inch to 36-inch in diameter, seven pump stations ranging in size from 150 gpm to 1,700 gpm, siphons, and depressed sewers. Most of the sewers were installed in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, with some dating back to 1860. The early era sewers served mostly the hills in the town and were 6-inch to 8-inch clay pipe, connected to the storm drainage system as combined sewers and discharged to the ocean and the bay. The 17,500 linear feet of 30- to 36-in. diameter interceptor was installed in the late 1970s and rehabilitated between 2005 and 2019 with a cured-in-place pipelining (CIPP). The collection system built in the 1980s consists of mostly PVC and some asbestos cement pipe. The force mains are ductile iron. The treatment facility is a conventional activated sludge process that runs 24/7/365 and has an ocean outfall discharge. Use of trenchless technologies has been applied in a variety of applications. Overall, we have had remarkable success with trenchless technologies within or systems. It has proven to be faster, less expensive and reduced surface impacts compared to a conventional dig-and-replace approach.

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Pinellas County, Florida: Pinellas County Utilities (PCU) is a public utilities department under the Board of County Commissioners. Overall, PCU provides drinking water, wastewater, and reclaimed water services to more than 700,000 residents and 6.7 million annual visitors in Pinellas County. PCU provides services to customers in unincorporated Pinellas County and to 19 municipalities in Pinellas County. PCU spans over 1,700 miles of potable water, 1,100 miles of sanitary sewer and 400 miles of reclaimed water.

City of Vancouver: The City’s Public Works Department provides wastewater collection and treatment services to an area of approximately 62 sq miles and serves approximately 200,000 customers inside and outside of the City limits. The sewer system network (about 790 miles of wastewater collection pipe) collects and conveys to two wastewater treatment plants (staffed and managed by contract operators) before being discharge to the Columbia River. The estimated replacement value of all sewer assets is nearly $1,100 million. The city also owns 33 pump stations and maintains an additional 13 step systems. Our wastewater collection systems pipes range from brand new to over 100 years old with an average age of about 31 years. Vancouver’s first sewer pipes were built in downtown Vancouver in the late 1890s using vitrified clay pipe. The next projects built in downtown were after 1905, with one 115-year-old section still in use today. Early manholes on these sewers were constructed of bricks, with some having been rehabilitated and still in use. Although early systems were also used for surface water drainage, Vancouver’s sewer and drainage systems are now separate. Records show that at least ten types of pipe materials have been used at different times, with over 90 percent of the system being built of either concrete or PVC pipe. As far as trenchless work, we do inhouse trenchless spot repair and also in house manhole rehabilitation. We have done CIPP and UV cured CIPP for trenchless repairs. In 2017, Jacobs completed a comprehensive assessment of our Interceptor pipes with a 10-year plan for rehabbing them based on condition assessment.

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What are some of the things that limit or have limited your use of trenchless technologies?

DC Water: While access to the assets and maintenance of traffic are major project limitations, the primary limitation specific to trenchless technology is the breadth of currently available technologies. In the water system, the primary limitation preventing use of trenchless technology is the presence of lead service lines. We replace lead services when we find them, and this requires excavation where each lead service connects to the watermain. Thanks to the vision of DC Water CEO and general manager David L Gadis, we will no longer have any lead water services after 2030; removal of lead as a limitation will allow us to explore NSF approved lining technologies. Hopefully, the next few years will see additional competitors with innovations of their own for NSF approved lining of watermains. In our sewer system, the limiting factor for trenchless technology is the lack of cleanouts and the lack of a cost-effective way of installing wyes for new cleanouts.

City of Galveston: In the past, limiting factors for trenchless technology use, was primarily fear of the new technology and costs. Today, we are only limited to our available funding.

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City of Hull, Massachusetts: Being aware of the technologies available, learning from other communities, being open to try new and different approaches, and recognizing the use and limitations where trenchless technologies can be used are all important considerations that go into project evaluation and planning. Applications at our treatment facility have also been performed and considered. The influent line between the headworks and the influent pump wet well was CIPP lined to address serious deterioration. Some were skeptical that it could be done. Other applications may include clarifier center well lining to address severe pitting and holes preventing proper operation of the clarifiers. We have modified how the clarifiers function until repairs or replacement work is done.

Pinellas County, Florida: Pinellas County Utilities serves a diverse and expansive network of water and wastewater infrastructure, much of which was established several decades ago. The age and condition of our existing pipes sometimes present challenges for trenchless methods, as they may not be suitable for certain techniques.

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City of Vancouver: The only thing that has really been an issue to this point is some of our old clay pipe that is offset and protruding laterals. We may find issues with one of our large interceptors that has offsets as well. Another limit of using trenchless technology is the amount of contractors that do that type of work. We frequently get only one to two contractors that bid on trenchless work, especially if we are looking to do UV cured.

What are the main challenges that your system faces?

DC Water: Our primary issues are repair of structural defects. On the sewer side, we have many defects with a NASSCO defect grade of 5. Some of our sewers are attacked from the outside as well as the inside.   Fixing these sewers in areas that are difficult to access require construction of paths (see photos).  On the water side, the drivers of our replacement program are customer complaints about water discoloration and watermain breaks. Our capital program includes replacement of 1 percent of our watermains every year (increasing to 1.5 percent in FY28) and rehabilitation of 1 percent of local sewers every year. With this capital investment, we expect a reduction of the backlog of Grade 5 defects, water discoloration complaints, and watermain breaks. Maintenance will always be an ongoing effort and we have effective programs in place for maintenance.

City of Galveston: Our island is flat and surround by water. Our groundwater table is very high, making construction and repair efforts very difficult and time consuming. I&I is a major issue on the island. Strom drainage issues on the island contributes to heavy ponding over sanitary sewer manholes, contributing to our I&I issues. The age of our infrastructure is a major contributor to asset failures.

Pinellas County, Florida: One of our focus areas currently is to target Inflow and Infiltration (I&I) into our wastewater system. Defective private sanitary sewer laterals allow a significant amount of I&I into the wastewater collection system, and therefore, Pinellas County Utilities (PCU) created a Private Sewer Lateral Program. Reducing the I&I will increase available capacity within the PCU wastewater service area, aid in reducing the risk of SSOs, reduce flows to the treatment facilities, and reduce the need for new or expanded infrastructure system-wide.

City of Hull, Massachusetts: Sea Level Rise/Climate Change Vulnerability:  The vulnerable location of the facility in the lowest, narrowest portion of Hull, with the Atlantic Ocean to the northeast and Hull Bay to the south, experience with past storm events, and the recognition that extreme storm events are becoming more common and severe, we have incorporated sea level rise, storm surge, and future climate change criteria in all our projects. For the collection system, use of watertight manhole frames and covers and being aggressive with I & I reduction will preserve capacity for future storm events. Preventive Maintenance:  As typical in the industry, we have learned that preventive maintenance is much less expensive than reactive or replacement of non-functioning equipment. As we upgrade and replacement equipment and systems, it is imperative that we instill this philosophy in all workers and conduct ongoing maintenance programs from the start of any new equipment. Reducing Infiltration/Inflow:  We are no different than any other sewer system. I & I reduction can be elusive and diligent efforts are needed to be effective. We are a small utility and get diverted in many directions so keeping attention on I & I becomes more difficult. Quarterly monitoring and use of outside consultants is hoped to maintain the attention needed so that as excessive leakage or inflow sources are identified, they can be fixed. Pandemic Related Costs & Delays:  Although the pandemic is behind us, it has lingering effects. Labor shortages, equipment/material lead times, and rising costs for chemicals and supplies have all impacted our costs. Insurance, utilities, such as electric and water, and subcontracting costs all have increased and will not decrease. Further, inflation and interest rate increases only add to the higher costs of operation. User Rates:  Historically, we maintained a competitive user rate compared to other neighboring communities. This, in retrospect, was by artificially keeping a reduced rate and not investing in system upkeep and maintenance. The lesson learned is that preventive maintenance is less costly than replacing capital expenditures. We are now five years into our capital program, using a rate structure that is appropriate for the plan, and is working well so far. Due to changing conditions, changes in projects, and updates in cost structure, it is now important to relook at our rate structure and assess its adequacy for the next five years. Getting the Work Done:  There are competing needs and changes that arise every day. Dealing with contractors, consultants, property owners, emergencies, other department requests, billing, newsletters, budget, staffing, planning, funding, new development, and project management all are factors that can overwhelm one, or all of us, in the department. Fortunately, having multiple issues arise at once does not happen frequently and we are able to maintain focus on what is most important: To serve the public professionally and efficiently; to provide cost-effective wastewater collection and treatment services; and to preserve the environment and water quality of our coastline and beaches.

City of Vancouver: We have some I&I issues but our bigger issue would be H2S damage in our larger interceptors. One of the biggest maintenance challenges is root intrusion. We now have a team dedicated to continuous root foaming of our system. Our goal is to treat in problem areas every two years.

What are the most concerning challenges that utilities today face?

DC Water: Funding is one of our biggest challenges. Our board has been supportive of rate increases when necessary; we demonstrate the need and show responsible use of the money, but affordability remains a primary concern when evaluating rate increases. Taking full advantage of federal programs, such as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, is key to keeping rates as low as possible. In Washington, D.C., we have a wide range of economic statuses, and those who can least afford water still need water for basic hygiene and health. Attracting talent is another constant challenge. Everything we do is about people. We succeed because of the talent of our people including employees, contractors, and consultants. We usually receive many more applicants than we have openings, so we tend to have strong candidates to choose from. Our contractor pool would benefit from more competition and a wider breadth of available trenchless technologies. Similarly, even our best engineering consultants have had a hard time retaining high-quality staff lately, and competition for hiring staff has been fierce for the last year or two.

City of Galveston: Funding is a major challenge for utilities today. Covid initiated current supply chain issues which led to increase costs for materials, as well as project delays. Employees are harder to find, and demand higher wages further pushing costs. These challenges are for pushing utilities to become creative with all their efforts. This higher a utility raises customer rates to overcome current costs, the greater the divide becomes between the utility and the customer. The longer a utility refrains from raising the rates, the higher the probability of infrastructure failure and customer dissatisfaction. Environmental issues are contributing to our city’s challenges. Every weather or climate event impacts our island. Recent freezes cripple and drain our potable water supply, rising tides increase or expose I&I issues, storms and hurricanes destroy our infrastructure effectively resetting our issues. Prior to living on the island, I did not believe in climate issues caused by global warming. Today, I am not sure what I believe. I personally feel like I am witnessing rising tides, and increased storms. I recently witnessed back-to-back years of hard freezes on our island, which is not built for cold weather.

City of Hull, Massachusetts: Aging Infrastructure:  The treatment facility has been in service nearly 45 years and was set back significantly due to flooding during the Blizzard of 1978, just before the start-up. This delayed start-up by two years and had a serious impact on all operating systems because of saltwater corrosion that continues to this day. Other systems are much older and some are only just beginning assessment and rehabilitation work. Aging Work Force/Contract Operator Staffing:  Our contract operator has been faced with retiring employees, relocating employees, and general lack of skilled work force. To maintain required staff levels, they share staff among nearby facilities and supplement staffing with specialists when needed. A similar trend is also experienced industry-wide. Greater Needs than Funds Available:  As evidenced by the lengthy list of capital improvements needed, it is evident that we have difficulty completing projects even with availability of funding. This is primarily due to industry labor shortages, limited equipment availability, and impacts associated with the pandemic.  We are not alone. Positioning for Infrastructure Funding:  We have been successful in receiving $4.3 million in grant funds to help with the capital improvement program and have another $5 million pending with the FEMA Hazard Mitigation Grant. For every $1M in funding that we do not need to raise, it saves the rate payers approximately $.30 on the user rate. While funding opportunities are available, we need to stay aware and preposition so as they become available, we are ready. Funding opportunities are competitive and, in some cases, become cumbersome and time consuming in the administration and management of grants.  Changing Regulations & Reporting:  Permitting for projects seems to be more extensive than in the past. Today, climate change and sea level rise become a driver in new projects, environmental requirements, storm water management, air quality, noise, lighting, and traffic management all can become considerations in any new projects. More significantly, more stringent water quality and sludge testing in terms of frequency and parameters will affect how we do business in the future years. This is especially true for PFAS chemical testing in both water and sludge samples. Costs associated with PFAS will significantly impact user costs.

Pinellas County, Florida: Our biggest challenge continues to be our workforce. Right now, we are embarking on programs to leverage expertise from different sectors while offering viable opportunities to those seeking public sector careers. One program we have is the Jail-to-Job Pipeline program. Through this program, ex-offenders will be provided job opportunities for hard-to-fill positions within the department. The goal of the program is to increase economic stability among the ex-offender population in addition to increasing retention of skilled workers in the department. The Department of Corrections has been a wonderful partner in developing this program and we look forward to continuing to implement that program and make it a success. Our second challenge is the pace at which the regulatory landscape is changing in Florida for water and wastewater systems. There are big goals on the horizon for improving water quality throughout the state while also meeting the increasing water demands for our growing population. Water is so vital to our state because it is what attracts people from all over the world, and is at the center of our economic vitality. This is both a challenge and an opportunity. With so much emphasis on improving our systems, we as utility leaders in our industry can leverage this enhanced focus on water to pave the way for our future. We need to be advocates and champions for our infrastructure, and we need to work together to make sure it gets the attention it deserves – and that includes adequate funding but it also includes adequate workforce.

City of Vancouver: Environmental permitting, especially related to projects near waterways and natural areas has become much more complex in the last 20 years, requiring permitting and coordination with multiple local, state and federal agencies. On the collection side, the permitting to repair our interceptor that follows the creek will be challenging. When the interceptor was built, it followed the creek; after 50-plus years the creek has changed its course a bit. Material costs and supply chain issues are still an issue that drag project delivery out. Additionally, the community and city leadership (including City Council) demand considerations for seismic stability and community impacts during both project construction and continued operation in the city-wide pursuit of safe and resilient utilities. For one project, staff and their consultant are planning and designing a five-mile-long sewer force main connecting Vancouver’s two wastewater treatment plants. The alignment follows roadways adjacent to the Columbia River and in congested downtown areas. Project considerations for seismic stability, coordination with streets and other utilities, developers and business and property owners. Related to our wastewater treatment plant, two big unknowns related to regulatory is the whole PFAS issue (will we need to treat for it) and we may need to replace our Fluid Bed Furnace within 10 years. That is a multi-million-dollar project, which will have significant funding considerations and we are not sure if we will be allowed to replace. Due to the economic situation 10 years ago, funding was extremely limited for repairs and maintenance, so a lot of needed improvement was on hold for several years. We now have our program adequately funded and the main challenge is designing and construction management due to limited staff. Our engineering and construction capital project has grown but we also need to grow our engineering and construction staff. Right now, I believe that the biggest challenge is recruiting experienced and quality persons.

What do you see as the biggest opportunities for utilities today?

DC Water: As a trenchless industry, we are very innovative. Technological improvements for CIPP in drinking water, trenchless identification of lead services, and installation of sewer wye cleanouts are specific innovations I am hoping will benefit our customers in the very near future. Another opportunity we have is our Capital Improvement Program which will benefit our rate payers, not just via the projects that make the system more reliable and resilient, but also via employment. Washington, DC is better serviced when people in the metro area become experts on the technologies we need and provide repeat services to us and our sister agencies in the surrounding area. Working with our contracting partners DC Water has made significant strides hiring local residents, disadvantaged businesses, and women-owned businesses.

City of Galveston: Training opportunities: Our industry has seen a large number of retirements and some turnover, which has provided an opportunity to introduce newer minds and different talents into the maintenance equation. What we have witnessed here in Galveston, is our new staff is embracing the new technologies for maintenance, construction and data collection. The attempts to effectively use the tools is there. It also allows our staff to learn our system am excited to see what the near future looks like. Excellence in customer service: the infrastructure is in bad shape in some areas and it does impact our customers negatively. The presence of our staff and contractors working on the rehabilitation of the infrastructure shows our customers that we are there, and that we do care. It allows an opportunity of us to connect with the community and establish a customer first relationship.

City of Hull, Massachusetts: Positive things to us are the continued focus to achieve reliability of operations, redundancy of equipment and processes, and resilience against future sea level rise and climate change conditions. Some of these are:

Reliability

  • Sewer Rehabilitation Projects Completed: The full length of the 30-in. and 36-in. diameter interceptor has been rehabilitated with a cured-in-place liner that is intended to protect the pipeline structural integrity for at least 50 years.
  • Influent Gate Installed: This allows throttling of flows during extreme flow events that will help modulate flows into the treatment facility.
  • Influent Piping and Valves Replaced: All replaced early in the program to allow isolation and flexibility for repairs and maintenance.
  • Effluent Gate Installed and Valves Replaced: Allows for greater plant protection by allowing throttling of flows if needed before pumped to the disinfection chamber or to pump directly to the disinfection chamber for maintenance/replacement of effluent pumps.
  • Pump Station Pumps and Piping Replaced: Station upgrades and replacements completed to replace poorly operating or non-functional valves for greater reliability.
  • Clarifier Gear Drives Replaced: Both primary and secondary clarifier drives (2 each) replaced
  • Outfall Repairs (partial): Located Ocean outfall and extended/protected 11 of 36 diffuser risers. Larger project planned for Fall/Winter 2023 to complete remaining diffusers and clean sediment from outfall to regain capacity lost by years of sedimentation and sea growth.

Redundancy

  • Auxiliary Pump Installed: Allows for flow bypass around plant headworks for maintenance.
  • Spare Portable Pumps and Generator: supplemented inventory with new 6” and 8” portable pumps and a new portable generator.
  • Spare Effluent Pumps: spare pumps available for three of the four pumps (4th pump is relatively new)
  • Aeration Tanks Retrofit: Underway as part of an ongoing construction project.

Resiliency

  • Influent Gate Installed: As indicated above, provides greater flexibility to protect plant during extreme flow events.
  • Installed Above-Ground Fuel Storage Tank: Replaced an uninsurable below grade tank, allows diesel fuel for other needs at this end of town in an emergency
  • Elevated Transformer: Elevated at on the ground transformer that was susceptible to flooding and allowed for electrical retrofit of major electrical components to second floor of control building.
  • Elevated HVAC and Critical Electric Components to operate most essential equipment during an extreme storm event.
  • Designed Site Resiliency Measures: Pending FEMA grant to help fund an earthen berm and concrete wall with resilient plantings around the perimeter of the plant to help protect against sea level rise and future extreme storm events.

Opportunities are available if anyone is open to try new and different approaches, think differently how projects could get done, seek outside expertise as needed, and be aggressive in finding funding sources for the work. By doing so, trenchless approaches or technologies associated with trenchless, e.g., assessment methods, may be appropriate and and be beneficial to a project.

Pinellas County, Florida: Our biggest opportunity is educating and partnering with the public on issues facing our water and wastewater systems. I have conducted many tours and one thing remains consistent. When people see firsthand what we do, they are surprised and fascinated at the magnitude of infrastructure is takes to deliver the services they have. Education is large component of what we are trying do in Pinellas County. Once of the areas which we excel is in our school-aged education program. It has been a tremendous success at incorporating the principles of water resources into the classroom combined with a tour program. Another opportunity is technology. We have so many exciting technologies that can help address the aging infrastructure issues that we face in a more efficient and effective manner. However, one of our constraints is the speed at which local governments operate. The rapid deployment of advanced technologies is going to require a different approach to traditional procurement methods but will still need to meet the public expectations of fairness and transparency. The current paradigm just isn’t structured in a way to adopt technologies with any urgency or speed.

City of Vancouver: The new technology provides for more construction options in areas where standard dig/replace may not be the best method. Also, the low emission or concerns with curing smells appears to be addressed with some of the new technology.

City of Vancouver Sewer OPS – N. 39th St Pipeline Replacement (2019)

Talk about the impact that the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) has had on utilities.

DC Water: IIJA has been of significant benefit to DC Water. This is a substantial amount of money that would have been paid for by raising water rates. Because affordability is a driver for our CIP, any federal funds are welcome. Federal funding for water and sewer infrastructure has decreased over decades. IIJA has been called “once-in-a-generation funding” by some, but in reality, federal funding is fundamental to the implementation of a CIP that recognizes affordability is important.

City of Galveston: At this point, this has not impacted our team. We have not received any funding off of this as of yet.

City of Hull, Massachusetts: We have had limited success with outside funding sources associated with the Jobs Act. $2 million in Congressionally Directed Spending (CDS) funds have been received to help fund replacement of a pumping station. While this is welcome source of funding, it has taken two years from application to grant award before the project could advance to construction. We are waiting on ARPA funds for our Ocean Outfall Rehabilitation Project and also awaiting another round of CDS funding for another resiliency type project for the treatment facility.

Pinellas County, Florida: Our experience, unfortunately, has been very minimal. That is because the way in which the bill was written and interpreted largely excludes Pinellas County Utilities from obtaining funding due to the provisions involving disadvantaged communities. The state defines disadvantaged communities as those with a population of 10,000 or less. Unless this is changed at some point, there is very little we can take advantage of with the funding.

City of Vancouver: While federal IIJA funds are accessible, the effort requires dedicated staffing to pursue and manage the funding. The city’s sewer utility has not pursued federal funding since the 1980s, and the staffing skills to pursue funding is challenging. That said, we are not pursuing IIJA funding.

Describe the state of the water and wastewater utilities today. What is needed to help make utilities run better and smoother?

DC Water: The state of our utilities is a tale of two hands: on one hand, we have very talented people, and on the other hand, we need to provide those talented people with the appropriate resources so they can keep doing the amazing job they do. In many organizations across the country, they have high caliber people who are very skilled at their job. These people are exceedingly good at creating a high-quality product around the clock, every single day of the year. While the people in our industry will continue to perform admirably, our national infrastructure is degrading at an unsustainable rate. ASCE has documented the unacceptable grades of our infrastructure for years now. We need to recognize at some point, even the best people on our planet won’t be able to compensate for a lack of resources. A fully funded water and sewer system brings significant economic benefits.

City of Galveston: Knowledge sharing is key. Utilities need to work with each other to grow the knowledge base and expand expertise. It would be great if a national committee was put together to develop community outreach and educational tools describing the need and purpose for proactive programs, with the benefits of these programs (line cleaning, televising, SL-RAT, AI, valve exercising, hydrant maintenance, reliability centered maintenance, condition assessments, etc.) and the funding required to perform these tasks. If the public knows about these programs, perhaps they will ask for them and support the funding. Optimize procurement: Procurement process can be very difficult and restrictive in some places. This makes it easy for staff to accept inferior products over best value. Purchasing departments need to understand the complexities of a utility and assist the department and division heads to properly procure and accomplish their goals.

City of Hull, Massachusetts: Overall, major investments and attention to our water and wastewater utilities has made marked improvements. Continued long-term investments are needed. Challenges noted above are also being experienced by many, if not all, utilities around the country. Water and wastewater services are essential for continued growth and a thriving economy. Utilities alone can’t fund the investment needed to operate, maintain, rehabilitate, and replace the infrastructure. Increased funding availability, greater access to funding, easier implementation, and more creative financing strategies are needed to make continued improvements in our systems.

Pinellas County, Florida: We are on the verge of a tremendous transformation resulting from a confluence of factors including public health, environmental issues, aging infrastructure, regulations, public demands, workforce challenges, and rising costs. We really need to start innovating the way in which we approach the management and support systems to achieve the goals ahead of us. We cannot continue to play under the same rules when we aren’t even playing the same game anymore. Water is too important and it is time we step up and shape our future before someone does it for us.

City of Vancouver: Wastewater collections at the City of Vancouver are in fairly good shape, there are older sections that need attention. This is a separated system from Storm Water. For wastewater treatment, while the plants are not hydraulically challenged (i.e .design flow), they have reached 85 percent of rated capacities for solids and BOD5 loading, which has required evaluation of real performance and planning on the 15-year horizon for expansions. Also, staff are planning for a 10-year solids renewal update, and will be evaluating better resource recovery opportunities beyond the city’s incineration system. The effort will consider technologies and options consistent with the city’s climate action framework and water resiliency strategy while addressing compliance, risk and equity.

Sharon M. Bueno is the editor of Trenchless Technology.

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