Small Rural Water System

rural water systemsThe Issues: 
Scattered throughout the United States (and other countries) there are thousands of small rural drinking water systems providing clean drinking water to dozens or hundreds of customers.  Many of these small systems are run by volunteers, and while their revenues are low, their increasingly aged infrastructure and energy use for pumping and treatment are squeezing margins at the same time as the effects of climate change and population trends complicate their operations.

The Solutions:  Design and installation of alternative energy systems provide one avenue for small water systems to upgrade their pumps and other systems, with some of the funding being provided by government or other agencies in order to reduce long-term costs.  In order for such alternative energy systems to be cost-effective, however, energy use must be reduced first.  There is an extra benefit when energy use is reduced in water and wastewater systems:  In what has become known as the “water – energy nexus, 30% of the water that is used goes to generate electricity, and 30% of the energy that is used is used to treat and deliver water.  Reducing usage of one, reduces usage in both.

Current-C Energy [Systems] was asked to audit a small water system and provide recommendations for improvements, conduct a “plan review” on planned infrastructure improvements, report conclusions to the Board, and educate staff regarding alternative energy.

A variety of analyses were conducted on the small amount of data available from the water system, and one of the major recommendations made was to monitor the pump operation and gallons produced on a real-time basis, in order to better maintain and operate the system.

The Numbers:  Average cost of electricity was $0.14 / kWh, with average daily costs of approximately $8 covering 2 pumps, 3 space heaters, and lighting.  Electricity usage was higher in the winter months although production was lower, showing the impact of electric heaters in the pump-houses.  Low cost / no cost measures at the pump house (including insulating with scrap foam board stored inside the building) and changes in operations and maintenance were projected to save 20 – 25% per year, primarily in the office building; solar generation could eliminate all utility costs for the pumps if an adequate monitoring and control system could be in place.  Grant applications were recommended.

The Comments:  “[We have] had the opportunity to work with Current-C Energy [Systems] formally on one very successful project and are now embarking upon another recently awarded Tribal project.  We have also shared opportunities with Current-C Energy [Systems] that they have followed up on, successfully been awarded, and then completed with positive feedback from the client who is pleased with the project outcomes.  We find Current-C Energy [Systems] to be honest, helpful, responsive, dedicated, very thorough and able to complete projects on time and within budget.  They do whatever it takes to make the project work.  Current-C Energy [Systems] is flexible, very well connected and well versed in energy, renewable energy, green building, efficiencies and a host of related project requirements.  We highly recommend Current-C Energy [Systems].’