Today change happens at lightening speed, which is why the lightening round of one-minute summaries from 10 of the Leading Utilities of the World (LUOW) describing their latest innovative solutions was an exciting and appropriate part of 2018’s Global Water Summit. 

Here are a few flashes from the lightening round.

Los Angeles Department of Water & Power

The Los Angeles area is prone to earthquakes that can be disastrous for water and sewer systems. That’s why the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power (LADWP) is taking a proactive approach, using revolutionary Japanese technology to create a seismic resilient pipeline. LADWP is currently installing the largest seismic restraining joint in the world across a known fault line. The earthquake resistant ductile iron pipe not only moves and shifts to protect against seismic risks and improve infrastructure reliability, it also allows more water to move through the system and improve efficiency. Additionally, LADWP has patented technology to solve the problem of water quality degradation in covered storage due to nitrification of chloramine disinfectant. This novel process uses low-intensity ultraviolet light to stop the bacteria that cause nitrification, thus maintaining water quality. LADWP has turned a major problem into a fee generating possibility as LADWP is now getting offers to buy the patent or at least pay LADWP for use of its technolog

The Water Corporation of Australia

The southwest portion of western Australia is the fastest drying climate in the world. For example, in 2016, Water Corporation of Australia received 11 gigaliters of water, lost 14 gigaliters to evaporation, yet still had to supply 300 gigaliters of water to its customers. The Water Corporation of Australia must find ways to make an ever-decreasing supply of water meet the continual needs of its customers. That’s an extreme challenge by any measure. Water Corporation of Australia strives to have a three-year supply of water available at all times in order to have sufficient time to trigger new water sources as needed. It has developed a new sourcing model to achieve that goal. In 2019, Water Corporation of Australia will deliver 300 gigaliters to its customers with 90% supplied from non-surface water sources. The source breakdown will include 50% from desalination, 30% from groundwater and 10% from groundwater aquifer recharge. Water Corporation of Australia credits government support for its ability to manage such a steep challenge in the face of some of the world’s most severe climate change impacts.

Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District

Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District has been producing commercial grade Milorganite fertilizer from bio-solids since 1926. Interest in this byproduct has been growing since that time. In 2017, Milorganite became a source of positive income for Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District, capturing $10 million in external sales. Beyond this innovative use of a byproduct, Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District has an exemplary service record. It treats 70 billion gallons of water each year, yet experienced only 1,400 gallons of leakage in 2017. With an excellent system for treating wastewater and track record of 100% permit compliance; it is not difficult to see how Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District went from being known as a polluter of waterways 20 years ago, to being known as a protector of waterways today. And last year, based on community request, Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District bought a dam for a dollar and is now removing the dam. Now that’s being a good neighbor!

Scottish Water

With fuel prices going up, Scottish Water wanted to help its customers lower their heating bills and reduce their carbon footprint at the same time. Scottish Water realized that within its 50,000 kilometers of sewer network lay a steady flow of thermal energy from showers, washing machines and industrial processes. Through a joint venture with SHARC Energy Systems, instead of being wasted, this thermal energy was extracted to create a heating solution for customers while also reducing carbon emissions. Benefits to Scottish Water customers included zero upfront costs, flexible application and supply and price certainty. The joint venture also supports the Scottish government’s ambitious renewable and carbon reduction targets for 2020. This innovative solution is not only one of the United Kingdom’s first heat from wastewater projects, it also recently won the prestigious Scottish Renewable Green Energy Best Innovation Award.

Central Contra Costa Sanitary District

California’s water problems are severe and complex, often requiring multiple stakeholders to find solutions. That’s why partnerships between water companies in the San Francisco Bay area make so much sense. The Central Contra Costa Sanitary District (CCSD) sees an opportunity to divert 95% of the water it currently discharges into the bay to the Santa Clara Valley Water District (SCWD) that provides water services to over 3 million people instead. CCSD and SCWD get their water supply from the same source and since there are two refineries next to CCSD, the concept of the partnership is to provide service to CCSD through the refineries, with CCSD in turn implementing an exchange program with SCWD. This solution to a large regional problem in the Bay Area shows how collaboration creates successful results.

Watercare New Zealand

Christopher Gasson, Publisher of Global Water Intelligence, said early during the Global Water Summit that, “Innovation is 10% technology and 90% management.” Watercare New Zealand is keeping that in mind as it prepares for the future. Part of preparing for the future is preparing its staff for change. For Watercare, change includes the use of bots. The first bot Watercare put into service was given a birth certificate, a name and even a birthday cake by Watercare staff.  Now there are four bots in service with more to come. Because each bot does the work of approximately six people, the humans at Watercare understand that the future will be very different from today. Understanding how the future will change and facing those changes fully and honestly is one of the reasons Watercare is at the forefront of utility management today.