Utilities continue to be faced with new, unanticipated challenges to our water resources and water systems. Headlines continue to fill with extreme weather events, effects of climate change, workforce challenges, supply chain shortages, and emerging contaminants. In parallel, utilities are taking leadership in addressing affordability and equity in their communities. Utilities are implementing One Water strategies to overcome challenges, drive innovation, and discover new opportunities. For some utilities, One Water is a strategic approach to meeting customer demands by considering every piece of the water cycle as a potential water supply. For other organizations, One Water strategies may include greater collaboration across departments, organizations, and partner agencies within a watershed to optimize resources across a larger scale, gain efficiencies, and drive innovation. One Water strategies are also leveraged to bring greater awareness of upstream and downstream impacts, protect our natural resources for future generations, and improve the quality of life in communities. As challenges vary among regions and communities and from one year to the next, so do One Water strategies. The examples below illustrate the range of One Water strategies that have developed to overcome the unique challenges of communities across the country.
Integrating planning processes to meet community and sustainability objectives simultaneously
Integrated planning approaches, such as EPA’s Framework for Integrated Planning for Municipal Stormwater and Wastewater, facilitate collaboration between multiple departments and agencies to implement shared solutions that meet multiple objectives. For example, Columbus Department of Public Utilities, in Ohio, is implementing Blueprint Columbus, a plan to redirect stormwater from the sanitary laterals and foundations on private property to public streets and to green infrastructure located in the right-of-way to reduce sanitary sewer overflows (SSO). This will reduce the amount of inflow and infiltration in the sewers, addressing the root cause of SSOs, without the need to build additional tunnels to handle the excess flow, and improving water quality in streams. Our engineers are partnering with our city planning experts to leverage this collaboration to revitalize neighborhoods, create long-term local jobs, spur economic opportunities, and attract innovative business opportunities.
Maximizing investments and resources with Smart One Water
Managing water in silos can minimize its value and potential. Smart One Water leverages advanced technologies and data governance approaches to widen the lens utilities use to make insight-driven decisions that optimize investments of limited resources and identify collaboration opportunities. Arcadis is advancing One Water with intelligence in partnership with the Virginia Tech SWIM Center. Arcadis is supporting development of new educational materials on Smart One Water Policy & Governance, Workforce Development, Stakeholder Engagement, Diversity and Inclusion, and the Innovation Ecosystem. We supported the New York City Department of Environmental Protection’s Bureau of Water Supply (BWS) in implementing data governance best practices. Leveraging cloud-based artificial intelligence and machine learning to maximize modeling efforts alleviated data silos, which allowed BWS to build on existing strengths and lay a foundation for future One Water collaboration. Our experts are also implementing predictive analytics to increase efficiency at treatment facilities, thereby maximizing investments, and improving public trust. Read more about these solutions here.
Protecting water reserves with conservation
Many communities can also “stretch” existing water supplies with conservation strategies to postpone the need for new or alternative strategies. For example, communities in California are conserving water to extend local groundwater and surface water supplies in preparation for the drought continuing in the future. We developed Urban Water Management Plans and Shortage Contingency Plans for Municipal Water District of Orange County and 21 retail water agencies in southern California. Descriptions of each agency’s water conservation or “demand reduction actions” were a key component of each plan.
Similarly, agencies are eying nonrevenue water (NRW) to minimize water losses. In addition to working with multiple systems to complete water loss audits and evaluate alternatives for reducing water loss, Arcadis recently led an American Water Works Association (AWWA) Technical and Education Council Project to conceptualize a Next Generation Non-Revenue Water Information Management and Assessment System (NextGEN NRW IMAS) tool to help utilities analyze their data and develop a roadmap for reducing NRW.
Improving resiliency of existing water supplies
Further, improving the resiliency of existing supplies allows for serving communities reliably across a broader range of climate, water quality, and operational conditions. Resiliency of individual supplies can be improved with strategies such as water supply protection plans and asset management programs, and resiliency of water supply portfolios can improve with strategies such as long-term storage and interconnections. A great example of this is the implementation of Aquifer Storage and Recovery (ASR) across Texas. Arcadis is currently working with both the City of Victoria and New Braunfels Utilities on demonstration projects for ASR. ASR allows these communities to store water in an aquifer when fresh water from rivers and lakes exceeds supply requirements and recover that water during times of drought, emergencies, or peak demand.
Supplementing water supply portfolios with alternative water supplies
An increasing number of communities are also benefiting from implementing alternative water supplies. Arcadis is currently helping the City of Santa Monica, California with its vision to become water self-sufficient by treating and reusing brackish groundwater, wastewater, and stormwater runoff as part of its Sustainable Water Infrastructure Project. Treating alternative water supplies creates a locally controlled water supply, greatly reduces energy uses and greenhouse gas emissions associated with importing drinking water, reduces stormwater discharges, and improves the beach water quality at Santa Monica Bay while complying with the State Water Board’s stormwater pollution discharge regulations. Read more about this project here.
Our team designed the Carlsbad Desalination Plant, a sustainable solution to San Diego County’s water challenges, which provides a model for desalination plants in areas prone to drought conditions. By providing a locally controlled, drought resilient supply of water that meets or exceeds all state and federal drinking water standards, the plant will improve quality of life for years to come.
Our innovation today will ensure we are fit-for-future tomorrow
These examples demonstrate that there are many ways to approach and implement One Water and that combining the fit-for-future pillars of innovation, intelligent water, workforce, and advanced asset management creates resilient water supply solutions. However, as our challenges continue to grow, we must continue innovating new One Water strategies to become and remain fit-for-future.
To learn more about the fit-for-future pillars, check out our interactive web experience and podcast series. To learn more about strategies for implementing successful One Water strategies, connect with me directly on LinkedIn.
One Water Practice Leader
Ashley manages water optimization projects across North America. Her One Water perspective drives from helping communities to optimize water throughout the water cycle, from watersheds to homes and back to the watershed. She leads watershed protection, stormwater management, and water supply planning projects. She has expertise testing, planning, and implementing water treatment optimization, including for treatment of emerging contaminants, such as nitrosodimethylamine. She also helps communities with optimizing their distribution systems, including water quality, non-revenue water management, and infrastructure optimization. Ashley has supported communities with maintaining regulatory compliance and conducting education and outreach programs. She’s also researched alternative water supplies as well as led projects implementing innovative water management strategies, such as aquifer storage and recovery.
Ashley is the Chair of the AWWA Biological Treatment Committee and is co-leading development of a new AWWA Manual of Practice. She recently received the AWWA 2021 Golden Spigot Award and the AWWA 2022 Top 5 under 35 Award.