Water is becoming increasingly precious as climates change and populations continue to grow. Many areas are projecting drastic changes to their water consumption and wastewater production in the coming years. With changes in volume will come changes in quality as well. Your wastewater will have new contaminants and varying concentrations of current contaminants as your population changes. To meet these demands, wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) will need to be as efficient as possible to remain profitable and serve their communities’ needs. Following a few steps can increase your water treatment plant’s efficiency and better prepare your facility for the future ahead.
The Importance of Water Treatment Efficiency
Too often plants treat efficiency as a nebulous metric that should always be measured for improvement. As a result of this goal always being present but never fully understood, water treaters push it to the back of their mind. They know that they want to increase the efficiency of their water treatment systems, but they do not understand the value of meeting that goal. Enacting a focused plan to improve efficiency of your water treatment will lead to benefits for your business and the surrounding community. Increased water treatment efficiency helps protect the environment, keeps your WWTP within regulations, and keeps your facility modern.
Protects the Environment
Wastewater treatment plants directly affect the environment around them. The effluent they discharge can alter the chemistry of the surrounding aquatic environments, impacting the health of flora and fauna. For example, an excess of ammonia, nitrogen, or phosphate could result in algae blooms or eutrophication of surrounding waters. Maintaining an efficient wastewater treatment program ensures you are releasing high quality effluent consistently, minimizing the impact to natural waters. Improving efficiency also protects the environment in a less direct way. A more efficient WWTP will consume less energy and water treatment chemicals, which decreases the carbon footprint of your facility.
Most wastewater treatment plants are under strict regulations from the federal and local levels of government. Exceeding the limits set by your permit or other standards could lead to expensive fines. When auditing your treatment systems for efficiency, you will be working within the set limits of your permit. The technologies and processes you establish will naturally help you stay within your regulations. An efficient wastewater treatment facility requires less maintenance and gathers consistent reliable data, both of which will keep you within regulations.
Keeps the Facility Modern
Technology is evolving, and the wastewater industry is no exception. New products such as chemical feed pumps, online analyzers, reverse osmosis systems, and flow switches are helping operators do more with less resources. By including potential upgrades and new technologies in your efficiency audit, you will keep your facility up to date and in-line with the latest practices.
The efficiency of your wastewater treatment program is not just another goal to mention on a checklist. The efficiency of your water treatment is the foundation to creating high quality effluent at the lowest cost to your plant.
The Benefits of Improving the Efficiency of Wastewater Treatment
Efficiency is clearly important to a wastewater treatment plant and the surrounding community, but what are the benefits of being more efficient? The immediate benefit of increased efficiency is cost savings. However increased efficiency will also conserve water, reduce energy consumption, and increase the overall capacity of your facility.
Optimizing wastewater treatment will have an upfront cost, but in the long run it will save money. Don’t view the time, labor, or equipment being used to increase efficiency as a cost. View it as an investment instead. By upgrading your equipment or process, you are spending money to lower costs moving forward. Replacing an aging pump that requires frequent maintenance may be expensive but overtime you can make that money back in labor time saved. The time previously spent on maintenance for the old pump can be put to good use elsewhere in the WWTP. The same thing will occur when replacing an inefficient process with a more streamlined version. It may take some time to implement the new process, but in the end your team will be more efficient and lower the labor cost. Over time the more efficient equipment or method will pay for itself with the savings gained.
An efficient WWTP helps conserve water for the entire community. Without wastewater treatment, untreated sewage would enter natural water sources until they became polluted to the degree that they could not support life. A municipal wastewater treatment plant with high efficiency will be able to handle spikes in influent and prevent untreated water from entering the environment. The treated wastewater will replenish water sources through being returned to the water board. The effluent will help recharge ground water, streams, and rivers conserving water for your community.
Reduces Energy Consumption
Removing organic matter, microbes, suspended solids, and chemicals from water takes energy. The efficiency of your water treatment correlates to how much energy is utilized. As you work to improve the efficiency of your onsite wastewater treatment, you will actively reduce your energy consumption. Most technologies and strategies you will implement will be more energy efficient than your current implementation. Using less energy will lower your wastewater treatment cost and make your process more environmentally friendly.
Most operators imagine building more tanks or increasing the footprint of their plant when they imagine increasing capacity. However, by optimizing your processes you can increase capacity without building extensive infrastructure. When improving efficiency, you will likely ease bottlenecks you had previously. Opening the bottlenecks will allow higher flow rates through your system, improving the overall capacity of your treatment process.
7 Steps to Enhance the Efficiency of Your Wastewater Treatment Plant
1. Assess Current Performance
The first step to improving efficiency is understanding how efficient your plant is now. Sit down and consider what metrics you use to evaluate your efficiency. Frequently used key performance indicators (KPIs) include amount of chemical used, maintenance to operation time ratio, and energy consumed, but each plant will have their own KPIs. You don’t want to have too many KPIs, but you should touch on the important aspects of your facility. Once you have decided on your KPIs you need to gather baseline data for each one. Try to gather 2-3 months of data and account for seasonal changes. With reliable baseline information you will be able to set reasonable goals for your plant and determine the true impact of the changes you implement.
2. Inspect Flow Rates
Flow rates are particularly important to a wastewater facility and deserve a special mention. A common area to find bottlenecks are with water pumps in the treatment process. Pumps that are not working at peak efficiency can lead to increased cost and potential problems further in the system. If you were not already tracking your pump’s discharge rate, be sure to start now. You want to ensure that you are using an appropriate capacity pump. Too small and you may not meet peak demand, too large and you may be wasting energy. If you notice that the flow rate is lower than expected, it could be due to leaks, clogs, or worn-out parts in the pump. Depending on the problem the pump may require maintenance or an entire replacement.
3. Evaluate Infrastructure and Technology
Once KPIs are identified it is time to evaluate the technology and infrastructure the plant is utilizing. Audit the performance of your plant from influent to effluent and evaluate the equipment at each step. Check the age and effectiveness of your equipment both large and small. Review pumps, filters, feed and control equipment, and flow switches but also large pieces like reverse osmosis systems, settling tanks, and aeration systems. Don’t forget technology infrastructure like modems either. These keep your devices connected to the internet and offer secure connections. If any piece of the process is underperforming, assess why and determine if you are able to correct the issue with maintenance or if it is time for an upgrade.
4. Consider Upgrading Your Equipment
Some of your equipment may be out of date and require an upgrade. Consider how much maintenance a piece of equipment requires. Also ask yourself if it is creating a bottleneck for the rest of your water treatment process. If either of these answers is yes, it might be time to consider upgrading. Much of your WWTP’s technology was put into place when your community’s population level and wastewater make-up was different. Even if it is still functional, you may be more efficient performing an upgrade now. Research what your options are. If equipment is 10+ years out of date, there may be an energy efficient version or even alternative.
5. Implement New Systems and Technology
Identifying and implementing new technology to areas needing improvement can be difficult. This can be a struggle is that you need to be aware of the possibilities of these items prior to your review. You may not realize that new developments have been made in water treatment that could streamline your process. For example, your activated sludge process may be functional but new technologies like Membrane Aerated Biofilm Reactors (MABR) may be more efficient for your treatment system. Keep an open mind to new technologies and do your best to stay informed on new industry developments.
Integrating a new system or technology can be difficult and the upfront cost may be high, but through better energy efficiency, saved labor time, and reduced maintenance time an upgrade will pay for itself.
6. Automate Your Operations
The ability to automate processes in wastewater facilities has grown in recent years. Complex software now has simplified user interfaces and mobile apps for added convenience. The technology is poised to leap forward again with the introduction of AI predictive models. When reviewing your systems, determine if your process could be automated to save labor cost and time. Feed and control software can help you automate dosing of chemicals while data management platforms allow you to automate report generation. Automation will make your plant more efficient by reducing the time your operators have to spend on simple tasks and allow them to tackle the more complex issues where their expertise is required.
7. Review the Data
Once you have made a change to optimize your wastewater treatment you must collect and record the necessary data to verify that the improvement is working as intended. Too often operators implement a change and do not review the data to determine how successful the change is. Refer back to the baseline data you gathered during your audit. Consider the direct change as well as secondary effects like saved labor or energy. If your modification has alleviated a bottleneck, you may find that your data will reveal new areas for improvement. This information can also help you secure further funding for other improvements.
How Feed and Control Equipment Boosts Efficiency
The right feed and control equipment can provide a big boost to your WWTP’s efficiency. Feed and control metering pumps act as the primary delivery system for liquid chemicals. High-quality chemical feed pumps can accurately and safely deliver the required quantity of product to the treated system. These pumps are programmed with a computer called a controller. The pumps can be programmed to dose chemicals at a set time or as a reaction to conditions in the water. These features will increase chemical dosing accuracy and conserve resources for your wastewater treatment facility.
Increases Dosing Accuracy
A quality feed pump and controller can increase your dosing accuracy. With today’s technology pumps can be programmed to very specific conditions. When paired with an accurate measurement of water quality, an operator can program their pump to dose the exact quantity of chemical needed to keep the water quality consistent. This removes the chance of operator error in measuring and does not require someone to spend time manually dosing the system. With remote monitoring and wireless technology, operators can adjust pumps from anywhere or pre-program them to keep dosing accurate and efficient. Controllers should be sized correctly to the number of inputs and outputs required and can integrate easily into your data management software.
Having the appropriate control and feed equipment will conserve resources across the wastewater treatment process. Accurate dosing will prevent wasted chemicals while wireless access and programmable pumps will conserve labor hours. When paired with the appropriate data management software, you can save time and labor generating reports as well.
Achieve Greater Wastewater Treatment Efficiency with AquaPhoenix Scientific
AquaPhoenix Scientific is here to assist you with your efficiency goals. We manufacture and distribute wastewater supplies from reagents to equipment. Whether you need reagent for your testing lab or customized chemical feed and control systems, AquaPhoenix is here to be your one source for testing needs.
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