Water scarcity is a growing problem in the United States

Drought is spreading

“I truly believe we’re moving into an era of water scarcity throughout the United States. And that by itself is going to force us to adopt more efficient management techniques,” said Peter Gleick, president of the Pacific Institute, a think tank specialising in water issues based in Oakland, California.

Anticipating shortages
In the last five years, nearly every region in the United States has experienced water shortages. At least 36 states are anticipating local, regional, or statewide water shortages by 2013, even under non-drought conditions. Despite disagreement on many water issues in the scientific community, most experts say that American water reserves are changing, and in many cases dwindling.

The U.S. Drought Monitor shows that drought is spreading east from California across the Rocky Mountains, and has also settled in the Texas Panhandle and parts of Oklahoma and Colorado.

Too cheap to meter
Until today, water has always been readily abundant, and by many considered too cheap to meter. And still, the majority of the U.S. has plenty of water. In many places it is cheap to produce and inexpensive to purchase by consumers and industrial/commercial users.

Water prices rise
However, in some areas of the U.S. water is becoming more expensive and a major focus of concern. Population growth, climate change and water use habits are placing significant demands on limited water supplies and wastewater treatment systems. And as water utility rates continue to rise faster than household income, water conservation must increase – not least to improve the economic situation for USA’s low-income households.

The States of California, Arizona, Massachusetts and Georgia continue to make water efficiency a focus issue for all residents. As the population in these states grows and as more industry moves into these states, the price of water increases.

Harvest and reuse
By numerous organisations within the U.S., it is becoming accepted that there is a water-energy nexus. With this understanding, more activities and legislation from Federal, State and Local governments are taking place.

Finding ways to allow the harvesting and reuse of rainwater and grey water will save enormous amounts of water, and benefit communities across the country.

Rainwater in Tuscon
The City of Tucson, Arizona has a mandate that all new buildings, residential or commercial, must have a rainwater capture and use system.

Green California
The State of California has adopted the nation’s first state-wide green building code, requiring builders to install plumbing that cuts indoor water use by as much as 20%. For non-residential buildings, it requires the installation of water meters for different uses.


"I truly believe we’re moving into an era of water scarcity throughout the United States. And that by itself is going to force us to adopt more efficient management techniques."

Peter Gleick, President, The Pacific Institute

Reuse in Oregon
Recently, Oregon has joined a small number of states that allow the reuse of grey water in buildings. Previously, Oregon commercial buildings were able to achieve 30-40% water savings by utilising efficient fixtures. Today, they can incorporate rainwater and grey water systems to achieve an estimated 60-70% water savings.

Legislation paves the way
Legislation mandates water conservation in Federal facilities. Federal acts and policies call for Federal agencies to reduce water use by 2% every year or 26% by the end of 2020. Many options exist for Federal water efficiency, ranging from low-flow faucets to advanced computer and climate controlled irrigation systems and everything in between.

EISA & NECPA establishes a framework for facility project management and benchmarking. Under the new requirement, agencies must identify all “covered facilities” that constitute at least 75% of the agency’s facility energy and water use.

• Reducing potable water consumption intensity 2% annually or 26% by the end of fiscal year 2020.

• Reducing agency industrial, landscaping, and agricultural water consumption 2% annually, or 20% by the end of fiscal year 2020.

• Identifying, promoting, and implementing water reuse strategies consistent with state law that reduce potable water consumption.

The Federal Government estimates that with moderate efficiency efforts, it could conserve approximately 40% of its water and related energy use, or 102.4 billion gallons of water annually. This is enough water for a state the size of Iowa or approximately 3 million people.

Commercial building initiatives
ASHRAE’S “Standard for the Design of High-Performance, Green Buildings” includes a requirement for significant water reduction that can be achieved through improvements from the Energy Policy Act of 1992 for plumbing fixtures and strategies for reclaiming water in other areas.

Getting there… slowly
So, although the general public is not too concerned with water scarcity and water conservation, it seems that some communities are becoming aware of the need for improved water management and increased water efficiency and are acting on it.

According to Grundfos Innovation Director, Greg Towsley “The continued growth of our population, migration to areas of water inadequacy, more water-intensive industry, and aging infrastructure, means the U.S. has to make strides to manage the available water resources better. The U.S. government, through the EPA and DOE, state governments and local governments are all putting actions into motion to be more efficient. And Grundfos has the competencies and experience to be part of the water efficiency solutions.”

And until water becomes more expensive and influences the water behaviour of the consumers, legislation and new best practices by local, state and federal governments are important initiatives to secure a sustainable water supply in the future.

New US Water Hub

Grundfos opens new Water Technology Centre in Fresno, California

“When the well is dry, we learn the worth of water,” Benjamin Franklin said. And with dwindling ground water resources, we risk learning the meaning if his words the hard way.

In an effort to meet the challenges of the impending water situation Grundfos is opening the Water Technology Centre – North America in Fresno, California this year.

PHOTO: The new Grundfos Water Technology Centre in Fresno, California

A competence centre

According to Grundfos Business Development Manager, Henrik Skov Laursen, it will be a competence centre where Grundfos and a variety of other organisations can develop valuable partnerships and innovative solutions.

It will be for everyone with an interest in water and especially water treatment, incl. specialists, scholars, students. “Together, we can search for new ways or further develop existing methods for ensuring a sustainable water supply and assisting in reducing our overall water footprint. In fact, we are just about to sign a contract with a university on some very promising research – both for them and us”, says Henrik Skov Laursen.


"Together, we can search for new ways or further develop existing methods for ensuring a sustainable water supply and assisting in reducing our overall water footprint."

Henrik Skov Laursen, Business Development Manager, Grundfos

Three centres in the centre
The focus of the Grundfos Water Technology Centre will be research and technology within water reuse and water treatment. However, three areas will receive special attention and act as semi-independent centres. The three centres are a dosing and disinfection centre, a BioBooster centre and an irrigation competence centre.

Dosing and disinfection centre
Different types of bacteria can hide and grow in water distribution systems in commercial buildings and be a real health hazard. Legionella is probably the most common and feared of these. In response, Grundfos has developed a combined pressure boosting and disinfection unit that effectively eliminates these types of bacteria.

This and further development of these types of systems are what our customers and partners can expect from the dosing and disinfection competence centre. And, through the Grundfos sales organisations, a special dosing and disinfection support team will be able to assist consulting engineers or contractors, who require a customised dosing and disinfection system for any type of commercial building.

Grundfos BioBooster centre
As a result of seasonal water stress and an infrastructure not geared to handle wastewater from additional large commercial buildings, decentralised treatment systems – also within commercial buildings – are becoming more common in some areas in the US.

That is why Grundfos wants to further develop the BioBooster and introduce it to the North American market, as one of more water technology products. It is a modularised water treatment plant, located inside standard 20 ft. containers. The system primarily treats organic material, but also N and P can be removed. The quality of the treated water makes it suitable for water reuse after it has been through an MBR reactor.

According to Henrik Skov Laursen, the Grundfos BioBooster applies to water treatment installations in commercial buildings as well as municipal water treatment. ”The first milestone is to obtain a title 22 approval for the Grundfos BioBooster, which will enable large commercial buildings to treat its own wastewater and reuse it for irrigation and other purposes. There are many potential applications for BioBooster. Consider for example a golf course in California with access to a nearby wastewater pipe. They could potentially direct some of the wastewater through the BioBooster and use the treated water for irrigation of the course. The environmental and economic impacts are very interesting in both cases.

Global Irrigation Competence Centre
A part of the new water centre will deal with optimising irrigation methods. Here, we expect to develop partnerships with irrigation specialists and companies to improve existing irrigation solutions and develop complete sustainable solutions.

Water is the new oil
Planet Earth is literally a blue planet. When seen from space most of it is covered in water. But what humans need is water that is fresh and clean, and most of the Earth's water is seawater (salty), brackish or contaminated. So, according to Henrik Skov Laursen, “water is now the kind of precious commodity that oil became in the 20th century.”

And in addition to research facilities and the optimal surroundings for development of water competences, Grundfos brings expertise and a wide range of innovative products to support sustainable water treatment.

The Silicon Valley of water
California is already experiencing water stress in some areas, so the challenges and opportunities are just outside the door. As a result, much of the expertise and science within water technology is in the neighbourhood. “And with our existing Grundfos company here and the bright minds at the California State Universities just around the corner; it was never difficult to decide where to place the new centre”, Henrik Skov Laursen finishes.


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