Water and wastewater treatment infrastructure is comprised of complex systems that pose operational and financial challenges in municipalities of all sizes. These critical facilities were given a D+ in the 2021 American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE)’s Infrastructure Report Card with 81% of the country’s wastewater facilities operating close to capacity and 15% of facilities already operating over capacity. Water and wastewater treatment facilities often fall to the bottom of the improvement priority list due to budgetary barriers, as funding typically comes from unpopular rate increases that are passed along to residents. However, when these systems fail due to extreme weather events or aging components, it can be catastrophic for the community they serve and lead to service shutoffs or contaminants entering the drinking water supply.
Upgrading water and sewer infrastructure can make service delivery more consistent, accurate, efficient and automated. It becomes the groundwork for fiscally-responsible energy management and system resilience, which translates into reliable critical service continuity for generations of citizens to come.
The use of an alternate funding program like an Energy Savings Improvement Plan (ESIP), allows municipal leaders to bring these facilities to the forefront of their priority list.
With $50 billion of federal funding on the horizon for water/ wastewater facilities and infrastructure, it’s more important than ever to consider how municipal operations, energy efficiency and environmental impact can be improved for the betterment of the community.
Plugging leaks in aging infrastructure
The Willingboro Municipal Utilities Authority (WMUA) and Schneider Electric implemented a significant infrastructure project to improve sustainability and resilience of WMUA’s water and wastewater facilities using New Jersey’s first MUA ESIP. Willingboro Township, incorporated in 1798, had grown into a population of 34,000 residents across 7.8-square miles. The development of the township—and need to keep pace with infrastructure using the technology of the era—left the current, twenty-first century locale facing an aging water system that dated back to the 1950s.
Township leaders recognized that the increasing cost of maintaining and operating aging assets, paired with the need to mitigate future risks, meant that improving infrastructure to be resilient and energy-efficient would provide the greatest value to residents.
The project also replaced the outdated and inefficient manual metering system with 13,000 new Advanced Metering (AMI) water meters, aka “Smart Meters,” and an efficient electronic meter reading infrastructure. The metering system benefits both township and residents by alerting to leaks, saving water and resident dollars.
In addition, the new AMI meters give real-time measurement readings for improved data analysis that delivers a more accurate reflection of how water is being used and where it is coming from. Personnel are freed up from manual meter reading so they can find and respond to leaks in the system faster, and keep up with routine system maintenance.
“This project illustrates the transformative power of modernization in municipal infrastructure. We have laid the groundwork for fiscally-responsible energy management and system resilience, which translates into reliable critical service continuity for citizens.”
- Carl Turner, Board Chairman, WMUA
Water treatment upgrades provide community-wide outcomes
WMUA entered the partnership with Schneider Electric because of the strong track record in Smart Communities solutions to enhance utility infrastructures and deliver impressive energy savings. The ESIP allowed WMUA to tackle several major mechanical and operational objectives under a single project with one partner providing expertise and guidance.
Overall, the project will save approximately $7 million over twenty years and will have a minimal impact to the rate structure, primarily due to significant savings from process and operational improvements and extremely low cost of financing through the New Jersey Infrastructure Bank.
The upgraded infrastructure will ensure high quality, clean drinking water and safe sanitation that is essential for the daily lives of Willingboro and other communities served by WMUA. Improved facilities mitigate the risk for shutoffs and boil water notices for harmful contaminants, and the resulting efficiencies will also help to avoid inflation costs and costs associated with emergency repairs and delay.
Energy + Environment Leader 2022 Top Project
The project’s comprehensive scope helped it earn the New Jersey Association of Environmental Authorities 2019 WAVE Award for Energy Efficiency and a 2022 Top Project by Environment + Energy Leader.
The Top Project award is a competitive designation by Environment + Energy Leader given by expert judges who evaluate the exemplary work being done today in the fields of energy and environmental management.