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Saving Water and Energy – the Trickle Down Effect on Your Wallet

2012 June 21

By Matt Colip and Walter Higgins

Just like homeowners, wastewater and drinking water treatment facilities have to control their energy usage because their budgets are so tight.  While you and I can install attic insulation or turn off lights when they aren’t in use to lower bills, plans for reducing energy use can be a little more complicated at water and wastewater treatment facilities. Still, there are many strategies available to reduce energy usage at water treatment facilities.  Oh, and you can help too.

One way a treatment facility can trim down its energy use is to start from the source and reduce the overall community demand for drinking water and waste water to be treated.  Less water used in communities means a lower cost to you on your water and sewer bill.  By promoting the use of water efficient WaterSense products and water conservation practices by the citizens within their service area, water utilities can reduce energy use significantly. Just think about how much less water facilities would have to treat and the energy that could be conserved if all of us used even a little less!

Have you ever driven by a waste water plant and noticed a large flame coming off one of the stacks?  That’s gas that is produced in the operations of the plant and is typically burned off.  Instead of flaring, it can be beneficially used to run turbines that can generate heat and electricity for the plant (otherwise known as Combined Heat and Power).  Also, some facilities are beginning to install solar photovoltaic panels on the plant grounds to offset the total electricity used by the plant.

On May 8th, EPA, in partnership with the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, hosted an Energy Roundtable Conference in Harrisburg for wastewater treatment operators interested in reducing their facilities’ energy costs and ultimately their carbon footprint.  This conference highlighted several areas related to energy efficiency along with innovative solutions to wastewater treatment.

Interested in hearing more about what happened at the conference? The presentations can be found on our website. For additional information, please contact Walter Higgins at Higgins.walter@epa.gov, or by phone at 215-814-5476.

About the Authors: Matt Colip works in the region’s NPDES Enforcement Branch and focuses primarily on enforcing wastewater and stormwater regulations. Originally a Texan, turned Pennsylvanian, Matt graduated from Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, Pa., with a BA in Special Studies – Public Health and is currently working on an MS in Environmental Protection Management at Saint Joseph’s University. Walter Higgins is in Region 3′s Water Protection Division where he manages grants that fund water quality and drinking water projects.  He is also involved in working with water and wastewater facilities on energy efficiency and has been with EPA since 2010.  Prior to EPA he was a soil scientist with the Montgomery County Health Department, in Pa.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

6 Responses leave one →
  1. June 22, 2012

    The Good Force be with you!

    Wonderful! Many thanks for the info!

    Live forever and prosper!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  2. June 25, 2012

    Saving energy and preserving our resources is important. It’s amazing how fast people forget it at a workplace. Because they don’t pay the bill they think it’s ok not to save or preserve. I am a strong believer in going green, using less paper, preserving our resources and promoting better ecological ways of life. Our software company believes in green paperless philosophy and we are doing our best to protect our environment in a small ways; easy downloads, paperless way to communicate with clients and suppliers etc. Making small safe steps are a good practice.

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  3. June 27, 2012

    Energy used in homes is responsible for over a quarter of all UK emissions of carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas causing climate change. Making your home as energy efficient as possible will reduce carbon emissions and could also save you over £300 a year on your fuel bills.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  4. June 27, 2012

    Wasting water can really drum up the bill! Keeping a check on your water usage and keeping regular details on leaks will help you with your savings.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  5. August 10, 2012

    It is a nice step to keep our environment safe and clean. There is much need for recycling projects because the quantity of waste material is increasing year by year.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  6. Agus permalink
    October 7, 2012

    Excuse me,

    You explanation is excellent and clear. I was impressed with this post and am looking forward to reading more from you ….Pengolahan Air Limbah

    The idea for getting energy from burning waste is very interesting, do you have any additional information that can be used tool. Chances are expensive, or not?

    Bookmarked this.. Thanks for sharing…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

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