News & Views
20 June 2018
Achieving Efficiencies in Wastewater Treatment Plants

Operational efficiency is becoming more and more important in many industries, but especially for water treatment operations.

There are numerous benefits to be gained by creating efficiencies within wastewater treatment plants, not only in terms of controlling costs and maintaining compliance with increasingly stringent regulations, but to improve revenue from import streams as well. It is also an integral part of a global drive to improve humankind’s relationship with the environment.

wastewater-treatment

The benefits of efficient wastewater treatment

1. Water shortages and environmental concerns

There is currently somewhat of a global crisis in terms of water supplies, and it is set to get worse over the coming years. This growing global concern has seen increased pressures being placed on both organisations and municipalities to perform water treatment more efficiently. In 2017, a report by the United Nations stated that recycling the world’s wastewater (between 80-95% of which still goes untreated) would both ease these global shortages and make a huge contribution to protecting the environment.

2. Improved plant performance

It’s not just the environment that benefits; replacing outdated working practices and technologies will dramatically improve the performance of a wastewater treatment facility. More efficient equipment is able to adapt to varying requirements, so productivity can be increased and running costs reduced, which offsets the investment over the long term.

3. Regulatory compliance

There are strict regulatory requirements that wastewater treatment plants must adhere to. Inefficient wastewater treatment operations are far more likely to be affected by a change in legislation. This is compared to those who have taken prior steps to improve efficiency due to the inextricable environmental benefits – which tend to be in line with any new legislative requirements.

4. Cost savings

Inefficient water and wastewater treatment operations can be extremely costly. When outdated wastewater management practices are combined with older technology and aging equipment, operating costs are driven up and revenues restricted, which can severely affect a company’s bottom line.

How to achieve efficient wastewater treatment operations

1. Assessments

Benchmarking is a vital practice in the water and wastewater treatment industry. Setting, promoting and achieving targets helps managers identify historical trends, it also helps to determine a performance baseline that can be used to quantify the relative performance of other utilities, allowing for more forward planning and a continually improving standard across the industry.

Essential elements to assess include:

  • monitoring for leaks
  • dewatering efficiencies
  • sludge thickening rates
  • filter quality output
  • backwash rates
  • pumps or smart pump operations using variable frequency drives

Assessments should be conducted regularly to monitor progress and ensure new problems haven’t arisen since the initial assessment.

2. Technology and plant equipment

The technology and equipment used at water and wastewater treatment plants should also be analysed, particularly if it is over 5 years old. Older water filtration processes can easily consume a lot of power and water. New technologies require less backwash water and consume considerably less power, which will help meet compliance requirements and reduce operating costs.

Pumps should be regularly audited, and any constant speed pumps should be retrofitted with variable frequency drives (VFDs). This smart technology adapts to varying flow requirements, which can reduce a pump’s energy use by up to 50%. Not having to repeat on/off cycling will also help to reduce pump wear and tear, meaning they will last longer before integral parts will need replacement.

3. Expert partnerships

Partnering with independent specialists can save wastewater treatment plants a lot of work, and also provide invaluable oversight and guidance. They can help conduct analysis of any current inefficiencies a facility is experiencing and develop tailored solutions, while also ensuring all licensing requirements and legal obligations are being met, avoiding damage to reputations and costly fines.

These companies will often have access to laboratories for testing and analysis, and will carry out a blend of on-site and lab assessments to determine the best solution for the challenge at hand.

It is in the interests of all wastewater treatment plants to create as many efficiencies as possible, as they will both save and make money, as well as guarantee compliance with strict regulations. Enva are independent specialists who can help analyse and enhance wastewater treatment operations. If you’d like to learn more about this, you can, contact our team.

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