Energy policy — hydroelectric: Small hydro installations are popping up around the U.S.

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From American City and County (Todd Briggeman, David Egger, Bruce Duncan and Pat Sullivan):

Often hydropower is associated with large-scale projects such as dams and reservoirs or major river diversions. However, small conduit hydropower can be installed potentially anywhere pressure must be reduced in a conveyance system, such as at the headworks of water treatment plants, wastewater treatment plant outfalls or at any pressure-reducing station. Small hydropower projects do not need to be located near a river or dam.

Several communities recently have begun creating energy at existing water facilities. They are locating hydropower turbines at pressure-control facilities to take advantage of energy that would otherwise be lost and channel it to power the facilities or sell it back to the grid. The projects are saving money and improving energy efficiency at water facilities…

The Project 7 Water Authority wholesales potable water to municipalities and rural areas in Colorado’s Uncompahgre River Valley. The authority owns and operates a raw water reservoir, raw water pipeline, water treatment plant, and 30 miles of potable water transmission piping.

For a decade, authority officials knew that they had several potential hydropower opportunities at locations with existing pressure-reducing valves. However, hydraulic constraints and complications with delivering the potential power back to an active grid kept them from creating a renewable energy project until 2007. That was when the authority decided to update its water treatment facilities, and plans called for increasing the raw water-delivery capacity. Additional pressure would be needed for delivery and to meet future plant peak demands, but it would be necessary to dissipate the additional pressure during normal flows, which created the possibility to capture the excess hydraulic energy.

To tap that energy, the system had to be optimized for turbines of two sizes: 60 and 110 kilowatts (kW). The turbine generator units were designed to fit within the new flow-control facility that increases the raw water capacity to the plant. Power generated from the new units is connected and consumed through a net metering agreement with the Delta-Montrose Electric Association (DMEA), a rural electric cooperative in Montrose, Colo., which allowed Project 7 to consume the energy within its own facilities. That allowed Project 7 to bypass a complicated connection to the nearby grid while maximizing the value of the recovered energy.

Colorado municipal electric utilities, such as the DMEA, are required to use renewable energy, including hydroelectric power, and energy recycling to account for 10 percent of retail sales by the year 2020. The incentives to comply with that standard, as well as advances in small turbine manufacturing, have made it more feasible to capture energy in raw water delivery networks. Project 7 placed the new turbine-generator units online in November 2009.

Project 7’s renewable energy facility produces approximately 1,400 kilowatt-hours (kWh) per day of energy. Although the authority does not receive any revenue directly from the energy generation, it is saving approximately $4,000 per month on its electricity bill — 85 percent of total plant-wide electricity costs. Locating the renewable energy project on the existing water treatment plant site allowed the project to become financially viable, not only because there was adequate space for the new turbine-generator units, but also because the power delivery method was greatly simplified. Authority officials expect to fully recover the investment in hydropower within seven to 10 years.

Project 7 Assistant Manager Adam Turner credits some of the project’s success to flexibility and support from the region’s electric utility. “We have some high power demands, especially during the summer months,” he says. “We can run the smaller unit to generate up to 60 kW much of the year and run the larger unit to generate 110 kW in the summer. We got a killer deal by getting credit at the same high rate we’d pay for it, so ours is probably rosier than the average small hydro project picture.”

More hydroelectric coverage here and here.

The Water Research Foundation has embarked on a three year project to update their study ‘Residential uses of water’

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Here’s a release from the Water Research Foundation via

The Water Research Foundation (WaterRF) announced that it is updating and expanding its landmark Residential End Uses of Water Study. The original study was published in 1999, and water utilities, industry regulators and government planning agencies have considered it the industry benchmark of single-family home indoor water use. The 1999 study, Residential End Uses of Water (pdf), is available on the WaterRF website.

The goal of the three-year project, which will begin in Spring 2011 and conclude in late 2013, is to investigate water use patterns in residential housing in 28 water utilities markets in the United States and Canada. The 28 water utilities volunteered to participate in the project. The new study will expand on the 1999 report by exploring water use over a more geographically diverse area, monitoring hot water use, examining outdoor water use (e.g., for landscaping) and assessing water conservation efforts in households. The new study also will integrate data from additional reports, in order to present a more comprehensive picture of residential water use.

Under WaterRF’s supervision, the study will be conducted by Aquacraft, Inc., a water engineering and management company, in collaboration with Hazen and Sawyer (an environmental engineering firm), the National Research Center, Veritec Consulting and Dr. Benedykt Dziegielewski, a professor at Southern Illinois University and a national expert on water use analysis.

The total cost of the project is $1.6M, with funding and in-kind services pooled from WaterRF, the Aquacraft research team and a number of the participating water utilities. Other participating water utilities are providing in-kind donations and contributions to the project. “There is no question that economic and environmental changes have had a significant impact on residential water use over the past decade,” said Rob Renner, Executive Director of the Water Research Foundation.

“Given those changes, the time is right to assess how individuals and families use water in order to both improve the delivery of water, identify new technologies to enhance our water systems and, of course, promote water conservation.”

In each market, the utility participants will provide project researchers with historic water consumption data from a representative sample of 1,000 single-family customers. In nine of the 28 markets, researchers will select 100 homes for monitoring of indoor and outdoor water use and 10 homes for examining hot water use.

The researchers also will send a water use survey to these customers. These markets are: Tacoma, WA; Toho, FL Water Authority; City of Fort Collins, CO [ed. emphasis mine]; City of Scottsdale, AZ; Clayton County, GA Water Authority; Denver, CO Water [ed. emphasis mine]; Region of Peel, Ontario, Canada; Region of Waterloo, Ontario, Canada; and San Antonio, TX Water System.

In the remaining 19 markets, researchers will survey 5,000 customers on indoor water use. These markets are: Portland, OR Water Bureau; Tampa Bay, FL Water; Aurora, CO Water [ed. emphasis mine]; Austin, TX Water Utility; City of Chicago, IL; City of Henderson, NV; City of Mountain View, CA; City of San Diego, CA; City of Santa Barbara, CA; City of Santa Fe, NM; Cobb County, GA Water System; Colorado Springs, CO Utilities [ed. emphasis mine]; Contra Costa, CA Water District; EPCOR, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada; Miami-Dade, FL Water & Sewer; Otay, CA Water District; Philadelphia, PA Water Department; Regional Water Authority, CT; and Town of Cary, NC.

The updated Residential End Uses of Water Study will be published in 2013-2014. “Like the initial study, we anticipate that the new report will become a valuable collection of information that will aid water utilities in demand forecasting, planning and conservation programming,” said Renner.

About the Water Research Foundation
Founded in 1966, the Water Research Foundation is an international, 501(c)3 non-profit organization that sponsors research to enable water utilities, public health agencies and other professionals to provide safe and affordable drinking water to the public. With more than 950 subscriber members who provide water to 80 percent of the U.S. population, the Water Research Foundation has funded and managed more than 1,000 projects. For more information, visit