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Home>Topics>>USWP2014: Dr. Mark LeChevallier

USWP2014: Dr. Mark LeChevallier

Fri, 9 May 2014|

American Water's Director of Innovation and Environmental Stewardship Dr. Mark LeChevallier discusses the work that earned his organization a 2014 U.S. Water Prize.



[MUSIC] In late January, the US Water Alliance announced this year's recipients of the US Water Prize. In our continuing coverage of the 2014 US Water Prize, we're pleased to welcome to the program one of the winning organizations. Joining us this week from American Water is the Director of Innovation and Environmental Stewardship, Dr. Mark LeChevallier. Mark,. Thank you so much for being with us. Glad to be with you. So tell us a little bit about American Water and the populations you serve Sure. Well, American Water is the largest water and waste water utility in the United States. We were founded in 1886. And so we're celebrating over a hundred. 25 actually 128 years in service. We operate waste water, desalination, reuse system so almost its worked this part of business we operate in. And uh,uh, over a short 14 states in the United States, actually provides service in in 30 states and in parts of Canada. <<That's fantastic, now this year, American Water has been recognized by the U.S. water alliance with the U.S. water prize. In particular, for the work done by your innovation and environmental stewardship team. So tell us a little bit about that and what you have been able to accomplish. Well, sure. Our group was first formed in 1981, so we celebrate more than 30 years as a formal research group and that is somewhat unique in the water industry. And then in 2005, we combined our environmental compliance with that research crew and in 2009, we formed a dedicated team to focus on pursuing innovations and then in just in 2012 we brought in our laboratory. So, I wear four hats. Research, innovation, our laboratory, and environmental compliance. But it's really the inner section between those areas that gives us our unique capability. As innovation and environmental stewardship. So, we can not only see the challenges that are facing the water industry from emerging regulations. To looking at new technologies but also that through our research group and our laboratory group have the tools available to do something about it. [pause] Wow, that is really, really impressive. So, what, what kinds of things, can you give some examples of what you've been able to do? Sure. well, for example, climate change that's a, that's a, major challenge to the water industry and, and that involves, being able to. Look at water holistically from an integrated resource management is not only looking at areas of drought like we're experience in California, but, but considering that from, looking at waste water and, and reuse of that for, For potable and non potable, purposes, but also considering technologies like desalination. And some of our research are looking at some of the challenges, in each of those areas around best management practices and overcoming some of the water quality and operational efficiencies for reuse. As well as the some of the membrane falling and some of the things that increase the cost of And complexity of desalination. I would say also one thing we're working on, have been for about 15 years in drinking water, is pressure management. Pressure is not only causes main breaks but it increases the leakage, but pressure in itself is energy and that's cost for water utilities. So Intersecting all of those and looking at new technologies, allow us to manage pressure is real important. On the race water side we're looking at technologies be, can become more energy efficient in the waste water, also looking at And some of those greenhouse gas emissions that come from waste water and how we would control that. All of them really a lot of the commonality we have is focusing around energy efficiency. Now that's a big cost for a water utility, but also the environmental stewardship part of that as it affects climate change and you know. Carbon emissions and that climate change drives some of the challenges we have on water and environmental sustainability. So it's a unique perspective and it's, its a really great position to be in. Now for American water and, and your innovation and environmental stewardship team what does it mean for you? To be recognized with the US Water Prize? Well, it's fantastic. It's really the Academy Awards or the Oscars for the water industry. So I'd like to thank all the little people out there that contributed to it. No, reality, really come back to the our, our, board in 1981 to have the foresight to create this position. So, already we had a a research group when I joined the company in 1985. And and then the collaboration of all of our, utilities. So we, you know, I, I, I, joke but actually it's a reality, that the entire footprint of American water, all across the country. Is my laboratory, I have a opportunity look at these issues in real, with real utilities in real world situations, not, not something that fabricated in a laboratory. So the collaboration of our utilities have been great, great in this regard. But also, all the colleagues that we've worked with. The nice part about this is its allowed us to interact with major universities, other research centers, USCPA, CDC, and other water utilities, the challenges we face are not just unique for American Water, so the solutions we find. And only beneficial to us, to make us more efficient, improve the quality of the service that we provide to our customers. But they can be shared, in the industry, so that we all can do a better job. That is great. Well, we wanna congratulate you, and your staff, for everything you've done. And we wish you the best of luck going forward. Thanks a lot. [MUSIC]