How do we innovate in the water industry? This was the question on the minds of attendees at WEFTEC, the Water Environment Federation’s annual technical exhibition and conference. As water professionals from around the world explored the latest technologies, participated in panel discussions, and swapped stories in networking meetings, their motivation became clear: great technological advancements are born through cross-pollination and meaningful connection, and the water industry is ready for transformation.
“Innovation entails a willingness to think creatively and try new approaches to a solution,” explained WEFTEC speaker Fredi Lajvardi during his plenary presentation. Lajvardi is the extraordinary high school teacher who led students to win national robotics championships, beating collegiate teams from MIT and Stanford University. Lajvardi’s support of imaginative problem solving and encouragement of trying new ideas allowed students to rethink the complex electronics of underwater robotics and to develop creative solutions. His message to the audience was an inspiring one: “If you can dream it, you can engineer it.” Play with science.
In addition to playing, a recent Scientific American article explains that invention requires two additional factors: the influence of human connection and a catalytic process called cultural ratcheting. Connection, the article indicates, supports the spread of technological transformation through the sharing of ideas. Cultural ratcheting, the process of improving upon the innovations of others, involves taking an idea and adding a unique twist to produce a new technology. It’s inspiring to consider that with every project, gasket adaptation, and design tweak, we are continually influencing technology.
As the water industry continues to seek new solutions to a limited global water supply and overcome fundamental challenges, it becomes increasingly important for each of us to think outside the pipe—to explore, experiment, and try unconventional ways of conveying, storing, pumping, and purifying water.
In this issue of Water Efficiency, we’ve assembled a collection of stories that exemplify innovative approaches to some of the water industry’s most complex problems. We encourage you to examine these concepts and experiment with their diverse applications, discuss their attributes, and build upon them. We invite you to innovate.
In “Tapping Tanks for Energy Storage,” we highlight organizations that are utilizing water tanks to achieve remarkable energy efficiency. By chilling water at night, the thermal energy storage technology allows organizations to shift energy usage to off-peak hours and lower costs. We learn that companies like JCPenney have been using thermal energy storage for 25 years, demonstrating that tanks can provide benefits far beyond storing water.
In “AMI + Data Management,” we look at the way software has evolved around data collection and analytics. Thanks to the Internet of Things, our devices are now more connected than ever. Cloud-based storage makes it simpler for utilities to operate without devoting extensive resources to IT hardware and software. While still in its infancy, experts predict that artificial intelligence will soon allow operators to look at a utility and gain a comprehensive view of assets, issues, and events. The potential for efficiencies afforded by these technologies is inspiring.
While the cost of pipe replacement is excessive for many utilities, by extending the lifespan of pipelines through rehabilitation, many organizations find that they can save water and prevent catastrophic incidents. In “Radical Rehab,” we take an up-close look at some of the techniques available to rehabilitate pipes and we offer suggestions for selecting the best solution for a number of project types. From advances in chemical grouting to slip-lining, fold-and-formed, and cured-in-place techniques, it’s clear that new solutions are emerging which will minimize costs and streamline the renewal process.2018 is the year for us to come together as a community and create solutions—to take every opportunity to share ideas, build on the inventions of colleagues, and let the creative sparks fly. This is the year to inspire innovation. How will you change water technology?