The scariest four words in the United States are “you are being audited.” These words are usually associated with the IRS reviewing tax filings and typically result in additional taxes, penalties, and fees. But in water treatment, being audited should be looked at from a completely different view.
A water management audit works in much the same way as a routine checkup at your doctor’s office. During an audit, your system is reviewed for ways to improve its overall health. This goes beyond just increasing cycles to reduce blowdown and energy consumption. Audits focus on identifying other potential sources of makeup water, water reuse, and improved efficiencies. One of the keys is a new set of eyes that can view things from a different perspective. Seeing things on a daily basis, opportunities are often missed because they are part of “normal operations.”
An important aspect of an audit is quantifying the cost of the status quo. For example, in a common household, things such as a leaking toilet or dripping faucet are often overlooked. Everyone knows that these cause increased water usage yet often they are ignored due to the capital (cost of parts and labor) and they “don’t cost that much.” Plus they are not something seen all of the time. These simple items often go unrepaired until the pain of an increased water bill emerges. The perception is these small leaks don’t use that much water.
Facilities also have water losses that are never repaired because they too are considered small. An audit puts a true cost to these losses and a Return On Investment (ROI) for repairs. For example, a 1 gpm leak doesn’t look like much to the naked eye. But 1 gpm is 525,600 gallons per year. This is the equivalent of $4,730 per year in water and sewer when the national average of $9/1000 gallons is factored in. When it is steam condensate, the energy value increase this to $6,043 annually even when energy costs are only $2.50/MMBTU. These numbers increase exponentially as the flow increases. Think of how easy it is to find these “tiny” water losses.
Even a facility that has no traditional water losses can benefit from an audit, and automation can be a source of significant savings as well. When a system is not fully automated and online, the excess costs can add up quickly. Something as simple as a failed or plugged solenoid valve can become costly in a short period of time. If a ¾” solenoid valve fails in the open position, it can put in excess of 20 gpm to the drain. If the system is not online, it costs $259 per day and $1,814 per week until the issue is found. This cost can easily be used to justify full automation or simply replacing a solenoid valve with a motorized ball valve which is less prone to clogging.
Audits uncover areas unrelated to traditional water treatment as well. Air handler condensate is free water that can be used in cooling systems. Once-through medical gas cooling water on liquid ring systems can be captured or recirculating water methods employed. Shallow ground water can be utilized as cooling tower makeup or an irrigation system source rather than sent to a drain. Irrigation systems water usage should be metered and would likely qualify for sewer credits. Rainwater harvesting while unpredictable can also provide significant savings. Water cooled pumps typically go straight to drain.
A sustainability or water management audit is an audit that can truly be a good thing. Chem-Aqua specializes in complete water treatment solutions; providing custom equipment and chemical treatment methods to properly control your system and maximize savings. Contact us today and see how you can save!
Written by: Jeff Lazor