California drought: Innovative technologies will save farms and businesses water, energy, and money

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With the drought in California persisting for over four years now, clean, fresh water is at a premium. In order to conserve what little water is left, California Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. issued an Executive Order on April 1, 2015, implementing mandatory water restrictions of 25 percent across the state.
Water management

The order also set up a Water Energy Technology (WET) program to fund research on innovative water-saving technologies that will “increase energy efficiency at water-related facilities and enable the use of recycled water to provide better management in sectors that are typically large water users.” Soon after the order was issued, the California Energy Commission quickly approved several research and demonstration grants, including:

  • A $3 million grant to the University of California, Riverside, to overlay a system of sensors and software onto an existing energy management system in three water districts in Southern California, to more efficiently integrate data sharing among water and wastewater treatment systems
  • A $3 million grant to three counties to demonstrate a Forward Osmosis Recycle technology, a membrane system that filters wastewater to produce pure water for industrial reuse, while saving energy, emissions, and money
  • A $4 million grant to demonstrate commercial viability of a new software platform that will give farmers access to their utility data from any mobile device, so they can quickly find and repair leaks or adjust equipment while out in the field, in order to save water and energy

Farmers and other large industrial users of water are not the only ones who could benefit from these kinds of technologies.To improve profitability and meet water conservation and sustainability goals, it is essential for small commercial facilities, such as restaurants and convenience stores, to identify and resolve water leaks and energy waste as quickly as possible. In most food service operations, for example, large amounts of water are required for cooking, cleaning, ice making, hand washing, drinks, and dishwashing, as well as laundry, toilets, and landscape irrigation systems. At the same time, energy can often be in the top three to five costs for a restaurant. The cost of heating water for dish cleaning, for example, is one of the largest uses of electricity. Insight from utility data For businesses with a portfolio of small commercial sites, the SiteSage energy and asset management system provides central monitoring of water usage and leak alarms, along with control and analysis of refrigeration and cooking equipment, HVAC equipment, and other onsite assets. In near-real time, SiteSage can help businesses identify water leaks by setting notification alerts to let managers know if and when water usage exceeds a certain amount—before their bill skyrockets or they incur penalties. In addition, with the help of the SiteSage Bills module, they can capture water and other bills directly from the utilities, in order to analyze and identify long term trends, problems, and anomalies in both usage and billing. Installing a centralized energy and asset management system can help businesses reap the rewards of energy and water conservation with an ROI that can often occur in a surprisingly short time.  

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