Utilities are becoming more and more conscious of sustainability both as it relates to carbon emissions/climate change and as it relates to availability of water resources. This is causing utilities to investigate ways to reduce or prevent carbon emissions and also realize the inherent
value of “waste” water. Resultantly, energy audits are being completed and utilities are looking for nearby industries or turf areas that would agree to purchase reclaimed water instead of potable water. However, these whole system solutions are only applicable in certain situations
and will only go so far. Because new infrastructure is required for reclaimed water, service areas are usually initially limited to near treatment facilities where there is a sufficient user base to defray the infrastructure costs within the rate. Some utilities have realized this and constructed
satellite reclamation facilities, where wastewater is removed from a collector, treated, and sold to an end user. This effectively infinitely grows the area where reclaimed water can be sold. Without specifically knowing it, by doing this, these utilities are beginning to implement distributed
systems management. Simply put, distributed systems management is the oversight of several systems by a single entity. In the water context, the systems could relate to drinking water, wastewater, reclaimed water (if differentiated), and/or storm water. More importantly, distributed systems
management is a willingness by the management entity to consider more than just the traditional single centralized facility option. Taken to its logical conclusion, distributed systems management allows utilities to consider economic, social, and environmental (triple bottom line) aspects
of providing water-related services and select the most appropriate service solution from a larger “tool box” of options. This paper will present some insights on how distributed systems management meets economic, social, and environmental sustainability goals through an example
of its implementation at a water and wastewater utility.
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