Aging U.S. water infrastructure is leaking megawatts and dollars



By Jared Anderson

AOL Energy


The U.S. is facing an infrastructure problem that many predict will cost astronomical sums to fix. Power grids, bridges, municipal water systems and much of the infrastructure that facilitates modern society was built decades ago and is now in need of repair or replacement. But the levels of investment required to upgrade critical services are often prohibitively high for federal, state and local government agencies struggling to recover from the global economic and financial crisis.

However, while financing often remains a challenge, considerable long-term economic and energy savings can be wrung from upgrading municipal water supply and treatment systems, according to Colin Sabol, Chief Strategy & Growth Officer at water technology company Xylem, Inc.

Sabol recently told AOL Energy that 50% to 75% of the total capital costs at public utilities go to supplying energy for water supply and treatment. At the same time, the U.S. loses 1.7 trillion gallons per year to leaky water pipes. "That's water we spend all this money to transport, so I see megawatts leaking, and that volume of loss is compelling to anyone who studies economics," Sabol said.

Downstream, the company treats water supplied to many U.S. refineries that have strict quality requirements for water used in high pressure boilers.

With regard to power generation, Xylem pumps water to facilities for use in cooling towers and provides filtering services that supply "ultra-pure" water needed for steam generation.

Xylem products and services are also used in the mining industry for dewatering, which is required because rain water or the local water table often backfills into excavated areas. "We bring pumps and generators to most major U.S. mines," said Sabol.

"The most interesting piece of what we do is the nexus of the energy produced by the oil and gas industry and the water needed to produce that energy - water is such a significant cost of producing energy, it's really important," he said.


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