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Selected Wastewater

Utility Case Studies


CASE STUDIES

City of Thousand Oaks, California: Hill Canyon Wastewater Treatment Plant

Hill Canyon Wastewater Treatment Plant At-A-Glance


Utility Size Average daily flow: 8.5 MGD; daily design capacity: 14 MGD

Project PPA/DBOOT for CHP (biogas-fueled internal combustion


Type engines) and solar PV

Time
2005 to present
Frame
An operationally and financially successful P3 based on
P3
community consensus, sound risk allocation decisions,
Highlights
leveraging of incentives, and sharing of revenues.
City policy; state policies including markets for renewable
Drivers energy credits and grant funding; rising and unpredictable
electricity costs
Success
Entrepreneurial culture; site suitability; biogas availability
Factors
Generation of more than 100% of facility’s electricity needs:
Power
nearly 4300 MWh of biogas-fueled electricity and over 1,000
Generation
MWh of solar power in 2016. Excess power is delivered to
and Use
distribution grid pursuant to arrangement with regional electric
Impacts
utility.
Cogeneration savings since project launch exceed $1,000,000
Financial
over purchasing electricity from electric utility. Anticipated
Impacts
annual savings going forward are about $400,000.

Introduction

The City of Thousand Oaks, California (the City) is located between Los Angeles and Santa
Barbara and lies alongside the Santa Monica Mountains. The City has grown quickly since its
beginnings in the early 1900s and is now home to nearly 130,000 people. With a fifty-six square
mile footprint featuring over 15,000 acres of public space and 75 miles of trails, the City cultivates
a spirit of environmental stewardship as a matter of longstanding municipal policy.
Thousand Oaks is a General Law City with a Council/Manager form of government. Under
this type of government, the City Council is the policy-making body, appointing the City Manager
who is responsible for carrying out Council policy. The Council consists of five at-large members
who serve four-year staggered terms. Municipal elections are held in November of even-numbered
years, and the Council annually selects a Mayor who serves as presiding officer during City
Council meetings.

©2017 Water Research Foundation. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED 1


The City’s Hill Canyon Wastewater Treatment Plant (HCTP) provides
wastewater treatment for its domestic, commercial, and industrial customers with a treatment
capacity of 14 MGD and an average daily flow of 8.5 MGD. Incoming wastewater is treated to an
advanced tertiary level, rendering it suitable for unrestricted reuse. As a result, HCTP effluent is
recycled for agricultural irrigation and local landscaping projects, generating about $600,000
annually. In addition, the HCTP accepts restaurant grease and other high-organic liquid wastes
from the region’s haulers, generating about $400,000 annually and enhancing energy production.
These incomes are dedicated to keeping user rates steady and affordable.

Project Drivers and Success Factors

In 2005, the City set an ambitious policy for developing renewable electricity generation
from alternative sources at HCTP. The development of financial incentives, such as the creation
of marketplaces for the sale of renewable energy credits and substantial state grant programs
including a self-generation incentive program, encouraged efforts to hit those targets. The
availability of those incentives and the desire to avoid the expenditure of ratepayer monies drove
HCTP to use the P3 tool to begin its pursuit of greater freedom from reliance on traditional fossil
fuels.
Additional drivers included the record of rising electrical costs at HCTP. During the decade
leading up to 2006, electrical costs at HCTP rose at an average of 6.9% per year. In 2006 alone,
the facility’s rate rose more than 20% to tiered rates averaging $0.0639/kWh. Furthermore, after
the initial RFP for a biogas project in 2005, the City Council in 2010 encouraged HCTP’s efforts
to promote process optimization, energy management, and sustainability efforts by setting a goal
that HCTP be 100% energy self-sufficient by 2014. The City Council and HCTP understood that
P3s would be useful in achieving that ambitious goal.
Several factors contributed to the viability of the P3 program. First was HCTP’s
entrepreneurial culture. Because it was run like a business, the City’s wastewater operation was
widely known as HCTP Inc. It offered a variety of value-added services, including the grease
acceptance program referenced above. Second, the plant was sited in a way that left significant
space available for solar panels. Finally, the facility’s anaerobic digesters produced substantial
amounts of biogas, which had always been disposed of by flaring.
It was against this background that the City and HCTP pursued two projects:

 The development of a biogas project that would either generate electricity and heat
through a cogeneration facility or would process biogas into compressed natural gas;
and
 The development of a cost-effective solar PV electric generating system.

The Biogas Project

HCTP issued an RFP for the biogas project in September 2005.207 The RFP sought to make
greater use of biogas being produced at HCTP at that time and contemplated two possible
approaches for energy recovery:

©2017 Water Research Foundation. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED 2


 A cogeneration facility which the chosen proposer would design, build, own, and
operate using any technology it identified, with HCTP buying the generated electricity
through a Power Purchase Agreement; or
 A biogas processing facility that would produce compressed gas and which the chosen
proposer would design, build, own, and operate using any technology it identified.

The RFP required the chosen contractor to:

 Provide an energy recovery system that would use digester gas as its primary fuel
source;
 Provide any and all needed interconnections so the system’s electricity production
could meet HCTP’s needs, as supplemented by either SCE electricity or Southern
California Gas Company (SCGC) natural gas if required;
 Meet all SCE interconnection requirements;
 Provide all necesssary piping so the proposed system’s waste heat could be used to
meet HCTP’s thermal energy needs, supplemented by SCGC natural gas as required;
 Complete and submit in a timely manner all documentation required to qualify for
available power provider rebates and incentives; and
 Obtain all needed permits and approvals.

The RFP, while guaranteeing no grant funding availability but reciting several potential
grants being sought by HCTP, identified five selection criteria:

 Specialized experience and technical competence relevant to the proposed work;


 Records of performance from past and current clients;
 Timely staffing and capability under then-current workload;
 Adequacy of proposed performance measures to meet the project’s goals; and
 Cost of each unit of electricity or heat, which would be sold to HCTP during the
contract’s proposed ten-year term.

The City and HCTP sent the RFP to eight vendors, six of whom provided proposals and
four of whom the City and HCTP interviewed. Among the finalists, two vendors proposed fuel
cell technology, one proposed internal combustion engines, and the last proposed microturbines.
Based on an in-depth review of the proposals, City and HCTP staff made numerous
findings on each of the technologies and their unit prices, which accounted for California’s Self
Generation Incentive Program:
Fuel Cells. The proposed capacities of the fuel cells ranged from 450 kW to 475 kW. This
low-emission technology was certified by the California Air Resources Board. However, th e
fuel cells required additional natural gas to produce thermal energy to heat the digesters, and
would thus impose additional costs on the City and HCTP. Staff concluded that the system was
very sensitive to the quality of biogas and that a minor outage would require a startup time
ranging from eight hours to four days. The unit prices submitted by the two vendors were
$0.108/kWh and $0.10/kWh.
Microturbines. The proposed capacity of the microturbines was 320 kW from two units.
This low-emission technology, also certified by the California Air Resources Board, was not as
efficient as fuel cells or internal combustion engines. Staff concluded that the system was very

©2017 Water Research Foundation. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED 3


sensitive to high ambient temperatures, which could reduce generation to 220 kW during hot
summer days. The unit price submitted by the vendor was $0.075/kWh.
Internal Combustion Engines. The proposed capacity of the internal combustion engines
was 440 kW from two engines. The emissions of this technology were within acceptable limits of
the Ventura County Air Pollution Control District and were considered a clean-air technology.
The nitrogen oxide emissions from this technology were estimated at approximately one ton per
year, significantly less than the 13.82 tons/year allowed by the District. Staff found the system to
be very efficient in generating thermal energy. The technology did not require any additional
natural gas for heating the digesters. Staff also favorably observed that the system would respond
well to variations in biogas quality and would restart within a short time in the event of any
outage. The unit price submitted by the vendor was $0.0639/kWh.
In March 2006, staff recommended that the City Council award a contract to U.S. Energy
Services, the vendor that had proposed the use of internal combustion engine technology. This
recommendation was based on the technology’s efficiency in generating electrical and thermal
energy, its emissions performance, its superior reliability, and the low cost of the power it
generated. That low cost would enable significant savings for the ten-year term of the contract
while leaving the utility’s options open in the future. Indeed, the low energy cost could help offset
the higher energy cost expected from a pending solar power project, described below. Staff also
committed to monitor improvements in fuel cell and other technologies so that replacing the
engines might be considered at the end of the contract term.
The City Council adopted this recommendation, and the contract was immediately
executed. The Council also authorized a PPA involving the expenditure of $425,000 per year and
the purchase of 450 kW of electricity annually for ten years, at an initial rate of $0.0639/kWh with
a two percent escalation every year. The City and HCTP anticipated the following measurable
results:

 The offset of power generation emissions totaling more than 318 tons of carbon
dioxide per year that would have otherwise been released into the atmosphere, which
would be equivalent to taking more than 600 cars off the road per month;
 The production of electricity equivalent to that typically used by 148 homes; and
 A projected saving to HCTP of more than $130,000 every year (in excess of $1.3
million over the ten-year contract) on utility costs.

The Solar Project

HCTP released an RFP seeking a solar PV contractor in January 2006. 208 It stated its
project goal clearly: to enter into a PPA for a negotiated term between HCTP and the chosen solar
PV contractor whereby the contractor would design, build, own, and operate the required solar
system infrastructure. The RFP identified the treatment plant’s drying beds as the site for the PV
system’s installation, which it estimated had “the potential of accomodating solar PV systems
ranging in size up to 1 megawatt.”
The RFP required the chosen contractor to:

 Obtain all needed permits and approvals;


 Provide all labor, taxes, services and equipment which the project required to succeed;
 Design the system to maximize its output;

©2017 Water Research Foundation. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED 4


 Place the PV systems as required by the RFP to avoid interference with the treatment
plant’s operational needs, including siting the solar array ten feet above the ground so
vehicles could drive beneath it;
 Ensure connections with other power sources and the SCE distribution system;
 Provide specified warranties and guarantees; and
 Complete and submit in a timely manner all documentation required to qualify for
available rebates and incentives.

The RFP identified four selection criteria:

 Contractor qualification and experience in “developing, owning, operating and


maintaining solar PV projects that meet power production specifications over
significant terms;”
 The merit of the technical proposal and the implementation schedule;
 Project team and organizational approach; and
 Cost-effectiveness of the project, measured by the proposed cost per unit of electricity
and the proposed duration of the term.

Two vendors submitted responses to the RFP, and a review panel representing the Public
Works Department, the Finance Department, and the City Attorney’s office interviewed each
vendor team. Following evaluation of the proposals and interviews, the review panel concluded
that although both vendors were qualified, Powerlight Corporation, through its subsidiary, Solar
Star TO, LLC (Solar Star), was best qualified to provide the required services. This decision was
based in part on the system that Solar Star proposed, which would use rotating, high-efficiency
solar panels to track the sunlight throughout the day, resulting in the greater power generation of
the two proposals.
During negotiations, the selection committee and Solar Star explored a variety of potential
project variations. These variations included reducing the height of the solar array structure from
ten feet to four feet to reduce construction costs, using a higher flat rate fee as compared to a lower
rate with an escalation factor, and the possibility that the City might eventually purchase the
system. Based on its evaluation, staff recommended in June 2006 that the City Council authorize
execution of a contract with Solar Star containing the following provisions:

 A requirement that Solar Star would design, build, own, and operate the required power
system infrastructure, proceeding with a four-foot high solar array structure;
 A commitment that HCTP would buy the power this system would produce, which was
estimated to be approximately 1,031,256 kWh of electricity per year, at a PPA flat rate
of $.165/kWh; and
 A twenty-year PPA term with the opportunity for early termination and HCTP purchase
options starting at year seven.

City staff noted two very specific considerations in supporting this recommendation. First,
in January 2007, the City would be subject to revised SCE rates, which included high summer
peak rates of up to $.42/kWh. Staff shared an analysis, depicted in Figure 5.1 below, that compared
the City’s power rates based on SCE’s historical and projected rates against projected rates for the
biogas and solar projects: the resulting chart, reprinted below, showed substantial savings by

©2017 Water Research Foundation. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED 5


reduced reliance on SCE power even though the cost of solar power would not be less than that of
SCE power until year 10 of the PPA. Thus, the City could obtain certainty in its power rates and
protect against market volatility.

Source: Hill Canyon Wastewater Treatment Plant.

Figure 5.1 Hill Canyon Wastewater Treatment Plant energy rate projections

Second, in January 2005, staff applied for grants under the Self-Generating Incentive
Program administered by SCE. The incentive program, which SCE conditionally approved on
March 15, 2006 with the requirement of execution of a signed contract with a solar power vendor
within 120 days, would provide $3 per watt for a total of $1.5 million for this project. The deadline
for a fully executed contract with a solar power vendor was July 13, 2006. Under the proposed
contract, the grant would be assigned to Solar Star to underwrite the project. Staff concluded that
the availability of this grant made this project feasible.
In light of these considerations and the tight timeline for action, the Council approved the
contract in late June 2006, and it was executed right away. Additionally, the Council authorized
the PPA to include expenditure of available funds of $170,157 per year for a term of twenty years
for the purchase of 1,031,256 kWh of electricity annually at the rate of $0.165/kWh. Construction
began in November 2006 and energy production began in April 2007.

Performance of the 2006 Biogas and Solar Projects

With biogas and solar contracts in place, HCTP had high hopes for the 2006 projects. The
internal combustion engines were expected to supply 50 percent of HCTP’s electricity needs, with

©2017 Water Research Foundation. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED 6


the solar project supplying another 15 percent of the facility’s needs during the peak period of the
day when electricity was most expensive.
Because each project was owned and operated by a third-party private sector owner, HCTP
expected each owner to possess the technical skill necessary to operate and maintain each system.
In both cases, HCTP’s expectations were met. The solar PV system proceeded as expected,
following a few minor initial adjustments, with electricity generation meeting expected levels and
operations proceeding as planned. Figure 5.2
presents an image of the solar PV system.
Early in the design phase of the internal
combustion engines for the biogas project, during
the summer of 2006, HCTP’s contractor recognized
that the engines would produce more heat energy
than would be needed to heat the HCTP digesters:
an additional 1,000,000 BTUs of surplus heat would
be available. The contractor recognized a valuable
engineering opportunity, and it recommended
utilizing this extra heat to supplement HCTP’s
Operations Building heating system.
The biogas RFP had not required upgrading
the heat exchange system for the Operations
Building, but after reviewing the option of utilizing
the surplus heat, City and HCTP staff recommended
an upgrade of the existing heat exchange
infrastructure so this opportunity could be seized. Source: Hill Canyon Wastewater Treatment
On one hand, the transfer of this surplus heat from Plant.
the internal combustion engines to the existing Figure 5.2 Solar Star’s solar PV system at
Operations Building would involve over $167,000 HCTP
of modifications and upgrades, including:

 Mechanical and electrical design;


 Additional hot water supply and return piping;
 Additional electrical conduits and wiring;
 Installation of heat exchanger;
 Installation of new pumps; and
 Instrumentation and controls.

But the use of this surplus heat would result in cost savings of approximately $40,000 per
year as compared to buying natural gas for heating the Operations Building. Given that the cost
for these upgrades would be recovered in fewer than five years, the City approved Amendment
No. 1 to the biogas contract in November 2006.
Construction was complete in 2007, and, as permitted by the contract with the City, U.S.
Energy assigned the contract to Municipal Energy Systems, Inc. (MES) (a local energy services

©2017 Water Research Foundation. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED 7


contractor) and Municipal Finance Corporation
(MFC) (MES’s financial partner in the
transaction). The biogas facility is shown in Figure
5.3.
As mentioned above, HCTP had also
launched a new program to receive restaurant
grease. The higher organic content gave rise to
additional biogas generation, which could support
a third internal combustion engine for an additional
capacity of 360 kW. If this opportunity were
realized, HCTP could produce 100% of its
electricity needs on-site and thereby meet the City
Council’s 2010 challenge.
There was a further incentive to proceed
expeditiously: MES had secured a $420,000 Self-
Generating Incentive Program grant for an
additional 420 kW of onsite electric generation. Source: Hill Canyon Wastewater Treatment
This grant came with a deadline of November 30, Plant.
2010 for the new third cogeneration unit to be Figure 5.3 CHP Clean Energy’s biogas-to-
operational. As a result, staff requested and the City energy facility at HCTP
Council granted authority to execute Amendment
No. 2 to the biogas contract on June 20, 2010. The Council simultaneously approved expenditures
to buy the increased amount of power this expanded contract would produce and reset the clock
on the term of the PPA, so that it would proceed for a period of ten years from the date of
Amendment No. 2.

Confronting Challenges and Capturing Success

The new internal combustion engine came online in late in 2010. By the end of 2012,
however, the three engines and solar system were providing only 86% percent of HCTP’s
electricity needs. In a December 2012 report to City Council, HCTP staff made the following
observations and recommendation:

The current contractors, MES and MFC, have been challenged with technical issues
involving engine cooling and gas conditioning, resulting in less than optimal
renewable energy production. Accordingly, MES and MFC desire to assign the
contract to CHP Clean Energy, LLC. (CHPCE). City staff support this
assignment.209

HCTP staff offered this support based on its own review of CHPCE’s successful work in
the biogas-to-energy field, which featured numerous successful California projects, one of which
the City-HCTP team visited. As a result, staff were confident that CHPCE would be able to meet
the Council goal of 100% renewable self-generation and overcome some of the technical issues
that had affected past energy generation efforts. An additional incentive for Council approval of
the CHPCE assignment was that the firm had already secured a $1.7 million Self-Generation
Incentive Program grant from SCE. This grant was critical: it would allow CHPCE to replace two

©2017 Water Research Foundation. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED 8


of the original engines with a new 650kW unit, improve engine cooling, and replace the gas
conditioning system.
This new arrangement, which the Council approved, also yielded a new contract between
the City-HCTP team and CHPCE. Although that new contract tracked the key points of the original
2006 biogas cogeneration contract, it added critical performance guarantees and other provisions,
including:

 A 15-year term commencing when the new 650 kW engine went online;
 A City guarantee of minimum gas production coupled with a CHPCE guarantee for
annual electrical output;
 A CHPCE guarantee that the engines would perform at least 90% of time, inclusive of
scheduled downtime for maintenance;
 An engine buy-out option exercisable by the City and HCTP after five years based on
fair market value;
 Quarterly reconciliation of accounts as necessary based on SCE billing practices;
 CHPCE’s commitment to create a separate LLC for the project at HCTP to allow for
better management of specific contract requirements.
 A continuation of previous PPA pricing terms.

After installation of the new unit, power production commenced in accordance with the
contract requirements. The combined biogas cogeneration and solar power production have
enabled HCTP to meet the City Council’s goal of 100% energy self-sufficiency. With the right
partner and the right technology, retired HCTP Superintendent Chuck Rogers sees the HCTP
energy P3 in very simple terms: “It’s a good deal for everyone.”210

Conclusions

Ultimately, Rogers reports that the utility’s use of PPA contracts has worked well and
saved significant money for the utility. The numbers say it all: cogeneration savings since the
inception of the project have exceeded $1,000,000 over purchasing grid produced electricity, and
annual electric purchase savings going forward are expected to be $400,000, with only a minimal
amount of electricity being purchased from the grid on an episodic basis.
Rogers is grateful to have had very supportive city leadership in both the city manager’s
office and the City Council. But he is careful to note that he and his team worked hard to gain the
trust with which his proposal was greeted, having invested years of effort into turning the
wastewater treatment plant into its now well-run status.
Furthermore, he notes that project advocacy “was accompanied by a good business plan,”
and the project delivered on that plan’s projections. Rogers shared the performance reports on the
project as it proceeded, providing, for example, annual reports demonstrating that cogeneration
was a money-maker for ratepayers.211
Rogers is quick to credit engineer Mark Capron, the treatment plant’s part-time employee
who continues to bring enormous creativity and a strongly adaptive attitude to a one-man “Ideas
and Engineering” unit. He characterizes Capron as a critical resource throughout the lengthy effort
to “optimize and make things more efficient” at the HCTP, with one of those important efforts
being the accomplishment of the successful PPAs.212

©2017 Water Research Foundation. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED 9


But Rogers carefully notes that a PPA contract needs to be both well-crafted and stringently
enforced. Moreover, he sees two elements that a PPA contract absolutely must address:

 The need for well-defined operational and power output performance measurements;
and
 The requirement that the relationship include carefully defined maintenance standards,
backed up by readily available contractor maintenance staff.

With these concerns addressed, Rogers regards the PPA tool as useful because it gives a
public utility the capacity to undertake a venture in a way that is less risky than doing it in-house.
As he sees it, the reality is that the operation of a cogeneration facility is not generally a core
competency of the staff of a wastewater treatment plant, where the primary focus cannot shift from
permit compliance. Additionally, Rogers notes the importance of taking things a step at a time,
with a contractor showing, for example, mastery of the basics of cogeneration operation before
moving on to expanding waste receiving (with increased tipping fees) for the creation of more
methane gas and the generation of more power.
In conclusion, the HCTP effort to achieve energy self-sufficiency through the production
of power through biogas cogeneration and solar PV has made Rogers a supporter of the PPA tool.
It was especially useful in an institutional setting where political support was strong, capital was
scarce, core competencies did not favor the activity being conducted in-house, and an
entrepreneurial commitment to excellence prevailed. The record reflects that all those elements
were in place in the City of Thousand Oaks.

©2017 Water Research Foundation. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED 10


W at er Research Fo und at io n Effect ive Use of Social Med ia for Wat er Ut ilit ies

CA SE STUDY # 2: DC W ATER
Humor + Responsiveness + Monitoring + Measurement = Social
Media Success
OVERVIEW
Locat ion & Pop ulat ion Served :
At t he st art of fiscal year 20 15, DC Wat er revam p ed it s social
Washington, DC
m ed ia p resence w it h a focus on eng ag ing and ed ucat ing
670 ,0 0 0 resid ent s and cust om ers ab out t he rat e increases t hat w ere t ent at ively
b usinesses sched uled for t he st art of fiscal year 20 16. DC Wat er d evelop ed a
Services Provid ed : new cont ent st rat eg y cent ered around DC rat ep ayers and
st art ed an analyt ics p rog ram t o m easure and t rack effect iveness.
Drinking and wastewater
t reat ment , stormwater A long w it h d evelop ing eng ag ing cont ent t o at t ract DC
management rat ep ayers, DC Wat er also b uilt a t iered m essag e calend ar t hat
Using Social Med ia Since: w ould ed ucat e t hem ab out t he very com p lex issue of reb uild ing
DC?s w at er and w ast ew at er infrast ruct ure t hat could b e easily
20 10
und erst ood in 14 0 charact ers.
Social Med ia Connect ions:
DC Wat er b eg an laying t he g round w ork for t he rat es ed ucat ion
Faceb ook: 2,40 0 cam p aig n by p rovid ing cont ext t o t heir cust om ers. They creat ed
Tw itter: 14,10 0 cont ent ab out t he size of DC Wat er ?s syst em , t he num b er of
YouTub e: 195 p eop le served , t he im p ort ance of w at er syst em s and m ost
Inst agram: 951
im p ort ant ly, t he ag e of t he w at er syst em .
Lead Dep art m ent : DC Wat er also reg ularly p ushed out cont ent ab out t he vast
num b er of w at er m ains t hat failed t hroug hout t he cit y and t ried
Office of External Affairs
t o help cust om ers connect t he failure rat e of w at er m ains t o t he
St aff Training s & Cred ent ials: ag e of t he w at er m ains. DC Wat er w as very resp onsive and
Digit al Communicat ions Manager t ransp arent as p ip es b eg an t o fail d uring t he hist oric low
has d emonst rated exp erience t em p erat ures t hat hit t he east coast . First and forem ost , t hey
working in social med ia on resp ond ed t o cust om er concerns and answ ered t heir q uest ions
various p latforms. 24 hours a d ay, 7 d ays a w eek. In DC Wat er ?s est im at ion,
Soft w are and Tools Used : cust om ers are sym p at het ic t o t he ag ing infrast ruct ure m essag e
only if t heir ow n w at er out ag e issues are rep aired q uickly.
Sp rout Social and Tweet Deck
St aff Com m it m ent :
Full-t ime Digit al Communicat ions
Manager
Financial Com m it m ent :
$10 0 ,0 0 0

Faced with the need to make the case for infrastructure investments, DC Water used
Twitter to distribute easy-to-absorb infographics to humanize and illustrate the state of the
water system.

©2017 Water Research Foundation. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED 11


Social Med ia: St rat eg y and Tact ics for Wat er Ut ilit ies W at er Research Fo und at io n 9

PROUDEST A CCOMPLISHMENT:
DC Wat er g arnered a lot of p osit ive m ent ions and sup p ort on
social m ed ia and neig hb orhood b log s. It is not uncom m on t o see
t w eet s and com m ent s ab out t he ag e of DC?s w at er syst em ,
cust om ers cit ing t he m ed ian ag e of DC?s p ip es, and increasing
num b ers of b rand cham p ions w ho d efend DC Wat er on social
m ed ia. DC Wat er ?s effort s on social m ed ia have also g arnered
p osit ive m ent ions and art icles in local p ub licat ions. In t his rat e
increase cam p aig n, t hey increased t heir Tw it t er follow ers by 57%
(+4 ,135). The cam p aig n had 8,116 m ent ions, 4 5,238 ret w eet s, and
119,0 20 clicks.
B IGGEST SURPRISE:
DC Wat er w as p leasant ly surp rised by t he level of eng ag em ent .
They have p rim arily learned t o im p rove t heir com m unicat ion w it h
cust om ers. Orig inally, DC Wat er g ot on social m ed ia and st art ed
t alking t o ot her ut ilit ies, b ut over t im e, t hey learned t o b ecom e
m ore cust om er focused in t heir cont ent . DC Wat er b uilt t heir
aud ience by eng ag ing w it h t he com m unit y. They also used hum or
and creat ed cont ent t hat is funny t o g rab p eop le's at t ent ion.
Peop le also shared t hese hum orous p ost s w it h t heir friend s.
SOCIA L M EDIA VS. O THER COMMUNICATION CHA NNELS:
Social m ed ia rep resent s just a seg m ent of t he p op ulat ion t o b e
reached . It is an im p ort ant p art , b ut it can't b e everyt hing . This
cam p aig n t o sup p ort t he rat e increase w as a g ood exam p le of t he
need t o use m ult ip le com m unicat ion channels. Prob ab ly t he m ost
effect ive p iece of com m unicat ion in t his cam p aig n w as a d irect
let t er t o each im p act ed cust om er. That is how DC Wat er found out
t hat som e LEED-cert ified cond os w ere g oing t o b e charg ed at an
inap p rop riat e rat e. The cond o ow ners not ified DC Wat er, and it s
b oard resp ond ed by ad just ing t he rat e sched ule.
I F T HEY GOT A ?D O -OVER:?
DC Wat er w ould have coord inat ed t he cam p aig n across m ult ip le
social m ed ia p lat form s t o a larg er ext ent .
F OR M ORE I NFORMATION :
John Lisle, Chief of Ext ernal A ffairs, DC Wat er, (20 2) 787-2616,
john.lisle@d cw at er.com

©2017 Water Research Foundation. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED 12


UTILITY CASE STUDY

Alexandria Renew Enterprises


Utility Profile
Alexandria Renew Enterprises (AlexRenew) is a public wastewater utility in Alexandria, Virginia governed
by an independent citizen board. One of the most innovative water resource recovery facilities in the United
States, AlexRenew provides wastewater, interception, pumping, and treatment to the City of Alexandria
and wholesale service to Fairfax County by agreement. AlexRenew serves more than 300,000 customers
and cleans about 34 million gallons of wastewater daily.
AlexRenew manages and operates five lift stations and one 35-acre urban treatment facility designed at 54
MGD, the smallest gallon treated per acre in the nation. Total combined assets equal approximately $900
million USD. The annual operating budget at AlexRenew for wastewater operations is approximately $27.16
million USD with a capital budget of $32.2 million USD. AlexRenew has an informal innovation program.

Source: Courtesy of AlexRenew.

Global Region: North America - Virginia

Utility Type: Wastewater

Program Type and Age: Informal Program, Ongoing

Contact: Karen Pallansch, Chief Executive Officer, Alexandria Renew Enterprises,


karen.pallansch@alexrenew.com, (703) 549-3381, Extension 2202

Assets (USD): $900 million

Employees: 100 - 250

Connections: 10,000 – 50,000

Customers: 100,000 – 500,000

©2017 Water Research Foundation. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED 13


Program Profile

IMPACT
Results Oriented: Tangible and intangible improvement aligned with leadership and philosophy (Key
Attributes: Visualize, Focus, and Evolve)

Vision
2040 AlexRenew Vision Statement
By 2040, AlexRenew has served as a catalyst and are effectively partnered with all watershed
stakeholders to:

 Enable local citizens the opportunity to establish a personal connection with local waterways so that
the community can eat local fish and swim in local streams,
 Support a healthy and resilient economy through stable rates, supported by diversifying revenue and
maximizing resource recovery, and
 Create an informed citizenry regarding the importance of water so that water stewardship is achieved
through personal and organizational actions.

Source: Courtesy of AlexRenew.

To support its 2040 vision, AlexRenew developed a 2020 Strategic Plan that aligns with the 2040 Vision
Strategic Outcomes:

 Operational Excellence: Enhance operational excellence to meet or surpass environmental


requirements under all conditions.
 Community Benefit: Engage the communities we serve to increase understanding and commitment to
water quality so that every person and organization demonstrates the important role he, she, or they
contribute to this effort.
 Watershed Partnerships: Create structural processes that enable partnerships to manage water as
one resource.
 Enhancing Organizational Competency: Improve and maintain the institutional competency of
AlexRenew to achieve its long-range strategic objectives by enabling all levels of the organization to
learn, adapt, and innovate.
 Revenue Stewardship: Maximize additional revenue options through the sale of reclaimed products,
credits, and other means to ensure financial stability while minimizing its impact on customers.

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 Incubator of New Ideas and Innovations: Develop and implement innovative ideas and technologies
to enhance resiliency and sustainability.
The AlexRenew 2020 Strategic Plan outlines initiatives, goals by department, key performance indicators,
targets, and deliverables. These metrics are tracked monthly in department head and senior leadership
team meetings, and progress is shared with each team at AlexRenew.
Innovation at AlexRenew is driven from the board’s vision: To be community-facing and focused.
AlexRenew’s innovation strategy is to evaluate and leverage its unique circumstances, and have defined,
holistic outcomes for projects and programs. The main drivers of innovation within AlexRenew are
supporting the City of Alexandria’s growth – creating the capacity to enable the city to survive and thrive;
and stricter, rapidly changing requirements, as well as ensuring compliance with future regulations.
AlexRenew’s location – a small, urban campus located within the ecologically sensitive Chesapeake Bay
watershed – also is a factor that drives the facility’s commitment to meet today’s challenges while ensuring
a healthy future for its customers. AlexRenew’s innovation strategy supports the 2040 vision strategic
outcome of being an incubator of new ideas and innovations.

Innovation Focus at AlexRenew


AlexRenew has a long history of innovation, driven by regulation and the need to process wastewater
efficiently on its urban campus. In the early 1970s, under an innovation grant, AlexRenew installed rotating
biological contactors and carbon columns. The water resource recovery facility has increased its use of
sensors and instruments to monitor treatment performance and flows. In 2000, AlexRenew installed the
first large scale ultraviolet disinfection system in the country and is currently upgrading that system to be
more energy efficient. Given AlexRenew’s small urban footprint, it has had to stack its sludge treatment
processes into a seven- story building, as opposed to the much more common horizontal method, and it
has created advanced odor control for major processes. AlexRenew was also one of the first to install
tertiary plate settlers, creating a higher quality, transformed water product.
AlexRenew’s vision provides direction for CEO and staff to innovate in support of the drivers of innovation
(supporting the City of Alexandria’s long-term growth, enhanced regulations now and in the future, how to
be efficient on a small urban campus). Keeping the drivers in mind, the AlexRenew CEO and senior
leadership team look at the following possibilities to inspire innovation:

 Partnerships inside and outside the water industry;


 Process innovations that can clean water more efficiently on AlexRenew’s urban campus;
 Ensuring that every project provides value for the community and serves the public good;
 Reusing the resources that our customers and process provide to us;
 Sustainability in our process, on our campus, and in our infrastructure;
 Ensuring we have a workforce that can operate a Utility of the Future; and
 The principles of being a Utility of the Future Today.

There are many examples of innovation supported by our citizen-led board and CEO, and executed by
the AlexRenew team; some are outlined here:

©2017 Water Research Foundation. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED 15


State of the Art Nitrogen Upgrade (SANUP)
A new Chesapeake Bay TMDL, established in 2011, required that all wastewater utilities in the Bay
watershed invest in technology to further reduce the amount of nutrients released into the Bay. To comply
with these new limits now and in the future, AlexRenew, in partnership with CH2M, designed and
implemented a phased series of improvements, referred to as SANUP. The program employs cutting edge
technology that reduces nitrogen pollution while cutting operating costs by decreasing energy and chemical
needs. The $160 million program reduces total nitrogen discharged to less than 3 mg/L, reducing nitrogen
in the clean water it releases back into the Potomac River by an additional 20% annually.
SANUP combines two innovative processes to meet AlexRenew’s treatment and sustainability goals:

Deammonification
As part of SANUP, AlexRenew implemented the first separate full-scale sidestream deammonification
system in the United States, through its Centrate Pretreatment Facility (CPT). And, AlexRenew is starting
up mainstream deammonification, which will help reduce its carbon footprint by further decreasing its
energy demand.
AlexRenew was one of the water utilities that brought deammonification, using ANAMMOX microbes, to
the U.S. Through its partnerships with consulting groups, research universities, and other utilities,
AlexRenew studied, shared, and learned about ANAMMOX from others prior to implementation.
AlexRenew has a learning partnership with VandCenterSyd (VCS) Denmark, a water utility that shared its
ANAMMOX experience with AlexRenew and inspired them to move forward with mainstream ANAMMOX.
DC Water partnered with AlexRenew on the original ANAMMOX research, and AlexRenew contracted with
and partnered with DEMON GmbH for the hydrocyclones used in the deammonification process.
AlexRenew started up its Centrate Treatment Facility in 2015. To date, AlexRenew has seen a 20%
reduction in energy usage, an annual reduction in GHG of 3,755 tons, and a reduction in electrical usage
of 1.92 million kilowatt hours per year. These reductions have saved AlexRenew about $130,000 annually.
Implementing mainstream deammonification will potentially save AlexRenew $400,000 annually in
operation and maintenance costs.

Source: Courtesy of AlexRenew.

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Nutrient Management Facility
The nutrient management facility (NMF) is the largest construction project under SANUP. It balances the
amount of nitrogen that goes into AlexRenew’s biological reactor basins. When nitrogen loading is higher,
partially treated water is diverted to the NMF for storage. When nitrogen loading is lower, the water is
returned form the NMF to AlexRenew’s biological treatment system. By providing a steady nitrogen load to
the biological reactor basins, AlexRenew’ enhances the performance of its microbes and reduces the
chemicals and energy needed to remove nitrogen. The design of the NMF is one of a kind; four tanks can
hold up to 18 million gallons of primary effluent, and on top of those tanks sits a multipurpose, lit athletic
field.

Source: Courtesy of AlexRenew.

Sustainability was incorporated into the SANUP construction and design plans from the beginning. The
construction team recycled 83% of the waste generated, used at least 35% fly ash in concrete, 26% of the
fuel used was Biodiesel, and they saved over five million gallons of potable water by using reclaimed water
for testing. In addition, plantings around the NMF offset construction impact and connected with existing
and planted green spaces. During construction, AlexRenew demolished 143,000 feet of existing asphalt
and replaced it with clean topsoil and vegetation, planted 493 trees and 845 shrubs, and expanded a
forested streamside buffer by 69,000 feet. Rainwater from the multipurpose field on top of the NMF drains
into the NMF’s tanks, and permeable pavers around the NMF provide sustainable drainage.

©2017 Water Research Foundation. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED 17


South Carlyle Strategy

Source: Courtesy of AlexRenew.

The vision for AlexRenew’s South Carlyle Strategy, which provided the land for the NMF in AlexRenew’s
SANUP project, was led by AlexRenew’s CEO. The South Carlyle Strategy transformed a long-forgotten
area of Alexandria – a landfill, in fact – into a vibrant, fully activated community with a regulation size multi-
purpose field operated by the City, LEED certified platinum building, and mixed use development with
irrigation and water features supplied by AlexRenew’s new reclaimed water system. This innovative
development started with a focus on how to best add value to the Alexandria community. It is an integrated
way to develop multiple parcels of land, agreed to by the site’s partners: AlexRenew, Carlyle Partners, and
the City of Alexandria.
This partnership was a unique ten-year partnership that took the useable acreage of the five-acre
development site and created a plan that accommodated the required technology AlexRenew needed to
comply with more stringent regulations that protect the Potomac River and the Bay, be developed for a
mixed-use development, create and maximize green and park space, and incorporate bike trails and a
playground. The site had contaminated soils, high tension power lines, and resource protection areas that
the developers had to contend with. Its neighbors are a public safety and detention center, national
cemetery, park, government offices, and an existing residential building.
To address soil contamination, AlexRenew capped the soil with above grade parking and created an
elevated public landscape. This landscape was inspired by recent work at Lincoln Center in New York and
Allianz Arena in Munich. It changed the ground plane to conceal AlexRenew’s structures and parking for
the entire development, while open space was blended into the development above, with careful grading,
the covering appears as a gentle slope.
On one of the parcels AlexRenew built its Nutrient Management Facility (NMF), part of the SANUP Program.
The NMF was originally going to be a series of tall towers, but through the partnership with Carlyle Partners
and the City, AlexRenew changed its strategy and created a public amenity – the multipurpose field – on
top of the facility.

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The partners held a Family Fieldfest to celebrate the opening of the multipurpose field; more than 500
citizens and community leaders attended the event.

Source: Courtesy of AlexRenew.

In addition, the South Carlyle site houses AlexRenew’s LEED platinum Environmental Center, which
houses the facility’s administrative staff and public areas for community engagement, its sixth-floor
conference rooms that community groups can use, and its educational lobby with museum quality
exhibits to inspire water stewardship among families in Alexandria. The partners for the South
Carlyle site collaborated on approval and community input for the Environmental Center. During the
review of the building design, AlexRenew leadership consulted with City staff and the Eisenhower East
Design Review Board, a citizen-led group concerned about the Eisenhower Valley, the area in which
AlexRenew is located. The Review Board recommended constructing the building with the goal of LEED
Platinum Certification, and the City’s staff and leadership recommended that the building serve as a
center for water education. The cost of constructing the building and the multipurpose field did not affect
AlexRenew’s customers’ rates. Funding was secured as part of a real estate agreement between
Alexandria Renew Enterprises and Carlyle Plaza LLC.

Reuse of Resources
AlexRenew transforms the wastewater it receives from its customers into Class A biosolids, methane
capture and use, and water reuse.
In the mid-2000s, AlexRenew anticipated growing concerns in Virginia around land application of biosolids.
As a result, the water resource recovery facility implemented a prepasteurization system that enabled
production of Class A Biosolids, and the production of more methane gas. This was the first
prepasteurization system in the country, and the first in Virginia to make Class A biosolids. In 2015, 99.4%
of AlexRenew’s biosolids were beneficially reused.
AlexRenew captures the methane gas from its process and reuses it to heat its buildings and fuel its boilers.
In 2016, AlexRenew generated more than 150 million cubic feet of renewable methane gas and
offset purchased energy by 32%, using the gas produced in its digesters. In addition, on its LEED
Platinum building, AlexRenew is harnessing renewable energy using solar panels, which are expected to
provide at least 40% of the building’s energy.
Reclaimed water is also used at AlexRenew. Annually, AlexRenew uses almost 1.5 billion gallons of water
to help run its facility, conserving potable water supplies, and saving more than $2,500,000 in potable

©2017 Water Research Foundation. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED 19


water costs. AlexRenew has installed a reclaimed water system for its South Carlyle site, and
currently uses reclaimed water for toilet flushing in its Environmental Center.

Energy Savings Program


AlexRenew has pursued energy efficiency improvements for more than a decade. In 2006, AlexRenew
embraced an ambitious goal: To be a net zero energy user and eventually an energy producer.
Early studies led to implementation of energy efficient lighting, installation of more than 25 power
monitors onsite, and construction of an adsorption chiller and dual feed boiler systems.
AlexRenew created an onsite energy team that tracks energy usage and promotes improvements. Since
2008, AlexRenew has reduced its annual electrical consumption by 41 million BTUs, or 17.3%.
AlexRenew has also joined the Department of Energy’s Superior Energy Performance and Better Plants
Programs to achieve ISO 50001 Energy Management Certification.

Impact - Key Performance Indicators


For eleven consecutive years, AlexRenew has received the National Association of Clean Water Agencies
Peak Performance Platinum Award for its compliance record. This record speaks to their team’s
commitment to the core mission.
Furthermore, financial metrics, process based metrics, customer-centric metrics, and sustainability metrics
through the Virginia Environmental Excellence Program as an E4 organization are some of the current key
performance indicators for AlexRenew’s innovation program. These performance metrics support the six
strategic outcomes of the 2040 Vision. These actions are guided by AlexRenew’s Environmental
Management System (EMS).
AlexRenew has also been named an inaugural Utility of the Future Today, and has received several awards
for the SANUP Program and its elements. The team that designed SANUP won an AAEES National Grand
Prize and an ACEC Metropolitan Washington DC Grand Prize. Also, AlexRenew’s Nutrient Management
Facility received Envision Platinum certification by the Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure, and won the
ACEC-National Capital Area’s Sustainable Project of the Year award.

CAPABILITY
Organization-oriented: Ecosystem for encouraging, developing, and managing ideas. (Key Attributes:
Develop, Evaluate)
Challenges experienced include ensuring that innovation initiatives stay ahead of increasingly stringent
regulations, and therefore achieving aggressive timelines for implementation.

Process
Through partnerships and research, AlexRenew’s CEO and senior leadership create innovative projects
and programs. Infrastructure projects are managed by the Engineering and Planning department, in
partnership with Production. Sustainability is woven throughout programs and projects by the Sustainability
team through education and integration of sustainable ideas in decision making processes. Community
Benefit projects can be led by any department; Communications is either involved or a leader or partner in
the project’s execution.

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Cross functional teams that include AlexRenew employees at all levels of the organization are involved in
the visioning sessions that occur during long-range planning. Employees that would be affected by the
innovation are not only involved in planning sessions, but are also included as part of the execution of
innovative projects and programs at AlexRenew.

Resources
AlexRenew uses partnerships and pilot tests for the testing of new ideas and innovations. Staff time is
dedicated to innovation through daily activities.
At AlexRenew, there is a budget related to developing innovative technologies or programs. The budget
can be used for projects including research, sustainability improvements, and pilot tests of new
equipment.

ENGAGEMENT
People-oriented: Source and application of innovation. (Key Attributes: Engage, Reach)

Internal Engagement
Staff Engagement in Innovation: Staff engagement related to innovation is led by AlexRenew’s CEO and
senior leadership team. For workshops, the designated staff project lead, in many cases, partners with
outside consultants to lead the workshops to plan future innovation. For instance, for future biosolids
handling opportunities, our sustainability and production teams worked with an outside consultant on a
series of workshops to develop options and ultimately, a recommendation.

Source: Courtesy of AlexRenew.

Developing the Workforce of the Future: Innovation at AlexRenew is not just about technology, it’s about
innovating the workforce of the future. AlexRenew is facing a large retirement bubble of existing seasoned
employees. Over 35% of its current workforce could retire today, with more than 60% eligible in the next
five years. AlexRenew has started a Virginia Department of Labor-approved apprentice program, focusing
now on electrical technicians, mechanics, and operators. Each program is unique to the specialty, and uses
a variety of training methods. AlexRenew has 20 apprentices and has graduated a class of apprentices to
operators in training.

©2017 Water Research Foundation. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED 21


External Engagement
AlexRenew engages several external collaborators including peer utilities, research centers/foundations,
universities, consultants, manufacturers and vendors, and the public to facilitate innovation. AlexRenew
participates in conferences that share new technologies and often presents at these conferences to foster
innovation among peers. Some examples of external engagement include:

Source: Courtesy of AlexRenew.

Public Education Centers: AlexRenew has developed three educational centers to inspire water
stewardship and educate the community about clean water processes and investments. The educational
lobby in AlexRenew’s environmental center features museum-quality interactive exhibits that share tips for
what not to put down the drain, highlight the water cleaning process, show the infrastructure under
Alexandria’s streets, and showcase AlexRenew’s reclaimed water in use in a 7,000-gallon fish tank which
supports a variety of local fish and aquatic organisms.
AlexRenew’s Four Mile Run Pump Station was recently upgraded, and as part of the upgrade a fence with
ten interactive educational weatherproof exhibits is being installed in Spring 2017. The interactive exhibits
highlight what a pump station is, how pumps work, how the City’s dirty water is cleaned by AlexRenew, and
what not to put down the drain.
An Urban Wildlife Habitat is the last of the three public education centers AlexRenew has created for the
community. The Habitat was planted with almost 1,000 native plants, shrubs, and trees. Master naturalists
and other community volunteers helped to plan the Habitat and assist in maintaining it. During warm
weather months, AlexRenew will offer the Habitat to community groups for native plant education.
AlexRenew is also considering expanding the Habitat once it gets certification in summer 2017.
George Mason University: George Mason University’s Potomac Environmental Research and Education
Center (PEREC) and AlexRenew began a program in 2013 to monitor water quality and biological
communities in the Hunting Creek receiving stream area. The project provides baseline and ongoing trend
analysis of the ecosystem receiving reclaimed water from AlexRenew to understand how to best manage
these valuable freshwater resources, and improve the water quality and biotic resources in the tidal
Potomac. In addition, the project provides training for Mason graduate and undergraduate students in water
quality and biological monitoring and assessment.

©2017 Water Research Foundation. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED 22


Engagement – Key Performance Indicators
The AlexRenew Communications Department tracks customer engagement in many ways, including social
media and website analytics, direct customer feedback, and through short surveys with customers after
they call the customer service center. AlexRenew also conducts short surveys of tour and event attendees
to track engagement in water stewardship, issues, and innovation.

©2017 Water Research Foundation. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED 23


©2017 Water Research Foundation. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED 24
Cincinnati:
Alternatives to Grey Infrastructure

Underlying causes Lack of Lack of Lack of Lack of Lack of


for the challenge: vision leadership drivers good data integration

Drivers for Change:


Supply/ demand Stormwater Wastewater Green space/ Water/ energy Environ / waterways
management management management infrastructure efficiency protection

Country: U.S. Issue:


State: Ohio Developing a Combined Sewer Overflows (CSO) mitigation plan that includes green
infrastructure and community improvements. Part of the issue is a lack of scientific
data on the effectiveness of green infrastructure to reduce overflows.
Problem level: Background:
Societal (Strategic) The Metropolitan Sewer District of Greater Cincinnati (MSD) provides wastewater
Institutional (Tactical) removal and treatment for Hamilton County. When the EPA began enforcing the
Project (Operational) elimination of sanitary sewer overflows (SSO) and reduction of CSO at the turn of
the century, the MSD and Hamilton County entered into a two consent decrees with
Type of initiative: the EPA, the U.S. Department of Justice and the State of Ohio (regulator) in 2003.
Infrastructure: The intent was to establish a program that would be affordable for local ratepayers
Retrofit and address these concerns. The resulting product was the Wet Weather
Improvement Plan (WWIP) and its focus is to reduce CSOs in Mill Creek, the local
Infrastructure:
watershed, two billion gallons of overflow should be reduced from the annual 14
New development
billion gallons by 2018.
Policy change
Cincinnati has struggled to develop a WWIP that would satisfy the regulators over
the past decade. The EPA rejected the first draft in 2006 because it focused more on
Scale of initiative: minor modifications, like code amendments to allow for green infrastructure, rather
Individual homes than on large-scale efforts. In 2008 Hamilton County took another approach and
Individual commercial allowed sewer districts to use stormwater mitigation funds for reducing CSOs and
/ industry the County supported policies that focused on watershed approaches. In 2010 the
Precinct / EPA approved the new version of the WWIP. The EPA recommended that Hamilton
development County use a deep “grey infrastructure” tunnel under the lower part of Mill Creek.
City-based However, it also allowed for an alternative plan if it could reduce CSO by the same
State-wide or greater amount. The WWIP stated that MSD had until December 2012 to study
National the lower mill creek watershed area to develop an alternative to the deep tunnel
solution.
Proponents: Stage of the process:
Private Understanding Problem identification and definition; gather info
Public Planning Develop and assess options; select option
Combination Managing Implement option; Monitoring and evaluation

The Challenge:
End-users: The challenge for this community was how to reduce combined sewer overflows in a
Households way that would reduce costs by using green infrastructure and result in better
Industry environmental results.
Commercial The main issue causing planning and regulatory challenges was lack of knowledge on
Agriculture how green infrastructure performs in relation to reducing CSOs.
The opportunity was the commitment and involvement of several agencies and the
Public open space
local universities to achieve a more community oriented outcome.
other

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Analysis:
MSD wanted to find a more sustainable and less expensive option so they developed the alternative plan, and
called it Project Groundwork. They worked with the county to take a watershed approach which allowed them to
approach the project from a more holistic perspective; a green infrastructure solution approved in June 2013. It
consists of a series of underground storm sewers, water quality features, and natural, aboveground waterways
constructed throughout the watershed to transport stormwater and natural drainage to the Mill Creek. The plan
focuses on the Mill Creek Watershed which was divided into sub-watersheds with a series of projects within each
area. The central element is an urban waterway that will run through the middle of a street in a local town and
will be an amenity.
Outcome:
Project Groundwork has involved sewer improvements coupled with stormwater control projects in the sub-
watersheds. Throughout this process several collaborations formed between the universities (Cincinnati State
Technical & Community College and University of Cincinnati) the EPA and the MSD so more data can be collected
and studied to evaluate green infrastructure performance in meeting overflow reductions. EPA scientists and
universities monitored and studied demonstration projects to build knowledge on how effective green
infrastructure projects are.
Project Groundwork, now underway, is a two-phase project. Phase 1 takes place from 2009-2018 that includes
the lower Mill Creek partial remedy, the main area of concern. So far MSW has completed 95 out of the 116
projects in phase 1 and have met all required milestones. Phase 2 starts in 2018 and isn’t approved yet but must
be submitted to Ohio’s EPA by 2017.
MSD anticipates that Project Groundwork will save taxpayers $200 million (compared to the tunnel approach)
and will remove 1.78 billion gallons of CSO annually. They expect the Lick Run portion of the project to eliminate
most of the overflow, approximately 624 million gallons. The major portion of this project is daylighting the creek
which will be an amenity for a local city.
The U.S. Water Alliance awarded the MSD their 2014 water prize because of its integrated green infrastructure
strategy and its approach to the watershed as a whole.
Transferable enabling actions: Location of actions
To encourage integration for innovative solutions:
Establish working agreements between different levels of government to take
watershed approaches so when problems arise cities and utilities aren’t
delayed with navigating regulatory pathways that allow for new solutions
(A/B).
Develop more research on the effectiveness of integrated systems in achieving
a particular goal (B).

Relevant contact details:

References:
Cincinnati, M. S. (2014, January 27). MSD Name 2014 U.S. Water Prize Winner. Ohio, Cincinnati. Retrieved from
http://msdgc.org/downloads/news/press_release_msd_named_2014_US_water_prize_winner.pdf
EPA Science Matters Newsletter. Tapping Green Infrastructure to Curb Sewer Overflows: Utilizing EPA research
and guidance, Cleveland and Cincinnati plan to reduce sewage overflows with the help of sustainable, green
practices. April 2012.
Project Groundwork Website: http://projectgroundwork.org/
Simes, R. (2013, June 10). Cincinnati Receives Federal Approval for Innovative Green Infrastructure CSO Fix.
UrbanCincy.

Authors:
Casey Hanson, University of Oregon

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