Fluence Water Management Services deliver clean, reliable water with virtually no risk and no upfront investment
Resilience is the ability to bounce back from shocks, and the shocks that challenge rural water and wastewater utilities can range from extreme weather events, long droughts, and long-term aridification, to population shifts that require costly infrastructure scaling. All of these are harder to overcome when a rural utility is underfunded, leading some smaller utilities to seek consolidation with larger ones with more resources.
But there are options that can help deliver resilience in key ways. Public-private partnerships can take the form of specialized Water Management Services contracts — including build-own-operate (BOO) and build-own-operate-transfer (BOOT) agreements — that allow the building of new infrastructure at no upfront cost to customers.
In these financing models, a private-sector company builds, owns, and operates water infrastructure for a specified term, and provides clean water to the community. When the term expires, under a BOO contract both public and private partners are released from the agreement, and under a BOOT contract, the private partner turns the infrastructure over to the public partner.
Private Partner Assumes Risks
By their nature, utilities are subject to many risks, from infrastructure damage to political pressure to keep rates artificially low. During the COVID-19 pandemic, these pressures have been even greater, with more customers simply unable to pay their water bills. Water quality can be put at risk as local utilities are stretched to their limits. In a BOO or BOOT, however, the private sector company assumes most of the risk and pressure.
Fluence BOO agreements deliver new water treatment plants that are remotely monitored and operated, so no skilled personnel are required. And our containerized, enclosed wastewater treatment units use passive aeration, keeping virus-loaded wastewater from aerosolizing.
Securing Infrastructure Resilience
Extreme weather events like hurricanes can take a devastating toll on communities, but under a PPP agreement, infrastructure is owned by the private sector company, so no public assets are at risk. Up-to-date infrastructure can be secured with no up-front cost by entering into a PPP agreement.
And, Fluence containerized plants such as NIROBOX™ reverse osmosis water purification and desalination units, and Aspiral™ wastewater treatment plants, can be more storm-resistant than legacy facilities. They are manufactured and permanently housed in weatherized steel shipping containers that are painted with anticorrosive coatings and are wind-resistant up to 150 mph.
Aspiral™ biological treatment uses proven membrane aerated biofilm reactor (MABR) technology to greatly reduce energy requirements by eliminating high-pressure aeration. This lower energy requirement proved itself after the U.S. Virgin Islands were struck by Hurricane Irma. A small community’s MABR-based plant was fully operational hours after a restart on a generator while the surrounding region waited months for wastewater treatment service restoration.
Ensuring Drought Resilience
In arid areas, it no longer makes sense to use water only once if drought resilience is the goal. Water reuse ends waste of precious drinking water on applications like agricultural irrigation for which nonpotable water can serve just as well, virtually increasing the supply of available water. Water treated with Aspiral™ exceeds the toughest quality standards for nonpotable water reuse in the world, including California’s Title 22 and China’s Class 1A.
And desalination with NIROBOX™ can turn seawater or brackish groundwater into a drinking water supply.
Reacting to Increasing Uncertainty
Experts generally warn that the past climate may no longer be a reliable guide to the climate of the future. This presents a problem because traditional water infrastructure is unable to adjust quickly to change. A PPP agreement can allow a utility to make the jump to modular treatment, which scales with unprecedented agility by the addition or removal of units. Adjusting to change takes months rather than years or even decades.
Contact the experts at Fluence to discuss planning for resilience in your rural service area with our BOO Water Management Services.