Growing communities across North Carolina continue to face water infrastructure challenges in meeting their water and sewer needs, leading to moratoriums on new site development, water shortages and sewer overflows.
In fact, in the past 20 years, over 30 North Carolina communities have had a moratorium on new development due to water or sewer capacity constraints.
The North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) is working to address water services challenges through various programs, such as The Clean Water State Revolving Fund. This initiative provides low-interest loans to communities for wastewater infrastructure projects.
While these initiatives have decreased the number of moratoriums in recent years, it is still essential for North Carolina communities experiencing rapid growth to proactively seek assistance from professional resources like water systems engineering firms.
Civil engineering firms with a background in water system planning can play a pivotal role in auditing existing water inventory and ultimately creating and implementing comprehensive 20-year infrastructure plans. This article explores 5 ways professional water systems engineers can help growing populations to meet their current and future water needs.
1. Water Systems Inventory Assessment
The first step in preparing water and sewer systems is a comprehensive assessment of the existing water supply system. A water systems engineering firm has the resources to conduct thorough audits of existing water system inventory, evaluating the count/length, condition, capacity, and performance of waterlines, taps, hydrants, manholes, treatment plants, pump stations, storage facilities, distribution networks and more. The assessment may also break down inventory as residential, commercial and industrial.
This assessment serves as the foundation for informed decision-making. It may include recommendations for:
- Immediate repairs
- Ongoing maintenance with suggested cadence
- Immediate upfits and 20-year infrastructure upgrade plan
In some cases the assessment may also recommend that the community focus on community water use awareness, in cases where water conservation practices could easily reduce strain on the existing infrastructure.
2. Water Systems Inventory Management
An initial inventory assessment is needed, but ongoing inventory management is crucial for future success. Inventory management ensures the continued smooth operation of water and sewer systems.
Civil engineering firms utilize advanced techniques, such as Geographic Information Systems (GIS), to create detailed inventories of assets. This includes waterline, pipes, pumps, valves, meters, and treatment facilities, and their current condition (i.e. the waterline may be aging in certain locations and likely to fail if not replaced). GIS can also be used to model the flow of water through pipes and waterlines. This information can be used to identify areas where there is a risk of water pressure problems or contamination.
Accurate inventories enable efficient maintenance, timely replacements, and strategic water system planning, preventing unexpected water infrastructure failures.
3. Demand Projections and Capacity Planning
Professional water systems engineering resources can work with communities to analyze population growth and water use patterns to forecast water and sewer demands. Our water and sewer engineers recommend the creation of a 20-year plan to ensure that infrastructure upgrades keep pace with growth.
Water systems engineers can assess the current system’s capacity and identify areas for enhancements to meet future population demands on the water infrastructure. Engineers use this data to upfit water systems to accommodate current requirements and design water infrastructure expansion plans, ensuring longevity and preventing failure.
In addition to water systems planning, most engineering firms offer end-to-end services, including the design and implementation of water services projects, along with construction monitoring and oversight services – ensuring the project is completed correctly, on time and within budget.
4. Innovative Solutions and Water Systems Modeling
Civil engineering firms can bring innovative solutions to the table. This may include the implementation of smart technologies for real-time remote monitoring via sensors installed on water systems assets (e.g. leak detection systems) or the integration of renewable energy sources for sustainable operations.
Civil engineers can leverage water systems modeling software to simulate the performance of water systems under different conditions. These models can then be used to identify potential design problems and risk of operational failures before they occur.
5. Environmental Impact Assessment:
Growing communities must balance development needs with environmental conservation. Civil engineering firms conduct comprehensive environmental impact assessments, ensuring that any expansions or new infrastructure projects meet regulatory standards and minimize ecological disruption. This proactive approach fosters environmental sustainability.
In some cases, civil engineers will help communities to implement water conservation and reuse programs to reduce demand on the water system. This includes developing and implementing water use restrictions, public education campaigns, and water-efficient technologies.
6. Community Engagement and Compliance
Civil engineering firms actively engage with the community stakeholders. By fostering open communication, they address concerns, gather feedback, and incorporate community needs into the design and planning processes.
Additionally, civil engineers ensure that all plans adhere to local, state, and federal regulations, guaranteeing compliance. Water systems engineers can also help with generating reports needed for regulatory bodies and stakeholders on water quality, usage and system performance.
Does your growing community need water systems engineering help?
The Thrasher Group North Carolina is proud to support communities with consulting engineering and field services including survey, materials testing and construction management. To talk to one of our team members about your community’s water services needs, fill out our contact form or give us a call at 704-864-2201.