Band-aids are a very good tool for small injuries or abrasions. A band-aid can only hold so much together, and then a stronger reinforcement becomes necessary. The real band-aids are extremely inexpensive to purchase and can be found at most stores. In the water industry, some very expensive band-aids exist. For years, the quickest or cheapest fix has become the norm industry-wide. As time has progressed, many have come to realize that productive planning, payback time and planning for future expansion, growth and other conditions affecting the overall process are becoming more prevalent. Overhearing a conversation in training last week prompted my thoughts for this blog. The topic of discussion was that a municipality was building on to their wastewater system because they keep getting closer and closer to full capacity. One operator asked, “Is your town growing that much?” The response was “No, the collection system is in such bad shape that we cannot keep up with the inflow and infiltration, storm water and other stuff.” Thus, the discussion of sustainability vs. a band-aid arises.
It is a good thing to have enough capacity to treat the water that a municipality receives. But, would a better decision be to stop, or at the very least, control the inflow and infiltration before deciding to expand the treatment plant? The truth of the matter is the inflow and infiltration issue will probably be addressed at some time. When this issue is finally addressed, how will the smaller volume of water affect treatment at the treatment plant if it is expanded before the inflow and infiltration issues are resolved? Will unnecessary funding have been spent? Did treatment costs go up?
Having a plan of sustainability helps these decisions and answers become a lot clearer. This would be a good situation for the collection system manager and treatment plant manager to collaborate on the how to fix the overall issues and do what is best for the entire situation. Below, you will find some good advice for assessing the issues.