Navigant Research Blog

One Water: A Path Toward Unified Water Management

— April 8, 2016

Oil refinery plant along riverDespite generally successful emergency water conservation measures and recent rains, the California drought has continued into 2016, highlighting issues around the state’s long-term ability to handle increased drought and flood conditions. This is an important topic considering the trend toward more frequent droughts and other effects of climate change. Unfortunately, the underlying organizational structure behind water resource management throughout the state has not changed significantly. According to the 2016 update of the California Water Action Plan, “There is broad agreement that the state’s water management system is currently unable to satisfactorily meet both ecological and human needs, too exposed to wet and dry climate cycles and natural disasters, and inadequate to handle the additional pressures of future population growth and climate change.”

Fundamentally changing the water resource management system is a significant challenge. One of the reasons for this is that water-related services are too often kept in silos established by regional and municipal jurisdictions. Because of the variety of roles and responsibilities as well as the large number of local agencies, it is not a simple environment in which to effect change.

Breaking Silos

For example, in the City of Los Angeles, the Bureau of Sanitation (LASAN) handles wastewater while the Department of Water and Power (LADWP) provides potable water and water conservation programs. Furthermore, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Works has jurisdiction over watershed management and stormwater management/flood control. Collaboration is especially difficult among different levels of regional entities such as this. In practice, this model inhibits true, sustainable water resource management.

To their credit, water organizations in California are aware of the importance of working together despite logistical challenges. In Los Angeles, great strides have been made by preparing the One Water LA Plan, which calls for close coordination between city departments and regional agencies to build resilient local water for a sustainable long-term supply. The effort is managed by LASAN and LADWP together, and has a long way to go—when the plan is completed in 2017, it will still have to be implemented. The California Water Action Plan also identifies several initiatives supporting more integrated water management, such as expanding funding for integrated water management planning, supporting local ordinance changes to enhance local water supply and conservation, and more.

The Right Direction

All of this work is certainly a step in the right direction and helps further the conversation about sustainable water management. However, sufficient collaboration to gain a complete perspective of and control over the entire regional water resource requires a huge organizational and intellectual investment. One solution is to modify the underlying structure itself instead.

Communities should move toward a single, holistic water function—One Water—to manage all aspects of potable water, wastewater, stormwater, and flood protection. But how? The concept of fully integrating water and wastewater utilities is not new, but the actual transformation of distinct local organizations into a single unit will take a significant amount of organizational change. The first step is to create a One Water strategic framework, then align and merge city departments so that they can implement and manage the strategy. In addition to managing water sustainably, the One Water approach should also reduce costs and improve service. In many municipalities, this can be accomplished by an ordinance or revision to the city charter.

Some U.S. cities already have aspects of One Water, such as combined sewer and stormwater treatment in San Francisco, and others are moving in this direction; for example, merging water and wastewater (and streets) into one public works department in Geneva, Ohio. California municipalities, under the pressure of drought, should strive to adopt a One Water approach.

 

Solar PV for Healthcare

— October 12, 2015

Navigant Consulting and the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Better Buildings Alliance recently released an On-Site Commercial Solar PV Decision Guide for the Healthcare Sector to address barriers and solutions to solar PV for healthcare facilities.

Why Healthcare?

More and more, healthcare facilities are looking for ways to reduce energy costs. According to the DOE, hospitals and healthcare facilities consumed more than 8% of the total energy used in U.S. commercial buildings in 2012 and spend more than $8 billion on energy annually. Following the food service industry, healthcare is the second most energy-intensive sector, with energy costs rising an alarming 56% between 2003 and 2008, according to the Healthier Hospitals Initiative. Many hospitals are focusing on energy efficiency, and Navigant Research forecasts the market for healthcare energy management systems will more than double by 2024. Solar PV is a key solution to reduce energy costs.

Some of the benefits of solar PV include:

  • It reduces electricity consumption and helps decrease peak demand, meaning lower operating costs and more resources for patient care.
  • It protects against rising energy costs and price volatility.
  • It generates electricity without any direct emissions.

Barriers to solar PV include:

  • Hospital roofs are crowded with other equipment and there is limited space for a solar array.
  • Staff have limited availability, and many hospitals do not have a dedicated energy manager.
  • Large healthcare systems are often made up of small, autonomous organizations, which complicates ownership models.
  • Nonprofit healthcare organizations and real estate investment trusts cannot take direct advantage of tax benefits.
  • Management sees solar PV as a large investment that may not be financially viable, especially compared to medical equipment.

Solutions and Strategies

Installation type: If the roof is dominated by medical equipment, design a carport or ground-mounted array. A carport array may be more expensive, but it also provides benefits like shading cars from the sun. Ground-mounted arrays put underutilized land to use and usually accommodate larger systems.

Commercial Carport-Mounted PV Array

Jay Blog Picture

(Source: National Renewable Energy Laboratory)

Location: Healthcare facilities other than hospitals often make better hosts and should be considered when siting a PV system. Medical office buildings, laboratories, material management centers, outpatient facilities, and other care centers typically have less rooftop equipment than a hospital.

Financing: Third-party ownership structures often involve a power purchase agreement (PPA), under which the healthcare facility purchases electricity at an agreed upon price. For non-profit organizations that cannot take advantage of tax benefits, a PPA is likely the best financing strategy because the third party will be able to access tax incentives and reflect this in a lower price.

Planning: The PV project should be approved by the Chief Financial Officer and the Facilities Manager/Director of Engineering. It will eventually go to the Board of Directors for approval, and would benefit from having an internal champion—like a Sustainability Manager—see it through the process. Healthcare organizations can also integrate sustainability efforts into the organizational structure.

Organizational Structure

Jay Blog Figure

 (Source: Navigant Consulting)

 

 

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