Two days in May outside Los Angeles, California showed the plumbing engineering community how much of an impact it still can make with its plumbing designs.

The Ontario Doubletree Hotel was the host of the 6th Emerging Water Technology Symposium, a joint event convened by IAPMO, ASPE, Plumbing Manufacturers International and the Alliance for Water Efficiency.

ASPE Executive Director and CEO Billy Smith addressed the more than 150 attendees that his organization will keep a keen eye on the overall plumbing design and how it impacts end users.

“ASPE and its members are focused on the health and sustainability of the whole system,” he stated.

Dr. Peter Williams, who has worked with the United Nations and the European Union on issues such as smart cities and water management, took the stage first for his opening keynote address alerting attendees about the trends he’s seeing that will impact the engineering community.

The three he discussed were the Internet of Things, big data and artificial intelligence. IoT is growing, especially in smart cities where there will be 3.3 billion connected devices by the end of this year.

Williams noted big data and A.I. go hand as machines will have ability to “absorb data and learn as they go.”

Peter Mayer, P.E., an urban water expert in areas of water use, efficiency and resource planning, presented the case study of the city of Seattle which had planned for a major water infrastructure project in 1990. The development had to be shelved because of a major drought the city.  

The city placed restrictions on its residents’ water usage, particularly regarding outdoor lawn usage. After a couple years and residents undergoing a behavior modification, the major infrastructure upgrades were not needed.

“They bought themselves 70 years of water resources,” Mayer says.

Mayer continued and claimed with more behavior modifications by end users, the U.S. can see similar results such as the ones created in Seattle.

“Were about halfway there,” said Mayer, regarding how much water the U.S. can save. “We have new technology, leak detection and water-loss control, but human behavior hasn’t changed much.”

Paula Kehoe, the director of water resources with the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, presented how the city reduced nonpotable water use by 60% via a city ordinance that streamlined the process. The ordinance states all nonpotable systems must be connected to the city grid and meet proper backflow-prevention requirements.

“Selecting the appropriate treatment technology and continuously online monitoring (is critical),” she stated.

In her ‘Closing the Loop: Approaches to Net-Zero Water’ presentation, Carmen Cejudo, P.E., with Portland, Oregon-headquartered firm PAE, stated “we live in communities that have disconnected our systems.”

PAE and Cejudo’s team noted six steps an engineer can take to achieve net-zero: 1) set inspiring goals; 2) analyze the water budget; 3) reduce water use; 4) separate the water streams; 5) design utilizing natural resources; and 6) verify performance.

She added that big data, as Williams stated in his keynote address, will be important moving forward. Additionally, focusing on the use of blackwater will be crucial. 

“It’s not magic, but the results are magnificent,” Cejudo said.

Other topics addressed at EWTS included rainwater harvesting, peak water demands in commercial buildings, thermostatic balancing valves, the ISO Water Efficiency Standard; Legionella, drinking water quality, declining flows and water-utility systems, and state water laws.