Are we investing enough in our water infrastructure? New data shows, the answer might be a little bit more complicated than it once was, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The ASCE (American Society of Civil Engineers) recently created a status report on COVID-19’s impact on America’s infrastructure—and the outlook is bleak.
The Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) has been on an investment spree recently, putting money from the Rural Business Development fund into several states and projects. Pennsylvania will receive $358,639 to provide technical assistance and training for small businesses in rural areas of the state. The funding can be used for training, technical assistance, acquisition or development of land, pollution control, and distance adult learning for job training and advancement. In addition, the REAP (Rural Energy for America Program) is making awards of $143,067 that can be used for energy audits and to install renewable energy systems such as biomass, geothermal, hydropower, and solar. The funding can also be used to increase energy efficiency by making improvements to heating, ventilation and cooling systems; insulation; and lighting and refrigeration.
The federal government is comprised of many departments, agencies, and commissions. Some deal with areas that would seem to be outside their mandate, if you think that mandate is found in their name. The USDA (Dept. of Agriculture), for example, would logically deal with crop and livestock issues but they also address other aspects of what is usually referred to as rural living.
Take for instance an investment the USDA is making in building a new campus for the Winooski School District in Winooski, Vermont. Winooski is a city of about 8,000 people adjacent to Burlington, a city of 43,000. Burlington is the home of the University of Vermont among other attractions while Winooski is the most densely populated municipality in northern New England, an area comprising the states of Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont.
It’s an election year and governments at all levels are making renewed efforts to provide needed services to their constituents. Programs that had been overlooked with the raging COVID-19 pandemic are now finding favor as money is directed to stimulate the economy. Luckily, many of the programs that are making waves are good for the people as well as the candidates.
For example, the USDA (United States Dept. of Agriculture) is investing $371 million to build and improve critical electric infrastructure that will benefit more than 222,000 rural residents and commercial customers in 11 states. These investments will improve electric service by connecting more consumers, build and improve lines, and modernize power grids in rural communities.
It looks and sounds like science fiction but it is being developed today. Hyperloop is a system that moves people and goods at speeds over 700 MPH, safely, efficiently, and sustainably. HyperloopTT (Hyperloop Transportation Technologies), a global team of more than 800 engineers, creatives, and technologists in 52 multidisciplinary teams, with 50 corporate and university partners, is creating technologies that are rapidly advancing transportation in 2020.
The concept itself, Hyperloop, is a tube-based inter- and intra-city transportation system for passengers and goods. Proprietary passive magnetic levitation and a linear electric motor combined with a tube environment in which air has been drastically reduced allow the capsules to move at high speed with nearly zero friction. The HyperloopTT system is powered by a combination of alternative energy sources to ensure sustainability and low cost, bringing airplane speeds to ground level, and changing travel time from hours to minutes.
Construction is universal. Methods may change from country to country but building—and excavating—is done all over the world. What is developed in one country, however, may not benefit others if it remains a secret. Looking at the methodology used in other nations helps us all.
With subway and underground utility tunneling resuming in many parts of the U.S., knowing what is being done in other parts of the world can be helpful. In France, Condat, a specialist in surface chemistry and industrial lubricants, has partnered with Sigfox, a leading IoT (Internet of Things)-service provider and initiator of the 0G network, and its long-term integrator delaware, to create CondatLink, an IoT solution capable of helping tunnel boring machine operators to better manage their supply and stock of sealant on construction sites. delaware specializes in digital transformation with technologies such as artificial intelligence, blockchain, cloud, intelligent applications, IoT, virtual and augmented reality.
In the 1980s TV show Hill Street Blues, every episode would have police Sergeant Phil Esterhaus tell his squad, “Hey, let's be careful out there.” With construction beginning to ramp up at a positive rate, workers are returning and so are the hazards of construction. This is especially true along the highways where traffic is increasing as businesses reopen and people leave their stay-at-home restrictions.
A recent survey by AGC Associated General Contractors of America) found that two-thirds of the 200-plus respondents reported at least one crash in the past year involving a moving vehicle at highway work zones, and 33% reported five or more crashes. AGC and HCSS, a software company specializing in heavy construction applications, conducted the survey. Another finding was that, as industry employment increases, more people are working in highway work zones that are typically close to moving traffic and it is important to remember that “any time your job site is just a few feet away from fast moving traffic, danger is never far away.”
Recurring concerns about aging infrastructure assets, a graying workforce, challenges from wildfires, floods and drought increasingly are testing the resilience of water systems. All of that lately has been against the backdrop of the global COVID-19 pandemic that halted the nation’s economy, leaving tens of millions jobless and testing the financial resilience of many providers.
U.S. water industry leaders are looking to accelerate innovation in strategy, operations, and capital planning by harnessing digital assets and data analytics. A Black & Veatch report, Strategic Directions: Water, finds efforts to adopt and implement technology are geared toward pushing better decision-making, optimizing and prioritizing system investments, and driving cost efficiencies to help deliver sustainability and resilience.