Water/Wastewater National Marketing Industry Manager
At Endress+Hauser, we are lucky to have some incredible experts in our industries. Nick Hanson, Endress+Hauser’s National W/WW Industry Manager, does more than just drink eight glasses of water a day- he studies, examines, and takes a deep dive into the Water/Wastewater market. He was willing to share his thoughts and insights into the industry in this Q&A.
How did you become interested in the water/wastewater industry?
Right out of college I started working for an Endress+Hauser sales rep. We serviced all industries, but my mentor was passionate about Water/Wastewater. I didn’t fully appreciate the reasons until later. I went on this path because of him, and my realization was that water is our most precious resource – working in this space is quite honorable. Drinking water and wastewater treatment are vital to our society, but it’s something people often take for granted.
What do you find the most fascinating about your industry?
There isn’t one way to treat water, there are many ways. It depends on how big of an operation you have and the needs of the local environment. Many times, there are unique solutions to not only treat water but obtain water from non-traditional sources. There isn’t one single process for everything – there is creativity involved, there is thinking outside the box and working within your limits. It’s cool to see the differences across not only our own country but those abroad as well.
What are the current trends the water/wastewater industry is experiencing?
Water “reuse” is becoming more of a focus. Also, making our processes more efficient and recapturing water we would normally waste is as important as ever. We can capture some of that water to be used for industrial processes like cement manufacturing, watering golf courses, etc. Making the water we do have work harder for us, improves the entire lifecycle efficiency. That goes along the same lines of sustainability and how we are impacting our environment, especially in parts of the country where we have severe water needs.
Another trend is paying more attention to the energy usage that these plants consume. A lot of these new plants being built are focused on being energy neutral or energy positive, which means they provide energy back to their communities. This could be through hydroelectric means, solar or onsite generation from biogas.
What issues and challenges is the industry facing?
Drought is a major issue. Water scarcity not only impacts our quality of life but local ecosystems can be devastated as well. Most water sources require yearly replenishment. Those not fortunate to have reservoirs, aquafers, or rivers/streams – must purchase and transport water for their communities. That’s an economic challenge for parts of the US as well as globally.
Aging infrastructure is becoming more apparent in the US as well. Philadelphia saw the first drinking water distribution system in the US – in the early 1800s. These early systems were not designed around modern regulations, or the capacity needs of the current population. Original pipes can fail, leak or even leech chemicals into our water supply. These effects need to be addressed before the problem impacts our population at large.
Another challenge is maintaining levels of Phosphorus in wastewater effluent. Phosphorus has become a large focal point for wastewater discharge because of the abundance of cleaning detergents and other chemicals found in our households. When high levels of Phosphorus are present in a river or stream it can cause algae blooms, which starves the water of oxygen. The lack of dissolved oxygen will kill aquatic life, and the algae can release toxins harmful to humans as well. Most municipalities are facing lower discharge limits because of this, prompting new enhancements to existing plants.
How is the water/wastewater finding solutions for these challenges?
Innovations and problem-solving are required to face these latest challenges. To help address drought conditions, and water quality issues with storing water above ground – cities have begun injecting treated water into aquafers. Our aging infrastructure is gaining support federally in the form of loans and grants to make the burden of replacement less so. Capturing phosphorus in wastewater can have dual benefits, turning this destructive nutrient into premium agriculture fertilizer. But as we progress, more challenges will present themselves and our industry will be ready to combat them!
What do you think the industry will look like over the next 5-10 years?
Even though from the outside, the water industry may look slow-moving and steady in its ways, water professionals are always thinking long term. Because of the precious nature of this resource, we must be smart with our actions today as they have large impacts on future generations.
I believe more focus will be placed on making our processes more efficient. Whether that simply means we use less energy to treat the same amount of water – or we increase the number of ways we use that water before we send it downstream. With an eye always on environmental impacts and regulations, we will continue to move toward a greener water infrastructure, allowing for better distribution of the cleanest water in the world.
Finally, greater emphasis will also be placed on water security. Our systems are becoming digital. And with that, vulnerabilities become an issue. More and more devices in our workplace and our homes are connected, which aids in the efficiency progress. To ensure our water sources are guaranteed and at the best quality, we need to address every aspect of our systems.
Is there anything else you would like to share?
Water is our number one resource. We must protect and cherish it. I would challenge everyone to be more conservative with their water usage and understand the impact we have on our local environment. Our industry professionals can only do so much in this regard, our entire culture needs to accommodate a future where water is perceived as valuable as gold. Which one day it will be.