Industrial Utility Efficiency

KC Water Relies on Analytics to Optimize Wastewater Systems for Sustainability


Water resource recovery facilities represent a major market for aeration blowers. Blower and Vacuum Best Practices Magazine interviewed Brent Herring, manager of the Wastewater Treatment Division at KC Water in Kansas City, Missouri, to get an owner’s perspective on the industry.

Brent Herring, Manager of the Wastewater Treatment Division KC Water, Kansas City, Missouri.

Good morning! Please describe KC Water.

We are a municipally owned water, wastewater, and stormwater utility with three separate rate bases. I oversee the systems that have to do with wastewater, while other divisions handle water treatment and distribution and stormwater management. Our 320-square-mile service area includes 2,800 miles of sewer lines and 2,800 miles of water lines. 

KC Water encompasses six wastewater plants and 43 flood and sanitary stations. There are 15 flood stations along the Missouri River that keep Kansas City dry. Then we have 1,350 acres of land for biosolids application. Industrial pre-treatment is the responsibility of the Regulatory Compliance Division. We all work closely together.

What has been your attention lately, given the need to continuously upgrade a utility of this size?

We’ve spent a lot of money upgrading infrastructure. We spend a lot of money on pipes in the ground in terms of addressing combined sewer overflow. Our issue wasn’t so much capacity at plants as it is the way you move flow across 320 square miles, twenty four hours a day, seven days a week. 

We’ve done many, many projects. At any one time in my division, we have 100-125 projects under way in construction or design. Our projects range from small to large both in terms of complexity and cost, ranging from pump station upgrades to a $150 million thermal hydrolysis biosolids facility design-build project.

How do you decide what’s best for all involved given so many projects?

We often use the Quadruple Bottom Line (QBL) approach, which is a takeoff of the Triple Bottom Line concept. We weigh investments decisions on four criteria: environmental, community, operations, and economic impacts.

We apply QBL when it looks like there is no super clear alternative to a particular solution, or when it looks like there might be diverging issues among these four areas. We don’t use it all the time because there are times when the most environmentally friendly project is also the most cost-effective. What I really like about QBL is the ability to maximize resources and minimize the burden on ratepayers and the environment.

It sounds as though QBL is a balanced approach to decision-making.

That’s exactly what it is. Our goal is to have a holistic decision-making framework that is responsive to the needs of ratepayers and our rate structure, while also giving us the ability to weigh the environmental benefits and take into account  system and facility operability and short- and long-term costs. At the end of the day, we blend those together in a logical and consistent manner. 

We’re also very committed to Envision (https://sustainableinfrastructure.org/envision/), which is a decision-making framework created by the Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure. Envision helps us to continue to create a sustainable and resilient utility.

Does KC Water rely heavily on aeration blowers to maintain treatment?


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