Jes Munk Hansen: Smart water infrastructure will drive growth

12/28/2012

Jes Munk Hansen, president of Grundfos North America, was published in the State Journal-Register, the oldest newspaper in Illinois, on Friday, Dec. 28.

Gov. Pat Quinn recently announced a new $1 billion initiative to upgrade outdated water infrastructure in Illinois. This is exactly the kind of smart investment that is needed to drive economic growth in the 21st century.

Rapid urbanization has put water resources under tremendous stress in many regions of the United States and the world, including Illinois. New urban and suburban developments do not simply require clean water, they also require electricity, which, in turn, consumes a lot of water to cool power plants. Furthermore, pumping water requires electricity.

At Grundfos, we estimate that pumps and pump systems account for 10 percent of global electricity consumption. Put simply: The more electricity we consume, the more water we need, and the more water we consume, the more electricity we need.

The solution is to conserve both energy and water through smarter water infrastructure. Without serious investments in infrastructure, the nexus between water and energy will depress economic growth in the coming decades. In states like Arizona, Georgia, Idaho and Montana, water scarcity has already halted the construction of certain new power plants. Here in Illinois, Lake and Will counties are at risk of long-term water shortages resulting from thermoelectric power plants.

Commercial buildings are a prime example of how we can optimize both of these valuable resources. Many commercial buildings have outdated pump systems dating back to the 1940s or 1950s. Upgrading these systems with intelligent pumps can reduce the average electricity consumption of a commercial building by up to 60 percent.

Another example is leaking water pipes. A new survey by the Chicago-based Center for Neighborhood Technology of 55 water utilities in the Great Lakes region showed annual leaks totaling 66.5 billion gallons of water. This number is equivalent to the annual water consumption of more than 500,000 households. Demand-driven distribution of water through new technology can reduce these kinds of leakages by up to 50 percent. Electricity consumption in the distribution system can also be reduced by up to 50 percent.

Historically, investment in infrastructure has almost always yielded significant economic growth while underinvestment has been a threat to growth. Modernizing Illinois’ water infrastructure will not only create short-term construction jobs; it will position the state as global hub in the water industry and lay the foundation for sustainable growth for many years to come.

Read the text in The State Journal-Register.

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