Why Doesn’t Gilbert Have More Water Towers?

We all love the iconic Gilbert Water Tower… but why aren’t there more of them?

When it was in use, the Gilbert Water Tower used gravity to maintain pressure and move water through the water distribution system. If you are from back east, you probably have a water tower in mind from your childhood. However, through a combination of advancing technology and increased demands from a growing customer base, pumps and reservoirs replaced water towers for maintaining drinking water distribution system pressure for homes, businesses, churches, and schools 24/7, 365 days a year.

Today’s water production infrastructure — treatment plants, wells, reservoirs, and pumps — are often hidden in plain sight.

Side note: Water production means taking water off of a canal or pumping water out of a well, treating and purifying it, and sending it out into the water distribution system for consumption on landscapes, in pools, for drinking, cleaning, cooking, and bathing, for industrial manufacturing processes, and more.

About four years ago, Gilbert embarked on a Long Range Infrastructure Program (LRIP) to identify critical pieces of water production equipment (like the pumps that keep the water distribution system pressurized in-lieu of water towers), determine how to optimally maintain them, plan for replacement, and outline the best new technologies to replace them with.

Think of an LRIP like a roadmap, plotting the most efficient route to get to a destination. The roadmap lays out guidance on when to repair, maintain, and replace critical pieces of equipment in order to continuously operate the water production infrastructure that serves Gilbert with safe and reliable water.

The LRIP uses industry standards to predict the end of the useful life of a piece of equipment and outlines when the best time for replacement is. This is also known as planning for obsolescence, and allows Gilbert to anticipate and budget for future costs. In addition to the increased operational efficiency, this approach helps to avoid catastrophic failure and the need to use emergency funds (which inevitably cost more than planning ahead).

For example, to meet customers’ water demand, pumps have to be activated to move water and maintain adequate pressure. The LRIP indicated that the North Water Treatment Plant’s older technology pumps,with “soft start” motors, were a good candidate for replacement, since these older pumps are less energy efficient and were reaching end of life.

Because electricity for pumps is the largest budget component for water production, it made sense to invest in newer, energy-efficient pumps (called Variable Frequency Drive or VFD). These VFD pumps allow for better precision in pumping water through the system and reduce electricity usage. The switch to the newpumps is expected to save Gilbert $500,000 annually on electricity costs. That’s a 20% reduction in energy usage.

Gilbert residents and businesses have come to expect clean, safe, and reliable water whenever they need it. To meet these needs, Gilbert maintains critical pieces of water infrastructure as cost-effectively and efficiently as possible.

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Originally published at www.gilbertaz.gov.