The dueling desires of the stimulus package -- sustainability and shovel-ready - give public works operations very little opportunity to deploy innovative products or processes.This is particularly unfortunate for wastewater managers, who desperately need higher-efficiency - but, alas, higher-priced -- technologies.

Nationally, public wastewater operations consume
2,000 MW annually . With aeration consuming roughly 40% of a plant's energy, pumps are a major target for potential electricity savings . According to ITT Corp., whose products include Flygt pumps, one 75-hp pump, operating continuously, consumes $20,000 annually.

Biosolids are the other low-hanging fruit. Sludge represents 1% of the volume of every treated gallon, but managing that byproduct consumes up to 50% of total operating costs.

Exhibitors at last month's Water Environment Federation's WEFTEC conference presented a plethora of lower-energy solutions that enable operators to meet environmental regulations without having to engage in expensive expansions. (In case you're wondering how the economic slump affected the industry's premier U.S. trade show, attendance was down about 20% from last year's record high of 1,111 exhibitors and 22,000 attendees.)

When they'd gone as far as possible with mechanical solutions like replacing standard AC motors with premium-efficiency AC motors or designing a clog-free pump (ITT's Flygt N-pump virtually eliminates clogs and is guaranteed to cut energy consumption by 25%), manufacturers offered enhanced control solutions that match pump speed to system need so smaller, less-expensive pumps treat volumes traditionally handled by larger pumps.

Almost all vendors expected the market for these solutions to kick in over the next three months as potential customers begin spending their stimulus dollars. But it's easier and faster to procure pipes (all of which are made domestically, thereby satisfying a third stimulus requirement), so most recipients are spending their funds on collection and distribution instead of processing.

The CEO of Siemens Water Technologies, who said the company's fairly new Cannibal Solids Reduction System has saved at least two West Coast activated-sludge operations at least $50,000 annually, told journalists that such technologies represent about 5% of the $6-billion market created by the stimulus package.

In this day and age, vendors are more willing than ever to fight for a piece of that $300-million pie. So you may want to think about contacting some of these companies to explore treatment options you'd back-burnered.

Whatever solution they were selling, exhibitors assured stimulus recipients that their particular product or solution won't run customers afoul of Buy American provisions. Look for more insight into this fascinating topic -- which may remain with us long after the last dollar has been spent and accounted for -- in the cover story of our December issue.

And feel free to drop me a line at sjohnston@hanleywood.com