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05/18/2015 | Critical Infrastructure and Power - Water Isn't Optional

For most businesses and consumers, water is something we don’t give a second thought. We turn on the tap, and out it comes. We run the dishwasher, and away it flows. Periodic “boil water” alerts and sewer backups happen, but they are generally limited in size and scope.

Nevertheless, violent weather events, from hurricanes and tornadoes to massive blizzards, are increasing the possibility of extended infrastructure outages in most parts of the country. Add to this concern the growing threat of cybercrime—and potentially cyberterrorism—and the odds of an outage increase even more.

For this reason, many government entities have mandated that the power supply of such systems as municipal water and wastewater be backed up by standby generators. After Hurricane Ike, for example, the state of Texas enacted legislation that requires municipal utility districts (MUDs) to install an emergency backup generator at each water and wastewater facility.

The state reinforced the legislation with stringent penalties for any utility that could not sustain water and sewer service during a power outage. Some Texas legislators had learned a bitter lesson during and after Ike, where outages at MUD facilities without backup power literally caused sewage to flow through the streets of some communities. Fresh water was also unavailable.

Requiring standby generators in these scenarios is an obvious solution, but it is far from ubiquitous. There are many smaller municipalities, especially in rural areas, where backup power is still not a mandate for utilities. Furthermore, some 85% of critical U.S. infrastructure (not only water, but all infrastructure) is controlled by the private sector, which may not be bound by governmental mandates.

Finally, a generator is only as good as the maintenance and service it receives, and even commercial backup generators aren’t always maintained properly. According to the Electric Power Research Institute, some 20-30% of backup power generators fail when they are needed most.

To avert a second “disaster”—failure of the backup generator—municipalities and private operators that control infrastructure such as water and wastewater treatment must purchase high-quality, reliable generators. They must implement and monitor a robust, predictive maintenance program. Finally, for guaranteed reliability, they should consider deploying a parallel setup, whereby two generators are connected with a central controller that can run one or both units, as needed. Such a system is a bit more expensive initially, but the continuity of power it guarantees is priceless.

If you are a citizen reading this, we urge you to contact your local authorities and ask if all their critical infrastructure is backed up by automatic standby generators, and their maintenance audited by an independent, highly qualified entity.

If you are a private or public sector professional struggling with these issues, we invite you to give us a call. HIPOWER SYSTEMS technicians are standby power experts. We specialize in compact, portable, value-driven generators that are perfect as backup power solutions. We also offer complementary training modules that help ensure generator operators run and maintain their power equipment properly.

To speak with an expert technician about your needs, please call 913-495-5557. You can also browse the standby power pages on our site to access more information, including our Standby Power Solutions brochure. While you are at our site, sign up for myHIPOWER to gain access to extended site benefits and more.

 

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