Increasing regulation and a new focus on efficiency are turning water into one of the hottest markets for engineering firms, ZweigWhite, source of business-management services for architecture, engineering, planning, and environmental consulting firms, reports in the Jan. 7 issue of The Zweig Letter, its weekly management journal.

Renewed focus on water conservation, new supply sources, and water-efficiency installations throughout the United States are opening the door to major new business opportunities for consulting engineering firms beyond traditional water/wastewater-storage, treatment, and conveyance systems. At the same time, a difficult funding environment in Washington, D.C., is forcing firms to develop innovative solutions.

Engineers are being called upon to be creative with designs, as public agencies are looking at new approaches to integrated water-system management, which combines water-conservation pricing and regulation with utilization of new water sources, such as on-site stormwater, graywater, and blackwater recovery and reuse; desalination; sewage reclamation; and fixture retrofits.

"A lot of stuff is happening in the water area after a few years of water being just ho-hum," Jerry Yudelson, founder of Tucson, Ariz.-based sustainability-planning and green-building-consulting firm Yudelson Associates and author of 12 books on green building, told The Zweig Letter.

Steve Maxwell, managing director of TechKNOWLEDGEy Strategic Group, a Boulder, Colo.-based management consultancy specializing in merger and acquisition advisory services and strategic planning for the water and broader environmental industries, writes in a column for The Zweig Letter that water-treatment, storage, and distribution systems depend on an ever-increasing array of monitoring data and analytical information to function efficiently.

"The ability to monitor, track—and understand—the quality and quantity (of) water is becoming increasingly critical," Maxwell writes. "As new and more comprehensive regulatory controls evolve and as new contaminant effects are better understood, testing and monitoring requirements are only going to grow. And with growth will come exploding demand for more and better analytical and engineering support and management systems."

In his latest book, "Dry Run: Preventing the Next Urban Water Crisis," Yudelson examines new opportunities and explains how engineers can help to create a future of water abundance and profit from new opportunities in the water sector. Topics include:

  • Total water-system analysis, planning, and building.
  • On-site wastewater treatment and building water-monitoring, control, and conservation systems.
  • The "water/energy" nexus, which shows both promise and peril.
  • Stormwater management with on-site recycling and reuse.
  • Cooling-tower water management.

Yudelson says engineers should explore new supply sources, such as desalination; "purple pipe" systems supplying treated wastewater to homes, offices, and factories; and "virtual reservoirs" in water-conservation systems.

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