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Category Archive for: ‘Trends in the Industry’

Indoor Marijuana

The Impact of Marijuana Cultivation on Water Resources in Nevada

With the passage of Question 2 on the November 8th ballot the possession or use of marijuana for recreational purposes was legalized in Nevada. The passage of Question 9 in 2000 legalized medical marijuana. Question 2 allows adults aged 21 or older to possess, consume, and cultivate some marijuana for recreational purposes. It also authorized and regulated marijuana retail stores, cultivation facilities, manufacturing facilities, testing facilities, and distributors. A handful of licensed medical dispensaries are now open in Nevada, with recreational shops expected soon. A few hundred licensed growers and producers are also expected to open in the near future.

Recreational dispensaries will be determined by county size, with 80 being allocated to Clark County, 20 to Washoe County, four to Carson City and two to the additional 14 counties. Most dispensaries will be found in highly populated areas like Las Vegas and Reno, with the remaining ones sprinkled throughout the rest of the state. As part of the passing of Question 2, growing at home for recreational use will be banned within 25 miles of any dispensary, effectively blocking most of the population of Nevada from growing their own marijuana.

Warehouse production of marijuana on a commercial scale is expected to boom in Nevada and Washoe County. Planning and design of new indoor grow facilities is underway and several are expected to be in operation soon. What impact will these grow operations have on local water resources?

Like most indoor agricultural growing operations, cannabis production will require oxygen (in the form of CO2), natural light, nutrients and water. Commercial plant cultivation requires approximately 0.75 gallons per plant per day. A typical small commercial growing operation with 1,800 mature plants in production will have a daily water demand of 1,350 gallons or approximately the amount of water used each day by 4 typical single family residential homes. Many types of irrigation systems are used to water plants including drip irrigation, hydroponic flood benches, or trough benches. Watering typically occurs over an 8-10 hour period when the facilities are staffed. For a small operation this is about 3 gallons per minute of continuous demand during water periods.

Although medical and recreational marijuana consumption statistics are highly variable, the estimated amount of water to cultivate marijuana for the Northern Nevada market is approximately 2.2 million gallons annually. However, once the recreational use is more prevalent in the community, the stigma will reduce and the number of users could increase dramatically. An argument can be made that water demands for marijuana plants in Northern Nevada could grow to over 10 million gallons annually within the next 10 to 20 years, which would be the equivalent of what 90 single family homes currently use in a year.

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The Value of Ethics

The National Society of Professional Engineers begins its discussion on its Code of Ethics with, “Engineers must perform under a standard of professional behavior that requires adherence to the highest principles of ethical conduct.” Why? Engineering, a learned and essential discipline in our modern society, directly impacts the quality of life of all people, everywhere. Most professions, in some respect, must support the greater good – food service, for example, must make sure that the food it serves is safe for the public. Of course, our armed services is the greatest example of personal sacrifice for the greater good. Interestingly, a recent study from the National Bureau of Economic Research found that CEOs that had once served in the armed forces were 70% less likely to commit fraud than those that had not.

During times of corporate or personal crisis an individual may be tempted to bend the rules to support their own needs. Engineers are not allowed that luxury. Too much is at stake. Here at Shaw Engineering, we recently decided to spend some time with our staff going over the National Society of Engineers Code of Ethics. We decided to do this not only as a refresher, but to remind ourselves of the immense value of what we do for our clients and the importance of the ethics and integrity we bring to the table everyday. We found this exercise to be extremely beneficial on many levels.

Below are the 10 Benefits of Managing Ethics in the Workplace by Carter McNamara you and your teams might also find helpful.

1. Attention to business ethics has substantially improved society.
2. Ethics programs help maintain a moral course in turbulent times.
3. Ethics programs cultivate strong teamwork and productivity.
4. Ethics programs support employee growth and meaning.
5. Ethics programs are an insurance policy helping to ensure policies are legal.
8. Ethics programs promote a strong public image.
9. Ethics programs increase trust and strengthen organizations.
10. Formal attention to ethics in the workplace is the right thing to do.

Toilet to Tap or Great Idea! by Cody Black, P.E.

A Popular Solution to a Growing Problem?

W13 Focus Images-WaterReuseAs the drought continues, all of us are having to look at planning for a future with less water resources. For decades, we have been using recycled or reclaimed wastewater to irrigate our golf courses and large fields. These projects have been limited to certain high demand irrigation areas and have benefitted us in more ways than one. This includes providing a disposal location for wastewater treatment plant effluent while providing green open space in our communities. It is no surprise that this has been a popular solution, but will it remain so when even more restrictions are being placed on our household uses of water?

Wastewater and Direct Potable Reuse

indirect-potable-reuse1As we look forward to the need for more conservation and more efficient uses of our resources, are Nevadan’s ready to take the next step to Direct Potable Reuse (DPR)? An increasingly popular solution with the hurdle of overcoming the “toilet to tap” moniker. Even with press conferences showing City Mayors and celebrities like Bill Gates drinking shiny clear glasses of treated wastewater, will the public accept the idea?

This solution goes beyond indirect potable reuse, where some wastewater is blended with fresh surface or ground water and allowed to be introduced to a water treatment plant after certain residence time. With DPR, that treated wastewater goes through similar extensive purification and is then piped directly to a water treatment plant. This is why some call this “pipe-to-pipe” or “toilet-to-tap”.

The Benefits of Direct Potable Reuse

ehp.122-A332.g002Changing the regulations is where we start to get to the best efficiency of our resources. This is the direction that California is already headed. Direct Potable Reuse. This term is going to be talked about more and more in the coming years. Direct potable reuse is going to be a major tool for making the best use of our limited water resources.

This cannot be implemented without changing some regulations. California is moving toward DPR with their final California Legislature report due by the end of 2016 and Texas currently has DPR in operation in some plants. The technology to accomplish this is readily available. The next step is regulations and education.

Let’s spread the word about the benefits of direct potable reuse and look to the future where we can expand our populations while limiting the use of our precious water resources.

For more info on reuse:

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22 Water Systems in California Face Curtailment by Cody Black, P.E.

Find a reliable, alternative source of water seems like a simple task to do as part of a broad water system master plan, however for some drought stricken water systems in California, this is mandated to be done much sooner under immediate order from the State. The State of California Water Resources Control Board has issued Curtailment Compliance Orders to 22 water systems in relation to violations of Section 116555 of the California Health and Safety Code, a code requiring each public water system to have a reliable supply of water to serve its customers.

No New Service Connections Permitted

These compliance orders allow the water systems to continue to supply water for basic health and safety needs of its customers, but it does prevent the water systems from permitting any new service connections; in addition to requiring the system to secure a reliable long-term supply of water. These Compliance Orders require the water systems to contact property owners with “will serves” and submit relevant documentation on their “will serves” to the Division of Drinking Water.

More Restrictions on Outdoor Irrigation

The orders also require water systems to submit for review and begin implementation of a plan for complying with the Conservation Regulation of Title 23, CCR, Section 865 (e), which requires restrictions on outdoor irrigation of ornamental landscape or turf with potable water, including limiting watering to two days per week or implementation of other similar conservation measures.

Smaller Water Systems Face Bigger Problems

Smaller water systems with limited resources have a lot on their plates, with reporting, documentation, implementing conservation plans and analyzing alternative sources of water. In addition, some water systems are required to comply with additional deadlines such as a Source Capacity Planning Study completed by March 17, 2015 and begin ensuring all connections are metered and have rates based on metered water by November 17, 2016.

Recent Rains Provide Marginal Relief

Dealing with another drought year has been a strain for California and we will all stay positive for more precipitation this winter. There is some marginal relief to some of these water systems as the State has lifted curtailments for the post-1914 water rights within the Russian River Watershed and pre-1954 water rights within the Sacramento and San Joaquin Watersheds.

How is Nevada Prepared for Drought?

For northern Nevada, orders such as these have not been applied through the State, thanks in part to Nevada’s reliance on groundwater as opposed to surface water. As always, there remains a need to monitor declining groundwater levels in some basins and continue review of over-appropriated hydrographic basins. There are also always concerns to be prepared for issues such as costs to water system operators should wells dry up due to subsidence of groundwater levels.

How is the Truckee Meadows Prepared for Drought?

For the Truckee Meadows dealing with a third straight year of drought is also a topic of discussion. Truckee Meadows Water Authority’s Water Supply Update and Forecast states, “We are fortunate to have a robust supply system of upstream reservoirs and underground reserves available for use during dry years.” TMWA’s reserves will help the utility continue to meet customer demands in these drought years. In addition TMWA continues to look at removing the last of their un-metered connections and work with local agencies on reducing turf installations throughout the region (RGJ, Flat-rate water use to be phased out).

Conserve and educate, as it is up to all of us to make the most of our water resources.

For the latest drought information and news, including notices and orders, visit the California State Water Resources Control Board’s website. For information and tips for water conservation visit Save Our Water.

Are Construction Costs in Northern Nevada Creeping Up?

Construction costs for public works projects throughout the northern Nevada and Sierra California region appear to be increasing this year. For the past few years, construction costs have been well below prices seen in the mid 2000’s. However, several recently bid projects have come in significantly above estimates. Although the occasional engineer’s estimate misses the mark, most are right on target. Engineers preparing cost estimates are typically conservative and often need to adjust contingent amounts and other factors in an effort not to price the work too high.

Preparing cost estimates can be more of an art than a science. There is a tremendous amount of historic cost data and cost resources available to assist the engineer. But market forces play a big role in determining the construction price for a project; and the current market is unpredictable at best.

What’s going on? There’s not a tremendous amount of projects being bid. Competition should be driving costs lower. One observation is that contactors are being more selective about projects they are bidding, which can result in less competition for a project. Many builders have downsized equipment and staff, which limits the amount of work they can take on, thus limiting to number of contractors available for a project. In the past few years many contractors have had to take on projects at cost to survive, with little or no profit margin. With the construction market somewhat stabilized, builders appear to be more focused on increasing profits without having to overburden resources; therefore there are fewer but more focused bidders who need to increase profits to sustain their businesses and plan for growth. The same can be said for equipment vendors and materials suppliers.

Please, let us know what you think.

Steve Brigman. P.E.

President, Shaw Engineering

Northern Nevada Regional Engineering Market Outlook for 2012

Is our market getting stronger? That’s the question being asked by many engineering professionals throughout our industry. Most of us in consulting practice have weathered the economic downturn; our staffs are smaller and our work backlog has shrunk, but our businesses have stabilized and in some cases have grown. Growth opportunities and new work are primarily coming from the water and wastewater industry where continued, but limited, investments in public infrastructure are being made.

Many in the industry are looking for some positive signals that will give us confidence to hire and plan for growth. We want to believe those signals are just over the horizon. However, as national civil engineering surveys indicate current market conditions are still unpredictable, funding resources remain limited and planning for new infrastructure is down.

Although our industry may still yet have a few more bumps down the road, it can only improve in the long term. There is too much aging and overextended public infrastructure, and the regulatory climate keeps imposing new standards for quality and performance.

In our Northern Nevada and Sierra California markets, we see some positive signs. Northeastern Nevada is strong with gold mining leading the way providing revenues to local governmental entities that are spending some of that money improving roads, utilities and public facilities. Other public sector clients in our market are using the availability of low interest governmental loans and lower construction costs to make infrastructure improvements now. We have seen some small up tics in private sector development with a few multi-family residential projects and a few small commercial projects. A couple of large regional projects, such as the new DFA Milk Process Plant in the City of Fallon, are underway and will provide long term positive economic and regional growth benefits.

Overall we feel cautiously optimistic that better times for our industry are just over the horizon. However, it may be several more years before we return to the levels seen just a few years ago.

Please let us know what you think.

Steve Brigman. P.E.

President, Shaw Engineering