Nebraska Rural Water helps Ashland with sustainability

ASHLAND, Neb. – The City of Ashland, Neb. has been looking for ways to save money and improve the function of their water utility. Now, with the help of the Nebraska Rural Water Association, the system started to progress toward their goals.

“The training has reinforced what we were trying to do,” said Bill Torpy, Ashland public utility director. “It has added structure to what we were trying to do before and given us some direction on how to achieve our goals.”

Torpy and his assistant, Rob Josoff, attended an Effective Utility Management session that Patrick Peterson presented in Wahoo, Neb. Ashland, a city of 2,400 between Omaha and Lincoln, has actively pursued ways to save money and electricity in their water and wastewater operations.

“We’re very energy conscious, despite the cost of electricity being very-reasonably priced in this part of the world,” Torpy said.

One of the major concerns is the city’s wastewater facility. The system relies on a screening process to eliminate sludge from wastewater, but it has been largely ineffective.

“It takes 30,000 gallons of water to run the screening process, and a lot of sludge remains,” Torpy explained. “We’re hauling off the remaining slurry in a tractor to some city-owned farmable land so it can be incorporated into the soil.

“Every step of the process is costing us money.”

Ashland has plans to move to a reed bed system to absorb the wastewater. The plan has support, but it will be nearly a year before they can begin work.

“The budgeting process here starts in October and the class was in October,” Peterson explained. “It’s still very early in the process for the wastewater plans, but they are already starting to see some benefits from their new VFDs.”

Torpy was able to use earlier commitments to purchase Variable Frequency Drive systems for several pumps in the water utility. These VFDs adjust the amount of electricity used to drive pumps, saving electricity by matching the level of energy to the amount of work required.

“We’re starting to realize some cost savings and we’re even seeing less breakage in the distribution system,” Torpy said. “It looks like the soft start of the VFDs is creating less hydraulic pressure and reducing the strain on the pipes.”

Ashland plans to expand use of VFDs to all aspects of their utility. In addition to the wastewater changes, the city also plans to replace aging water mains. Many of those plans will be aided by the city’s relationship with rural water.

“We find Nebraska Rural Water very helpful in many ways,” Torpy said. “They provide great training and they’re a real go-to resource for us.”