Archive for June, 2015

Smith’s Critical Infrastructure Review: Water

June 16, 2015

j0321110Smith’s  Critical Infrastructure Review of Water (an essential resource)

We have found the United States continues to face dramatic event risks.  Tops on the list of Smith’s Event Risks for Water is Global Climate Change.

Smith’s has found more than half of the dams in the United States are beyond their expected useful life. Smith’s Gradings of reservoirs go hand-in-hand with dams.  The water level behind a dam is very important to measure slow moving events, like droughts, or fast moving events like floods. The loss of human lives and property damage factors into Smith’s Sentinel System that powers Smith Information System.

Smith’s Database of Critical Infrastructure Assets includes Safe Drinking Water and Clean Waste Water. Smith’s Drinking Water Research includes water mains, which are driven, in part, by water main breaks. These water main breaks occur 850 times a day (on average), and when coupled with slow leaks, are the reasons why one-sixth (1/6) — 2.1 trillion gallons of  treated drinking water — never reach the faucet.

The age of the water mains is a key performance indication (KPI) for Smith’s Water Main Gradings. Other H2O KPIs include the pipe material, soil, climate/weather, seismic faults/activity, location, and any recent pipe inspections.

America’s older urban areas, such as major cities along the East Coast and Mid-Atlantic, have water systems that are well beyond their expected lives.  Baltimore’s water system suffers more than a 1,000 breaks a year, for example.

The American Water Works Association, a lobbying group for non-profit and corporate water works, estimated the cost of repairing the U.S. underground water system at more than US$1 trillion.

Principal Aquifers of the U.S. Source: U.S. Geological Survey

Principal Aquifers of the U.S.
Source: U.S. Geological Survey

Smith’s Aquifer Gradings

Understanding water, as an essential resource, requires digging deep into the subject matter to learn about the aquifers, which are underground water-bearing layers of rock that serve as subterranean rivers and lakes. Smith’s Aquifer Gradings maps to 62 different aquifers in the United States.

The Great Plains Ogallala Aquifer is one of the world’s great aquifers, but in places it is being rapidly depleted by growing municipal and agricultural use. Even this huge aquifer, which underlies portions of eight states, is being depleted. It contains primarily fossil water from the time of the last glaciation. The annual recharge, in the more arid parts of the aquifer, is estimated to total only about 10% of annual withdrawals.

Moreover, Smith’s review has shown an increased presence of chemicals used in pesticides/fertilizers, proven to be harmful to human beings.

Understanding the three major Aquifers that form the Florida Aquifer is essential to investing over the next 10 to 30 years. It is one of the world’s most productive aquifers. It is under all of Florida as well as large parts of coastal Georgia and areas of coastal Alabama and South Carolina.  The Florida Aquifer provides fresh water to major cities, such as Savannah and Brunswick in Georgia, as well as Jacksonville, Tallahassee and St. Petersburg, Florida.

Smith’s Florida Bond Gradings reflect our growing concerns about the saltwater intrusion, particularly in South Florida, where the unconfined Biscayne Aquifer merges with the Atlantic Ocean. Smith’s Aquifer Gradings are linked to the bond credits of Miami and Dade County.

The Edwards Aquifer in Central Texas provides clean water to more than 2 million people.  It is located in the Permian Basin, which is famous for natural gas and the movie “Friday Night Lights”.  What’s more, the Central Texas Aquifer remains fully charged due to the tremendous recharging from local lakes, streams and rivers.

The Mahomet Aquifer is located in central Illinois. It supplies water to some 800,000 people and contains approximately four trillion gallons of water.

The Kirkwood-Cohansey Aquifer is located under the Pine Barrens (New Jersey) of southern New Jersey. It not only contains 17 trillion gallons of water, it provides some of the purest water in the world.

The Buried Valley Aquifer System is in the central basin of the Passaic River watershed as defined by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. This aquifer impacts drinking water sources and, thus Smith’s Gradings for twenty-six municipalities in four northern New Jersey counties: Morris, Union, Essex, and Somerset.

In California, Smith’s Aquifer Gradings include the Bishop Sub-basin, which supplies San Ramon, California in Contra Costa County. The Bishop Sub-basin, together with the Mocho Sub-basin, are candidates for recharging from “reclaimed reverse osmosis waters.” to support communities in the Livermore Valley.

The Santa Clara Valley Aquifer provides drinking water for the south San Francisco Bay area.  It has been under enormous pressure, which resulted in the water pressure dropping below 200 feet — which in turn, resulted in the ground dropping (subsiding) 15 feet in some areas.

The largest groundwater basin in California is the Turlock Basin, which is a sub-basin of the San Joaquin Valley groundwater basin, and it occupies approximately 13,700 total square miles. The Turlock Basin aquifer is located within California’s Central Valley and is to the east of the city of Turlock. Unlike most of California, the groundwater in the Turlock Basin occurs in older alluvial deposits and it is the sole source of water for the City of Turlock. Smith’s Aquifer Gradings reflect that portions of the San Joaquin Basin have “overdrafted” water, allowing infiltration of agricultural water pollutants and creating overall poor water quality.

Smiths Aqueduct Gradings
Smith’s Database of Critical Infrastructure Assets includes tunnels, which can be used to transport vehicles (cars, trucks, bus) or water, which are called aqueducts. The largest existing aqueduct in the world is the Thirlmere Aqueduct in North West England. It was built between 1890 and 1925 and runs 96 miles through the English countryside.

New York Aqueduct System

New York Aqueduct System

The second largest aqueduct in the world is New York Water, which has a storage capacity of 550 billion gallons and provides 1.2 billion gallons of fresh water per day to 8 million New Yorkers. In an engineering feat that rivals the great pyramids of Egypt, more than 95% of New York aqueduct’s water is moved by gravity. The New York water system has three aqueducts and three tunnels. The aqueducts serve as reservoirs and the tunnels serve as the distribution system.

The New Croton Aqueduct is the oldest in New York and it was completed in 1890 to transport water from New Croton reservoir in Westchester and Putnam counties. Today it supplies about 10% of New York City’s water needs.

The Catskill Aqueduct is the newest asset in the New York system. It was completed in 1960 to bring water from two reservoirs in the Eastern Catskill Mountains.  It supplies about 40% of New York City’s water needs.

The Delaware Aqueduct is the largest by volume.  It was completed in 1945 to bring water from tributaries of the Delaware River in the Western Catskills and it provides about 50% of the New York City’s water supply.

In terms of length, the top title would go to the California Aqueduct. It is 444 miles long and runs from the Sacramento Delta to Lake Perris.

No. 2 in length is the Colorado River Aqueduct, which supplies the Los Angeles area with water from the Colorado River nearly 250 miles to the east.

Smith’s Canal Gradings
America’s first financial boom and the birth of Wall Street came with the construction of the Erie Canal.  Prior to the canal, Philadelphia was the heart of banking, brokering and commerce. It was the Philadelphia Exchange which promulgated rules for traders, such as no spitting on the floor of the exchange and no feet on desks.

Smith’s Canal Gradings includes 18,241 canals. These are man made canals. Each state has given a name to the canal, which may be only a narrow irrigation or drainage ditch or a large ship, municipal water and/or irrigation canal. States with extensive agricultural acreage may have several hundred to thousands of canals. Smith’s Gradings consider the canals as economic arteries and cultural veins.

The longest canal is the Intercoastal Waterway, which is 3,000 miles long and extends from the Gulf of Mexico up the entire Eastern Seaboard.

The most important canals in America today, perform the same duties they did when created.

For example, the Augusta Canal still provides transportation and is the primary source of fresh water for Augusta, Georgia.

The Chain of Rocks Canal, “Lock No. 27”, allows traffic on the Mississippi to bypass the dangerous Chain of Rocks that can make the river unnavigable during low water. During droughts, Smith’ Gradings monitors the area as a major bottle neck for logistics and barges.  Situated just south of where the Missouri River flows into the  Mississippi, Lock No. 27  handles more  cargo than any other structure on the Mighty Mississippi.

Still, not every canal has been a success. The Mississippi River – Gulf Outlet Canal (abbreviated as MRGO or MR-GO) is a 76 mi. channel constructed by the United States Army Corps of Engineers in the 1950s that provided a shorter route between the Gulf of Mexico and New Orleans’ inner harbor Industrial Canal via the Intracoastal Waterway.

In 2005, although disputed by the Corps of Engineers, the MRGO channeled Hurricane Katrina’s storm surge into the heart of Greater New Orleans, contributing significantly to the subsequent multiple engineering failures experienced by the region’s hurricane protection network. In the aftermath the channel was closed. A permanent storm surge barrier was constructed in the MRGO in 2009, and the channel has been closed to maritime shipping.

Smith’s Ferry Gradings
Ferry systems provide transportation at a much lower capital cost than, say, bridges or tunnels, for communities located along waterways.

The Washington State Ferries operates the largest Ferry System in the United States. With ten routes on Puget Sound and the Strait of Juan de Fuca, the Washington Ferries transit between terminals in Washington and Vancouver Island. In 2012, Washington State Ferries carried 22 million passengers and 10 million vehicles.

The Staten Island Ferry is the nation’s single busiest ferry route by passenger volume. New York City also has a network of smaller ferries, aka “water taxis”, that shuttle commuters along the Hudson River from locations in New Jersey and Northern Manhattan down to the midtown and financial district in lower Manhattan.  Over the past decade ferry companies started to offer service linking midtown and lower Manhattan with locations, such as LaGuardia airport in the boroughs of Queens, as well as Brooklyn, by crossing the city’s East River.

Cape Cod is connected to the islands of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket by The Woods Hole, Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket Steamship Authority. The ferry leaves Woods Hole to stop at Vineyard Haven (Martha’s Vineyard) as well as Hyannis and Nantucket.

New Orleans operates the Algiers Ferry, which has been in continuous operation since 1827. It is one of the oldest operating ferries in North America.

San Francisco operates the Blue and Gold fleet of Ferries that travel the San Francisco Bay area. The majority of ferry passengers are daily commuters (which is a pleasant way to get to work) and tourists.

SRG’s database of Ferries includes the Bridgeport-Port Jefferson Ferry.  The Bridgeport & Port Jefferson Steamboat Company was founded in 1883 by Phineas Taylor Barnum. It operates year round with two ferry boats that travel on a synchronized schedule (each leaving at the ports at the same time so as to maximize the dockspace/facilities)  Over 1 million people use the Bridgeport-Port Jefferson ferry and 500,000 vehicles are transported.

Smith’s Ferry Gradings consider weather, the age of the ferries, the inspection process, as well as the management  when making its assessments.  The ferries are often overlooked and many could potentially benefit from municipal bond financings.

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