water tech

Valor Water at the GAWP Annual Conference in Savannah

By: Alex Puryear, Business Development Manager

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Once again, the Georgia Association of Water Professionals annual conference in Savannah proved to be a great event. Georgia utilities have always been at the head of the pack when adopting new technologies to help them lower their non-revenue water. For this reason, Valor Water has seen Georgia as a key state to succeed in.

 This year’s turnout surpassed expectations. We were able to connect with many current clients and meet new prospective clients who were excited to hear more about our apparent loss solution. I especially enjoyed hearing my colleagues, Jennifer Stevens from Emnet and Brad Gresham from Wachs Water give presentations to the group.

If you ever find yourself in Savannah, make sure to check out The Olde Pink House or Alligator Soul. Both great places to eat!

Looking forward to future GAWP events.

You can find more information about the Georgia Association of Water Professionals on their website.

Getting to Know Our Summer Interns: Introducing Celine

This is part 2 of our intern introduction blog posts. Part 3 will be posted in August. You can read part 1 here.

By: Celine Clausen

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I am a 23 year old woman from Norway and graduated with a bachelor's degree from the Norwegian School of Economics. As a part of my masters, I am attending a 10-week long program called Innovation School, during which I am studying at UC Berkeley and interning with Valor Water Analytics - A Xylem Company. 

Why I wanted to work at Xylem

It was mainly the combination of sustainability and technology that sparked my interest in working at Xylem. By contributing to solve challenges related to water, Valor also contributes with their software solutions to the resolution of water scarcity issues. I also liked how Valor is addressing one specific area, with the focus is to be the best in this area, rather than delivering several halfway solutions in several different areas. Also, I wanted to work for a company that will be relevant in the future, and I believe that Valor’s technological solutions are going to provide many water utilities with valuable analytics in the years to come. 

How I like working at Valor

It is very interesting to learn about an industry that is completely new to me. It is a fun challenge to understand how Valor's solutions work and the great value they bring to water utilities. I am also overwhelmed by the friendly people working here and the good vibe in the office. Valor has a very flat structure where all thoughts and opinions are heard, and even as an intern I feel appreciated which is very motivating when working. 

My future plans

I want to keep working with global challenges and combine my business degree with my interest in preserving the environment. Therefore, I will lead my master degree in a more sustainable direction, by studying energy, natural resources and the environment with an underlying business focus. 

As I enjoy learning and new challenges I can see myself working a few years in consulting before entering a more specific industry. My time with Valor has been a great learning experience, as I have learned how to quickly understand and adapt to a new industry and business area.

Life in San Francisco

I am a very active surfer so I am trying to surf as much as possible in areas close to San Francisco. Surfing has also been a great way to experience the culture, see the surrounding nature and meet new people. I also spend a lot of time checking out the different parts of the city and eat good food. San Francisco is a very cultural city, and I really enjoy all the art and music there is!

My best San Francisco experience

My best experience in San Francisco was celebrating Pride in Dolores Park with good friends. It was such a happy and colorful experience. I believe no other place does celebrating Pride better than San Francisco.


Smoke on the Water: Valor Staff Tours California’s State Water Project

By: Maryana Pinchuk

Smoke and fire may have been in the air (literally) in California these past few weeks, but water is never far behind as a subject of concern for residents of the state. Earlier this month, while fires raged from Los Angeles to Sacramento, my colleague Renee and I accompanied staff from the Municipal Water District of Southern California, as well as other water utility staff and interested citizens from Southern California, on an inspection trip to learn more about the California State Water Project.

As Municipal Water District of Southern California Director Larry McKenney pointed out at the start of our trip, the state of California has the 5th largest economy globally (just ahead of Britain), and its productivity depends largely on the mostly water-scarce state’s ability to move water. The State Water Project is a system of dams, pumping stations, reservoirs, and aqueducts that conveys water from a small water-rich area in the northernmost part of the state to the dry but highly populous communities in the middle and south. The project is the largest provider of water and power in the state, and one of the largest in the world.

Sunset over the San Luis Reservoir, the fifth largest reservoir in the state.

Sunset over the San Luis Reservoir, the fifth largest reservoir in the state.

This sophisticated system of water conveyance begins in the Feather River near Sacramento. Water from the river collects in Lake Oroville and passes through Oroville Dam before proceeding on to the Sacramento–San Joaquin River Delta. The water then travels down the California Aqueduct to the San Luis Reservoir, where it is pumped further south to meet the water needs of Southern California communities, including Los Angeles and Santa Barbara to the west (via the Castaic and Pyramid Lake reservoirs), and San Diego and Orange County to the east.

Pyramid Lake Reservoir, completed in 1973, is the deepest lake in the state. Here, water is held and conveyed to Castaic Lake Reservoir and from there supplies northwestern Los Angeles County.

Pyramid Lake Reservoir, completed in 1973, is the deepest lake in the state. Here, water is held and conveyed to Castaic Lake Reservoir and from there supplies northwestern Los Angeles County.

The State Water Project may not exactly be the most well-known tourist attraction in the state, but it is the secret engine that powers some of the most iconic features of California, from the glitzy pools of Hollywood to the more modest groves of California almond trees – a crop that, like asparagus, melon, cotton, and other local cash crops, thrives in the dry and temperate Mediterranean-like climate of the Sacramento–San Joaquin River Delta.

Cotton growing in the Delta. We learned that California cotton is sold and prized worldwide for its high quality and even ends up in some products marketed as “Egyptian cotton”!

Cotton growing in the Delta. We learned that California cotton is sold and prized worldwide for its high quality and even ends up in some products marketed as “Egyptian cotton”!

Joe Del Bosque discusses almond cultivation and shows us his trees

Joe Del Bosque discusses almond cultivation and shows us his trees

Almonds, we learned from longtime Delta resident and farmer Joe Del Bosque of Del Bosque Farms, are a cousin of the peach tree, and farmers have learned to graft almond saplings to the hardier peach roots, which are less susceptible to rotting in heavily irrigated soil. But the ingenuity of the Delta farming community is meeting its match in the precarious ecology of the Delta, where a system of levees built in the 1800s to turn marshland into farmland is beginning to show its age, and where soil erosion and earthquakes threaten the $50-billion-a-year agricultural business.

Over breakfast in the state capital, with the lingering smell of smoke providing an uncomfortable reminder of the increasing danger posed by climate change and extreme weather, we were shown a presentation about the challenges facing the Delta in the next 50 years. We watched a model simulation of the probable effects of a major earthquake – long overdue in the area – on water quality in the Delta. We all winced as the model showed the levees disintegrating and a cloud of salt water from the San Francisco Bay pumping steadily eastward hour by hour. According to the simulation, by the end of a week after the initial quake, all of Southern California’s water supply would be rendered non-potable.

Suisun Marsh , one of the few preserved tidal marshes that showcase how the Delta looked before it was transformed by agriculture.

Suisun Marsh, one of the few preserved tidal marshes that showcase how the Delta looked before it was transformed by agriculture.

To address the very real possibility that gradual (through levee erosion) or sudden (through a major quake) salinization may one day cripple the Delta leg of the State Water Project, the Municipal Water District of Southern California is proposing to create a set of tunnels through the area. This would ensure that fresh water could continue to be channeled through the Delta to consumers in the south, even if the Delta were flooded with brackish water. The proposal, called the Water Fix, has raised objections from some conservation groups that argue against diverting flow from the rivers in the area. However, others contend that what the wildlife that already struggle to thrive in the agriculturally-dominated waterscape of the Delta need is not higher throughput in the rivers, but other conservation practices – e.g., fish weirs and controlled flooding of fallow farmland to allow fish fry to mature in a predator-free environment before returning to the river system – that are not incompatible with the Water Fix.

A fish weir near Sacramento – during a major rain event, fish and water will be directed into this fallow field to mitigate flooding and provide a safe environment for fish fry to grow in.

A fish weir near Sacramento – during a major rain event, fish and water will be directed into this fallow field to mitigate flooding and provide a safe environment for fish fry to grow in.

We wrapped up our trip with a visit to the Jensen Water Treatment Plant, the last stage that State Water Project water passes through before being delivered to SoCal customers. In the hills to the north of the plant, the Los Angeles Aqueduct (not part of the State Water Project) delivers an additional supply of water from Mono Lake to the city of Los Angeles. As evidenced by the heated history of that water infrastructure project, culminating in the legendary California “Water Wars” depicted in the 1974 noir film Chinatown, controversies around water are far from new in this state. And yet, through over a century of conflict over water rights and allocation – as well as the additional issues posed more recently by increased water scarcity – California’s water infrastructure has continued to rise to the occasion and meet the ever-growing needs of the state and its residents. California’s water supply may seem precarious, but water utilities and their staff are certainly used to facing and overcoming challenges, and the successes of the past point to hope for the future.

Maryana and Renee from Valor at the Jensen Water Treatment Plant, with the Los Angeles Aqueduct in the background.

Maryana and Renee from Valor at the Jensen Water Treatment Plant, with the Los Angeles Aqueduct in the background.

Apparent Water Loss, Optimized Vision, and Entrepreneurship: Q&A with Valor Founder and CEO Dr. Christine Boyle

By Elizabeth Harvell of UNC Environmental Finance Center

Earlier this year, Valor Water Analytics (Valor) was acquired by Xylem Inc., a $13B water technology company that services utility and commercial clients across 150 countries. While this is big news in its own right within the water industry, it’s especially exciting for the Environmental Finance Center: Valor Founder and CEO Dr. Christine Boyle previously worked as a research assistant at the EFC while pursuing her doctorate in water resource planning from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Read the full interview on the UNC EFC Blog.