High and dry

“Drought, restrictions lead to boom in water well drilling” (mywesttexas.com)

“Well drilling as an option for drought relief” (wptv.com)

“Drought keeps well drillers busy” (riverreporter.com)

“Texas Drought Leads to High Demand for Water Wells” (NY Times)

As much of our country suffers from drought conditions this summer, our fellow groundwater professionals are working their tails off. For us, dry conditions mean drilling deeper, resetting or replacing pumps, making service calls, moving product. The same conditions that threaten others’ businesses often increase the momentum of our own.

Farmers need to keep their crops alive. Communities need to supply water to their citizens and businesses. Homeowners need to take care of their families. When they run out of water, they call us.

In the midst of helping people keep their taps flowing, we should remember that as groundwater professionals, perhaps more than anyone else we have a responsibility to be good stewards of this critical, life-sustaining resource. It is our job to make sure our customers know how to take care of the water they have.

Water conservation doesn’t just apply to times of drought. Our use or misuse of this resource has long-reaching effects regardless of the surrounding weather conditions. Consider this excerpt from the Water Systems Council’s information sheet on water conservation:

Water conservation saves money by reducing wear and tear on your well and septic system. The hundreds of gallons of water released from your home each day eventually saturates the soil in and around the septic field to the point where extensive repair or replacement is necessary. The cost to replace a septic system can reach $4,000 or more. Conserving water will extend the life of the system and delay the need for repair.

Water conservation also helps protect the environment and the quality of your drinking water.  High demand on limited water supplies may affect stream flow, wetlands and the capacity of an aquifer to recharge its supply of groundwater.  Old, leaky and overloaded septic systems may cause nutrient and bacterial contamination of nearby wells, lakes and streams.

These, among others, are very good reasons to make water conservation practices into habits.

As a water systems contractor, you can add value to your service calls and by providing your customers with helpful and relevant tips on protecting the water supply. Small changes such as turning off taps while brushing teeth, shaving, or washing, switching from sprinklers to soaker hoses, and repairing leaky faucets can make a big difference over time. (For more tips you can leave with your customer, CLICK HERE to review the water conservation info sheet or visit www.watersystemscouncil.org.) When you walk away from that service call, your customer will view you as a partner rather than a vendor—and you’ll be ensuring the future of our industry.

Note: Tammy Davis, Director of Corporate Communications at Franklin Electric, provided this week’s post as a guest blogger.

A great place to be

I meet a lot of people in this industry who seem to have always known they would be here. That certainly wasn’t the case with me. When I graduated from college, if someone had predicted to me that one day, I would have 17 years under my belt in the water systems industry, I would have completely dismissed that, thinking to myself, “what a flat, unglamorous and uninteresting industry.”

Today, I am amazed at how my attitude has changed. I feel very fortunate to be in the thick of the water systems industry for a multitude of reasons, not the least of which is that it’s simply comprised of an outstanding group of people.

Beyond the people, I find working in an industry that delivers a fundamental human need efficiently and resourcefully very satisfying. The companies that developed my iPad and all of its apps may be more cutting edge, but in the overall scheme of things, their products are far less critical than delivering water.

Our industry isn’t without its own set of issues and challenges, but when I look around, it’s nothing like many other industries. It’s relatively stable as opposed to say, the airline industry, with American Airlines being the latest in a long string of airlines to declare bankruptcy. How you can lose money year after year with your product packed to the gills is beyond me. The banking industry is chaotic these days, but probably not as chaotic as health care is going to get. There are lots of other examples, but as a final one, when I graduated as a newly-minted engineer, Hewlett-Packard was THE company to work for. HP recently announced another series of layoffs, this time 27,000 people. They are on their third CEO in a year’s timeframe. Franklin Electric has had three CEOs in the company’s 68 year history.

Finally, I’m convinced there’s nothing else that offers a more interesting intersection of different disciplines than the water systems industry. To be part of our industry is to be involved in a slew of technologies, marketing, environmental issues, and even politics. Whether looking forward or backward, it’s a great place to be.

The best deal they will ever see

This post was originally published last April. Since we received so many good comments on it at the time, we thought it was worth a repeat, in case you missed it the first time.  

Here’s a question that more of us should know the answer to. How much water can you get for $1?

With a submersible water system, it’s easy to figure out. We just need to know 3 things:

  1. The GPM delivered by the pump
  2. The power consumption of the motor
  3. The price of electricity

For our example, we’ll use the most common unit in the United States, a ½ horsepower, 10 GPM pump. We can ignore whether it’s 2- or 3-wire, since the power consumption is identical for both units.

From page 13 of the Franklin Electic AIM Manual, the power consumption of a ½ hp motor is 0.96 kilowatts. But, we pay for electricity in terms of kilowatt-hours. That is, the number of kilowatts multiplied by the number of hours we used those kilowatts. So, if we run that ½ pump for 1 hour, we’ll consume 0.96 kilowatt-hours (0.96 kilowatts x 1 hour).

According to the latest figures from the US Department of Energy, the average retail price of electricity in the US is 9.7 cents per kilowatt-hour. To keep the math simple, we’ll just round that to 10 cents.

So, putting it all together, if we run that pump for 1 hour, we’ll pay:

0.96 kilowatt-hours x 10 cents per kilowatt-hour x 1 hour = 9.6 cents

To get to $1, we would need run the pump about 10.4 hours:

0.96 kilowatt-hours x 10 cents per kilowatt-hour x 10.4 hours = $1.00

That 10.4 hours converts into 624 minutes (10.4 hours x 60 minutes). With our 10 GPM pump, that would mean 6,240 gallons for a dollar.

So, for $1, we provided over 6000 gallons of cool, clean, fresh well water. You can run the same exercise with different ratings of motors and pumps. But, no matter what, your customers will never find a better deal anywhere.

A banner day

This week’s post comes from Franklin Electric’s Randy Woodland

I’ve done a lot of training over my career and especially at Franklin Electric, but I’ve never felt better about any of it than the day I spent a few weeks ago with eight members of the 819TH Rapid Engineer Deployable Heavy Operational Repair Squadron (RED HORSE) at Malmstrom Air Force Base in Great Falls, Montana.

From their website, “RED HORSE’s wartime responsibility is to provide a highly mobile, rapidly deployable force that is self-sufficient to support critical Air Force facilities for aircraft launch and recovery. It supports the beddown of weapon systems required to initiate and sustain operations in an austere bare base environment, including remote hostile locations.” Of course today, that means Afghanistan, and these eight members of the 819TH drill water wells and install submersible pumps and controls. They’re some of the first guys in, since it’s pretty hard to build a runway without a reliable supply of water.

I originally met Tech Sargent Joe Adair of the 819TH at the Montana Water Well Convention. Sargent Adair, along with several members of his team, were going booth to booth asking questions and gathering information. The longer we talked, the more apparent it became that his team was well-trained and very competent on well drilling. Where they freely admitted that their expertise came up short was what happened after a well was drilled. They needed more information on everything that goes into a well and controls the pump.

We made arrangements for me to spend a day with the squadron at their facility on Malmstrom AFB. I have never had a better, more attentive and appreciative class. We kicked off early in the morning and finished up after 4 o’clock. I “dumped the whole truck load on them”, reviewing everything from large pump sizing all the way through high horsepower VFDs and soft starts. You name it, we covered it. To a person, their attention never wavered, they took tons of notes, and when they didn’t understand something, they asked all the right questions until they did.

For me, it was a terrific opportunity to “Support our Troops” in a small, but real way. It was also a very personal reminder of just how truly outstanding the men and women in our Armed Forces are today. They are truly the best of us.

They don’t know exactly when, but the 819TH is headed back to Afghanistan soon. They promised to call me if they hit any snags. I hope they don’t have any problems, but a part of me is hoping to hear from them. In any case, I’ll be thinking about them.

A train wreck of a day

Many of the Franklin in the Field posts contain snippets of advice and insights on how to increase your business. However, here’s one that falls into the category of “what NOT to do”. It was submitted by one of Franklin Electric’s Field Service Engineers. He will remain anonymous to “protect the innocent” as a 1960s TV show used to say.

I’ve had very few jobs better than being a Field Service Engineer for Franklin Electric. Our industry is full of capable professionals who are easy to work with and very good at what they do. And along the way, I get to address some interesting water systems challenges. However, a couple of years ago, I had a day that was just bizarre and downright embarrassing.

I had two site visits scheduled that morning with the same contractor. Franklin Electric’s territory manager, along with the distributor and myself met at the first prearranged site, a very nice rural home, and waited. However, the contractor was a no-show. Moreover, the contractor had apparently been a no-show at this site for quite some time, since his cable-tool rig was still in the front yard. The homeowner had been mowing the grass around it, with the grass next to the rig a foot high. I certainly wouldn’t have had the patience of this homeowner.

In any case, we finally got of hold of the contractor and were instructed to meet him back at his place of business, where he eventually showed up wearing a Tommy Chong t-shirt. He and his assistant, along with the three of us, then proceeded to the next residence that was reportedly having issues with a MonoDrive. We pulled up to the home, squeezing two pickups and a service truck into the driveway. The five men in our party stood on the front porch and rang the doorbell. A young mother answered the door holding a very new baby in her arms and a toddler daughter by her side. She seemed bewildered to see five men standing on her doorstep, and we soon learned why. The contractor had never notified anyone in the household that we were coming.

Surprisingly, she let us inside to take a look at the installation. The MonoDrive was periodically shutting down due to overheat. The simple issue was that for some reason, the contractor had stuffed fiberglass insulation around the drive, very effectively blocking all cooling flow. As a remedy, the contractor had previously replaced the drive, along with the pump, motor, and drop cable. Of course, analysis of these all indicated No Fault Found.

After removing the insulation from around the drive and saying good-bye to a very gracious homeowner, we followed our contractor back to his shop to review two motors which had reportedly come from other recent failures. He had to dig through a bone pile in his garage before he pulled out the two motors in question, one of which was 18 years old and the other a competitor’s brand.

It was just one of those days where all you can do is shake your head in disbelief. I recently learned that this contractor is no longer in the water systems business, and while it’s never a happy ending when someone in our industry goes out of business, in this case, I don’t think that’s a bad outcome. In the end, the reputation of our industry depends on what our customers–the end users–think of us. We all pay for even one bad experience, and we can spend years trying to make up for it.

I am confident that the next contractor these homeowners call for their water needs will be very capable and professional.