Four Takeaways from GBA’s Tour of the PWSA Water Treatment Facility

I recently attended GBA’s tour of the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority (PWSA) water treatment facility in Aspinwall. Gina Cyprych, Environmental Compliance Coordinator, and James J. Stitt, Manager of Sustainability, led a magnificent tour for an audience of 35 people. Here are four facts I learned on the tour:

1. It takes water about 3 days to make its way through the treatment plant – from the river to a storage tank.

2. PWSA only pumps water to the storage tanks, not to your faucet at home. The storage tanks store water and then the water travels to your home from there, solely under gravity power, even up and over Pittsburgh’s hills and valleys. Cool.PWSA

3. It takes one ton of coal (to generate the electricity) to treat one million gallons of water, which translates into 500 gallons per pound of coal. James said that the plant uses 1.5 pounds of coal per second, which means they make about 750 gallons of clean water per second.

4. The big water storage tanks around town hold anywhere from 1 million to 1.5 million gallons of water, so each full tank represents about one ton of coal used to generate electricity.

I was impressed to hear that PWSA has recently increased its renewable energy purchasing agreement to 30% of its total energy consumption – an important step given the amount of energy it takes to provide Pittsburgh with clean water. All in all, we got a good look at how Pittsburgh’s water goes from river to tap.

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