Home Commentary Letters Letter to the Editor: Apr. 5, 2023

Letter to the Editor: Apr. 5, 2023

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Montpelier Should Generate Electricity with Water Pressure

To the Editor:

I applaud Phil Dodd’s excellent report on draft recommendations regarding repairs and improvements to Montpelier’s water system by contracted engineers in the March 22–April 4 issue. It covered a complicated topic with clarity and readability. 

One datum inserted into the article struck me especially. Dodd reports that Barre reduces pressure in its water delivery system partly by using line pressure to generate electricity. It is one of those solutions that seem utterly obvious once someone else mentions it. Yet Montpelier’s contracted engineering company provisionally recommends putting off pressure reduction until pipe replacement is complete. Our water system leaks a lot.

I mentioned these two facts to my wife, whose special knowledge is women’s health, not engineering, and she observed that with reduced pressure the pipes would leak less immediately. Any home gardener who has used an old leaky hose with a shut-off nozzle knows that the hose leaks much more when the nozzle is closed and pressure builds. Our city’s contracted engineers expect the repairs to our water system to spread over decades. Why not reduce line pressure ASAP by harvesting that energy as zero-emissions electricity right away? That would immediately reduce the rate of leakage. I expect that pipe replacement and turbine installations require decidedly different skills; there is no reason not to begin both as promptly as the rusty wheels of bureaucracy permit.

Using surplus pressure to generate electricity is an investment that hopefully would be used to soften Montpelier’s exceptionally high water rates while reducing all leakage right away. 

Dan Hemenway, Montpelier