Aspect's Summer of Sports

For many Aspect staffers, the dry summer months are usually spent out in the field. This season, it was true in more ways than one. Our summer was bookended by sporting events that took us out into the “fields” down the street from our Seattle office. 

In June, the women of Aspect attended a Seattle Mariners matinee game vs. the Philadelphia Phillies at Safeco Field. Adorned in matching tees made especially for the outing, the group indulged in gigantic soft pretzels and other ballpark sundries in between cheering for pitcher Felix Hernandez’s fine outing and the Mariners’ three home runs of the day.

In August, Aspect staff was three rows strong (and several garlic fry orders deep) at Century Link Field as the Seattle Sounders took on the Portland Timbers. Despite both team’s valiant efforts and the ever-present cheers from the crowd, the final score was 1-1. The tie may be frustrating for most fans, but it did make for far less tension between the Seattle and Portland offices at staff meetings the next morning. 

Finally, in September, two Aspect teams (Aspect Earth and Aspect Water) participated in the 2017 Kickball Without Borders Event - a fundraiser organized by the Puget Sound Chapter of Engineers Without Borders for its international projects in Nicaragua, Uganda, and Sierra Leone. We showed up, we tried hard, we had fun, and we exited the tournament early with pulled hammies and bruised egos. There's always next year!   

A big-screen Mariners welcome for Aspect's ladies

The Women of Aspect and their custom tees

The ladies' vantage point for the Mariners' matinee

The Aspect crew catches the last rays of sun at the Sounders match

The Aspect crew catches the last rays of sun at the Sounders match

The Sounders at sunse

Can you spot the Space Needle?

Aspect Earth and Aspect Water kickball teams

From Water Wars to Water Policy – 100 Years of Washington Water Code

This year marks 100 Years of water rights in Washington state. In parallel with this centennial, water rights have received a flood of recent attention in the public eye, primarily because of the role the Hirst decision has played in halting the state’s $4 Billion capital budget.

Image credit: Washington State Department of Ecology

Image credit: Washington State Department of Ecology

To take the pulse of the water managers, policy makers, and others who steer water law in the state, Aspect conducted a reporter’s roundtable to hear thoughts on Washington water policy today and for the future. Read their account in this month’s “The Water Report”, as well as a fascinating look back to the pre-code, wild west era where dynamite was occasionally preferred as a dispute resolution tool for water management.

Also, be sure to check out the excellent story map and video series developed by the Washington State Department of Ecology on this topic. Lastly, the water code centennial will be the center of attention of next month’s American Water Resources Association – Washington Section (AWRA-WA) State Conference,  October 3, 2017 in Seattle, Washington.  
 

Seeing the Finish Line on New Lake Chelan Water Resources

Chelan PUD and Ecology, with technical water rights support from Aspect, are close to finalizing an agreement that frees up over 5,200 acre-feet per year of water rights for new development in the Lake Chelan Basin. This exciting milestone is the result of years of work by Ecology and Chelan PUD to assess how much water remains in a 65,000 acre-feet annual water reserve described in a 1992 Agreement. Read more details in the Wenatchee World article HERE.

Reach 4 of the Chelan River

Reach 4 of the Chelan River

Looking Forward to StormCon – August 27-31

Aspect is excited to attend and present at the 16th Annual StormCon, August 27-31 in Bellevue, WA this year. This national conference, organized by Forester Media, offers a vast curriculum of workshops, certifications, and presentations focused on surface water quality. A diverse range of topics will be available over six tracks ranging from cutting edge research and technologies to lessons learned managing stormwater in various settings. Aspect’s Tom Atkins, Senior Associate Engineer, and James Packman, Senior Hydrologist, will be presenting on three topics at this year’s event. 

On Tuesday, August 29th, James Packman will be presenting with Beth Schmoyer from the City of Seattle on the design and testing results of an R&D pilot project to develop a new suspended solids fluvial sampling device (a.k.a. sediment trap). Later in the day, Tom Atkins will be presenting on the systematic approach and successful strategies that were used to achieve stormwater regulatory compliance at Maxum Petroleum’s diesel fueling and petroleum fuel/lubricant shipping and receiving facility located on Harbor Island in Seattle.

During the Wednesday, August 30th sessions, James will be presenting again, this time alongside Greg Vigoren from the City of Lakewood on the results of a regional evaluation of municipal stormwater source control inspection data. The project is part of the western Washington Stormwater Action Monitoring program and is the first time a regional evaluation of this type of data has been done in Washington.

Possible Solutions for the Future of Icicle Creek Basin Water Resources

The 200-square-mile Icicle Creek basin in central Washington is the heart of the region’s agricultural, fisheries, and outdoor recreation resources. For years, the competing demands of stakeholders has resulted in a critical need to improve the basin’s conditions to reliably supply water to a variety of concerned groups.  Mike Kaputa, Director of Chelan County’s Natural Resources Department, recently wrote an in-depth article for The Water Report covering the complex web of conflicts and possible emerging solutions for this highly scrutinized water basin. Read the article HERE

Reducing Power Costs, Conserving Water, and Increasing Crop through On-Farm Irrigation Efficiency

Thanks to bountiful hydropower electricity, residents of North Central Washington benefit from some of the lowest power rates and live in one of the best fruit-growing regions in the United States. Successful fruit growers in the region are constantly pushing the envelope to reinvest in their crops and rediscover ways to economically maximize yield. Because regional power rates are so low, an often-overlooked opportunity for growers is optimizing pumping-related power costs. 

Power use can be a key tool to uncover significant cost savings and opportunities to gain water, and thus potentially expand fruit operations. Discussed in detail below, performing a power use analysis and implementing infrastructure efficiency improvements could potentially save a grower tens of thousands of dollars in energy costs and reduce water use by hundreds of acre-feet. In some cases, water saved can be used to expand orchard operations or be sold for profit. 

As this hypothetical apple farm scenario shows, a power and water audit has the potential for growers to identify opportunities to reduce power costs and save water at the same time

What Drives Pumping Energy Use?

Pressure and flow are the two primary factors that go into pump power costs, but there are other factors to consider. For example, the age and quality of pumps and motors influences their operating efficiency. A premium-efficiency motor may operate above 90 percent efficiency, whereas an older motor that hasn’t been rewound in a while may be only be 80 percent efficient (or even lower). Pumps have a range of efficiency also. A new properly sized pump operating at its best efficiency point could provide 80% efficiency. An older pump with worn impellers might provide efficiencies of 70 percent or less. 

Pumps operate most efficiently within a narrow range of flows, and efficiencies decrease rapidly when asked to operate outside that range. For example, a pump that was sized to deliver 500 gallons per minute (gpm) at 80 percent efficiency may only perform at 70 percent efficiency when operating at 400 gpm. 

Water Savings in Piping and Sprinkler Upgrades

Piped conveyance systems also contribute to overall system efficiency. Not only can hydraulic problems result in wasted energy, but losses and leakage can result in wasted flow. While 10 percent leakage in pipes is common (and acceptable), improving to a 5 percent leakage rate is achievable—and tremendously valuable. 

Finally, watering application efficiency (i.e., emitter type) can contribute dramatically to the total power bill. For example, a traditional impact sprinkler may be 75 percent efficient, while low-volume sprinklers may be 85 to 90 percent efficient. 

Impact Sprinkler (75 percent efficient)

Impact Sprinkler (75 percent efficient)

Low-volume Emitter Sprinkler (90 percent efficient)

Low-volume Emitter Sprinkler (90 percent efficient)

How to Save a Tree Fruit Grower $20,000 and 440 acre-feet of Water

Clearly, there are many opportunities to tighten up the “wire-to-water”, or in this case “wire-to-fruit,” efficiency. To help illustrate potential savings, consider a ranch with 500 acres of apples in North Central Washington. Hypothetically, the crops alone could take as much as 3.5 acre-feet of water per year. In this case, let’s assume that the irrigation method is with solid set over-tree impact sprinklers fed off an older series pump with an overall lift of 450 feet and an annual energy cost of approximately $57,000 (Current System; Table 1). Compare this to an optimized system with a premium-efficiency motor, properly-sized pump, limited leakage, and efficient emitters (Optimized System; Table 1).

We find that the estimated pump-related power costs could be reduced by one third—about $20,000 in savings! This is due both to a lower water volume being pumped and better efficiencies of the pumps and motors. While there are certainly valuable applications for running over-tree watering applications (e.g., cooling), innovative practices such as installing shade cloth can help mitigate burning effects on fruit in lieu of sprinklers.  The cost of making that conversion could be justifiable if the benefit includes significant power or water savings.

What to do with the Surplus Water? 

In this example, not only has the grower now saved considerable expense related to power costs, but has also managed to save 440-acre feet of water. In water markets, the consumptive use savings have the highest value; and in this instance, approximately 170-acre feet of the water saved is considered consumptive use. Assuming this water is associated with a perfected (certificated) water right, there are a number of ways this grower could benefit:

  • Market the water and transfer through a transaction (note: current value of water is in the $2,500 per acre-foot range). 
  • Spread the water and plant additional acreage.
  • Protect the water for future use through temporary trust donation (relinquishment protection).
  • Seed a water bank for use in other locations. 

Optimizing Your System Makes Sense from Many Perspectives

There is considerable value in looking at ways to better optimize your power and water use. Financial savings can come in the form of lower energy bills simply by modernizing and properly maintaining your system. However, the rewards of conserving water are not limited to lower power bills. In many cases, it is important to consider the market potential of water savings also. The first step to any of this is a power and water use analysis in consultation with a water resources professional.  
 

Meet Breeyn Greer

Breeyn Greer recently joined Aspect's Seattle office. Here are five questions we asked to get to know her better.

Breeyn Greer, Staff Environmental Engineer

Breeyn Greer, Staff Environmental Engineer

1.    Where are you from? If you’re not from the Pacific Northwest, what brought you here? 

I was born and raised in Minneapolis. However, I haven’t lived there for a decade, so while I am proud of my roots I can’t really hold a conversation about the city. Since then, I’ve lived in Madison and Milwaukee Wisconsin, Blacksburg Virginia, and my car. I had a summer job in Seattle in 2015 and fell in love with the area. I can’t wait to explore it more. 

2.    What inspired you to pursue environmental engineering? What made you curious about it? 

I have an affinity towards complex problems. After a couple of years working for a traditional Civil firm, I realized that the repetitive process of grading and utilities would not keep me inspired for a career-length amount of time. In the case of Environmental Engineering, there is also the added element of human impact and chemistry.

3.    What do you like best about your area of expertise? What excites you and keeps you motivated? 

I like soil and water, that’s been a lifelong commitment. What excites me and keeps me going is the multitude of applications of this passion. Here at Aspect alone, one could look at a site from pre-construction (Geotech) to a decade post-contamination (Remediation), and to me that’s more interesting than development. I am continually amazed by the ways in which humanity leaves its footprints on the earth, and looking forward learning more about the ways in which we try to remove them.

4.    What do you like to do when you aren’t working? 

When I am not at work I can be found running, hiking, camping, yoga-ing, or eating. My passions outside of work can generally be summed up as: being outdoors, moving my body, or enjoying consumables. I spent a lot of my young-adult life bartending and have since translated that interest into wine-tasting and coffee cupping. 

5.    Things I don’t like:

  • Kitchen appliances that are redundant or have just one function. Seriously, why have a coffee maker, French press, Chemex, and an espresso maker? Electronic vegetable choppers? Automated wine openers? Please, bartenders open 50 bottles a night and they aren’t even using electronic ones. 
  • Magazine subscription inserts in the magazine you already subscribe to. These obviously have two fates: 1) on the floor, which you then have to clean up or 2) stuffed back into the magazine until they eventually fall out and end up on the floor. 

Point being, I have a dry sense of humor. 
 

The Hirst Decision: The Water Law that Halted WA's Budget

While critical to water use and supply in Washington state, water rights typically keep a low profile in the public eye. That's all changed over the last couple of weeks as the Hirst decision has made the headlines as a key political sticking point that has, for now, stopped the state's $4 billion capital construction budget from being approved.

With the spotlight on this landmark water use decision, Aspect's Dan Haller was interviewed by the Yakima Herald to help understand it. The article also hears from builders and counties grappling with what Hirst means for them. 

Read it here:  Reporter's Notebook: Wondering about the Hirst decision, the state Supreme Court water use case that became a key political tactic in Olympia? Read this primer.

The State of Water Banking in Washington -- Aspect at Law Seminar International

Aspect's Dan Haller will be presenting on the practical implentation issues of Water Banking in Washington State at Law Seminars International on Tuesday July 25 in Seattle.

With water policy presently in the forefront of the state's political arena, water managers across the state are hunting for better solutions to manage water supply. Water banking is a relatively young but promising water policy approach that builds a framework, based in science, of transferring and using water across a municipality.

Water banking has promise because it's better at solving one-to-many water authority issues than traditional water transfers and can be more advantageous under the water code than traditional transfer.

Dan will be presenting alongside Peter H. Dykstra, with Plauche and Carr LLP and Kristina Nelson-Gross with the City of Sequim.

Visualizing the Gender Wage Gap at the 2017 ESRI Conference

In the map-making world of Geographic Information Systems (GIS), ESRI is the de facto software of the industry. To keep up on all things GIS-related, Aspect’s GIS crew attends conference and networking events, including this year’s annual ESRI User Conference in San Diego.

Aspect's Senior GIS Analyst Robyn Pepin (far left), other members of WWGT, and ESRI President Jack Dangermond (middle) at the 2017 ESRI User Conference.

Aspect's Senior GIS Analyst Robyn Pepin (far left), other members of WWGT, and ESRI President Jack Dangermond (middle) at the 2017 ESRI User Conference.

This year, Senior GIS Analyst Robyn Pepin attended the conference representing both Aspect and Washington Women in GIS and Technology (WWGT). Several members of Aspect’s GIS staff participate in WWGT -- a group who together promote a diverse work community by providing support and opportunity for women to advance their spatial careers. 

At this year’s conference, WWGT submitted a poster to ESRI’s annual contest: Washington State Gender Wage Gap in the Work Force. This poster was designed to encourage a data-driven conversation surrounding the gender wage gap and included the history of women’s contribution to the technology field. Aspect’s Kaitlin Schrup contributed a historical timeline graphic to the poster, and Robyn Pepin presented the group’s poster with other WWGT members

To learn more about WWGT, check out their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/WashingtonWomeninGISandTechnology/ 

Check out a story map about the poster here: http://pot.maps.arcgis.com/apps/Cascade/index.html?appid=9978dbd4bbb94c338b32bbb5f08430d7
 

Staff Meeting at 6200 ft.

An impromptu Aspect staff meeting took place atop Mount Townsend (ele. 6,260 ft.) on the Olympic Peninsula last weekend. Staffers Henry Haselton and Dave McCormack were hiking along one of the trails when they ran into their colleague Na Hyung Choi, who had started up from the Upper Trailhead earlier in the day.

Items on the agenda included the gorgeous array of wildflowers and various streams created from the melting snowpack. But the main topic of discussion was the breathtaking view, which included Mount Baker, Glacier Peak, Mount Rainier, Mount Adams, the faintest hint of Mount St. Helens, and Puget Sound stretched out like a cat at their feet.

Aspect’s Nickerson and Berkompas Develop New Rain Garden Performance Tool

Aspect’s Curtis Nickerson and Bryan Berkompas recently developed a promising new, low-cost, telemetered rain garden performance tool – the Water Detector -- that can help cities and counties improve rain garden performance.

As more people move to western Washington and settle in its urban areas, stormwater runoff from streets, driveways, lawns, and rooftops is recognized as a major source of pollution impacting our waterways. To counter this continuing and growing threat, municipalities are encouraging broader public awareness and tools that public and business can use to clean polluted runoff as close to the source as possible. In this effort, rain gardens have become a major component of municipal stormwater management programs in western Washington.

Figure credit: www.12000raingardens.org

Rain gardens are a relatively low-cost natural filter and sponge, where runoff can infiltrate into the soil on-site rather than flowing directly into storm drains, streams or lakes.  Rain gardens are affordable to install, are an attractive landscaping feature, and are relatively easy for home owners to maintain. In Seattle, rain gardens and associated “Green Stormwater Infrastructure” (GSI) manage nearly 100 million gallons of polluted runoff annually.

While raingardens are seeing more and more adoption across Western Washington, measuring performance has been an area that has seen improvement. Typical methods – such as measuring flow rates--are costly and out-of-reach for typical municipal programs to widely adopt. To help resolve this data quality issue, Berkompas and Nickerson designed the Water Detector to give users a low-cost tool to see how well their rain gardens are performing.

The Water Detector is a low-cost, telemetered tool that measures a rain garden’s hydraulic performance.  

The target users for the Water Detector are municipal National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permittees (cities and counties) in Western Washington and Non-Governmental Organization (NGO)s promoting the wide-scale use of Low Impact Development (LID) practices, including rain gardens.  Recently, all NPDES permittees in Western Washington revised their local development regulations to make LID methods, including rain gardens, “the preferred and commonly-used approach to site development.” Large investments by local governments for rain garden installations have already occurred and will continue to occur under the assumption that these facilities are working as intended. The Water Detector units could be deployed for a relatively low cost at hundreds of rain gardens across the region, providing real-world data to help assess the benefits of using rain gardens for decentralized stormwater flow-control on a broad-scale.

The initial target application for the Water Detector would be to assess a rain garden’s hydraulic performance. The single most important measure of rain garden performance, or lack of performance, is overflow or bypass, when excess runoff flows around or out of the rain garden instead of soaking into the soil. The Water Detector would be used to detect and record when and for how long the water level in a rain garden is at or above this bypass level. Data would then be uploaded automatically to cloud-based data storage via cellular or blue tooth technology. An additional potential application of this technology is monitoring bypass events at engineered stormwater treatment or detention systems to assess/alert when system maintenance is needed.  These data will help to assess and improve site evaluation and design methods, document long-term performance, and develop effective maintenance methods for rain gardens.

Prototypes have been developed, and Curtis and Bryan are currently identifying locations to test and deploy their Water Detectors. For more information, reach out to Curtis Nickerson (cnickerson@aspectconsulting.com) or Bryan Berkompas (bberkompas@aspectconsulting.com).

Meet Chris Augustine and Kaitlin Schrup

Chris Augustine and Kaitlin Schrup recently joined Aspect -- Chris in our Portland office and Kaitlin in our Seattle office.  Here are five questions we asked to get to know them better.

Chris Augustine, Senior Hydrogeologist

Chris_A2.jpg

1.  Where are you from? If you’re not from the Pacific Northwest, what brought you here? I grew up in the Blue Ridge Mountains near Asheville, North Carolina. After grad school, I decided that I wanted to live someplace where I could enjoy the same outdoor adventures as North Carolina and set my sights on the Cascades and moved across country to Ashland, Oregon. I eventually moved to the other end of I-5 to Portland, Oregon and have lived here over 16 years now.

2.  What inspired you to pursue hydrogeology? What made you curious about it? I started off as a chemical engineering major but switched focus after my first geology class. It was a science that played to my strengths and interests and seemed to require a lot of time outdoors doing “field work” – code for hiking around mountains and banging on rocks, which was more exciting than Chemistry Lab. Once I entered grad school I got “red rock” fever and began studying volcanic processes of the volcanic front in southwestern Guatemala for my thesis. I spent most of my class time studying environmental-focused courses like hydrogeology, geochemistry, and shallow subsurface and borehole geophysics.

3.  What do you like best about your area of expertise? What excites you and keeps you motivated? My favorite types of projects are ones that require looking at problems in a unique way or require integrating many different solutions. Coming up with value-added or innovative solutions to these sometimes complex technical or regulatory challenges for my clients keeps my interests piqued.

4.  What do you like to do when you aren’t working? At the moment, my focus is on keeping up with my 4-year-old son and his fixation on everything Legos. I look forward to getting back in the routine of camping, cycling, mountain biking, snowboarding and whitewater kayaking as he grows and can explore the Cascades and the Pacific Northwest outdoors with his Dad, the weekend warrior.

5.  Where in the world would you like to travel next? I am hoping to visit South America again. I really want to see parts of the Andes in Chile and Argentina. There are also a lot of classic whitewater destinations in Chile like the Futaleufu and phenomenal national parks that draw me to there. Closer to home I would like to get out to the Steens Mountains -  even though it seems a world away! 

Kaitlin Schrup, GIS Analyst

1.  Where are you from? In my formative years, I grew up in Central Eastern Washington on the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation. My family has a long tradition in serving Native American tribes. This tradition engraved the importance of preserving natural resources, tribal culture, and sovereignty at an early age. In middle school, I moved to Western Washington on the Enumclaw plateau. In college, I lived near the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina, and studied abroad in the Middle East, which profoundly changed my life. I can still speak a little broken Arabic and Swahili. After college, I moved back home to the beautiful Pacific Northwest to work in the non-profit sector.

2.  What inspired you to pursue Geographical Information Systems (GIS)? My first love was computerized drafting and design. However, I felt at the time policy was more of an effective method to make a difference in the world, so I graduated with my undergrad in political science with a focus on environmental politics. I wanted a method to combine my love of design and policy, and I found that with GIS and cartography. The study and practice of GIS focuses on holistic thinking to tell a story through visualizations. Maps are amazing at telling stories and influencing policy.

3.  What do you like best about your area of expertise? What excites you and keeps you motivated? My passion and commitment are to serve my community through developing meaningful GIS solutions and geospatial technology to assist people to solve their problems and discover insightful information to accomplish their goals. I strive and love to continuously learn in general. The GIS and geospatial technology sector are continuously being innovated with new ideas and technological application. My Master’s program was focused on the development of geospatial technology, so I am always trying to learn more about online map application programming. One of my favorite topics to ponder is “Big Data” and the implications that technology place upon our society.

4.  What do you like to do when you aren’t working? When I am not working, I constantly seek out my next adventure or working on my passion project. I love to travel and learn about new cultures and customs.  I am a retired competitive swimmer and enjoy snorkeling/scuba diving in warm waters. I enjoy exploring the Pacific Northwest with loved ones. During the warmer months, I enjoy camping and hiking. During the colder months, I head up to the mountains for snowboarding or snowshoeing. I also love to run and hanging out with my two little beautiful nieces. I am also a huge animal lover, so I am always seeking out someone to talk with about his or her pets.

 5.  Where in the world would you like to travel next?  This is a hard question. I would like to travel to either the Serengeti or Chile.  One of my dreams would be to see the great migration along the Serengeti. Hiking within the Torres del Paine National Park in Chile’s Patagonia region has been on my bucket list. Also, I have been fascinated with Easter Island since I was a little girl. Plus Chile has great food and beverages.

Groundwater Models: A Powerful Tool in the Hydrogeology Toolbelt

Meteorologists have them. Economists have them. And so do hydrogeologists. Complex computer models, backed by powerful processing power, help us understand and predict weather, wall street, and water. Indeed, groundwater models as predictive tools to forecast water movement and availability are a critical part of a hydrogeologist’s toolbelt.

Recently, Aspect hydrogeologists Seann McClure and Aaron Pruitt attended and presented posters at groundwater modeling’s premiere conference: MODFLOW and More, hosted in Golden, Colorado.

Seann (left) and Aaron (right) in front of their posters at MODFLOW and More

MODFLOW, the three-dimensional groundwater model developed by the USGS, is the industry standard for simulating and predicting groundwater conditions, and has been used to simulate everything from the impacts of climate change on groundwater/surface water interactions to the fate and transport of groundwater contamination to the intrusion of seawater into deep aquifers due to water supply developments. The conference is held every two years by the Colorado School of Mine’s Integrated Groundwater Modeling Center, and draws an international list of attendees from the consulting, academic, and government spheres to discuss all things MODFLOW and groundwater modeling.

Seann and Aaron each presented a poster describing Aspect groundwater modeling work. 

Applying Modelling Techniques to Evaluate Wetland Restoration Options Next to One of the Nation’s Busiest Airports

Seann’s poster presented on Aspect’s years-long work at Lora Lake wetland restoration, located adjacent to SeaTac Airport. The presentation, Groundwater Modeling to Support Wetland Restoration of a Former Peat Mine, discusses groundwater modeling completed to evaluate alternative cleanup scenarios at a former peat mine-turned-suburban lake located next to the SeaTac Airport’s new Third Runway. The lake has historically received stormwater discharge impacted by dioxin/furans and is being restored to a scrub-shrub wetland to remediate contaminated lake sediments through capping and filling in the lake. The groundwater modeling, sediment cap, and wetland restoration is part of a larger environmental remediation and construction effort led by Floyd|Snider on behalf of the Port of Seattle that also includes excavation of impacted sediments in the neighboring parcel.

Groundwater Modeling to Help Bolster Water Supply Resiliency for the City of Seattle

Aaron’s poster presented Aspect’s work on assisting a large Puget Sound public agency with predicting water supply availability in an urban area. The poster, Solving the Water Supply Puzzle: MODFLOW and Uncertainty in the Context of Mitigated Water Rights, focuses on the complexity of quantitative analysis necessary to satisfy permitting standards under Washington’s water rights regulations. Recent State Supreme Court decisions constrain mitigation options to those that meet a high bar of being “in-kind, in-place, and in-time”. This means any change to water levels or flows in a closed basin, no matter how small, is considered an impairment, and therefore grounds for rejection of a new water right. This stringent benchmark is even more difficult to deal with when it comes to using numerical groundwater flow models. Groundwater modeling requires simplifying assumptions about the system, which adds a layer of quantitative uncertainty on top of this already rigorous standard. In support of Seattle Public Utility’s effort to permit a future groundwater supply source as a component of resiliency planning, Aspect used MODFLOW to explore various water rights permitting strategies to determine the most defensible approach to in-time, in-place, and in-kind mitigation that balances water rights protections with the agency’s need for new water supply options. 

A Call to "Engineer with Soul"

Aspect’s Principal Geologist Dave Cook recently wrote a compelling opinion piece in The Seattle Times about the need for engineers and scientists to do more, be more, and say more. Dave is encouraged about the country’s scientific and engineering future because more and more scientists and engineers are multiculturalists, sensitive, and empathetic.

Read it here.

Controlled Atmosphere Storage: Keeping Northwest Fruit in Season Year-Round

In the Wenatchee Valley, it’s a common source of pride that Washington is the top producer of apples and pears in the nation. But with so much fruit coming off the trees at roughly the same time each year, have you ever wondered how crisp, crunchy apples and pears are available in the grocery store year-round? Or what enables people across the country—and around the globe—to recognize Washington as the source of the world’s best tree fruit varieties? Enter the technology of controlled atmosphere (CA) storage.

The Wenatchee Valley – the nation’s top apple and pear producer – keeps grocery aisles around the world stocked year-round by using massive, specially constructed warehouses designed to slow the ripening process.

A quick background on tree fruit: as apples and pears ripen, they take in oxygen and release carbon dioxide. Years ago, researchers determined that by limiting oxygen, introducing a little nitrogen, and lowering the temperature, the ripening process can be slowed. To apply this concept at a scale large enough to support Washington’s apple and pear industries, packers build enormous warehouses capable of holding multiple-orchards-worth of fruit within special airtight, refrigerated rooms. This gives shippers the flexibility to releasing fruit incrementally throughout the year, and allows you and I to enjoy a crunchy Honeycrisp apple in the middle of February, months after it was picked.

Building a CA-storage warehouse involves three special considerations: they must be massive, they must be stable, and they must be built quickly. Once fruit is off the trees, it gets hauled in bins that can weigh upwards of 900 pounds when full. Moving these bins requires big equipment (like forklifts and semi-trucks) and efficient storage requires stacking them up to 12 high—that’s a lot of weight! To maintain precise control of the atmosphere within these buildings, the rooms must remain airtight. This means that the foundation and walls must not shift, settle, or crack. Finally, market demands for additional storage capacity often drives the need for new CA warehouses to be built on short notice, with expedited timelines.

One full fruit bin can weigh 900 pounds. Stack those bins 12 feet high, and the need to engineer stable foundations for the warehouses that hold these bins becomes critical.

To meet these rigorous requirements, CA-storage warehouses are typically constructed out of giant precast concrete walls supported by cast-in-place concrete foundations capable of supporting substantial floor loads—up to 1,000 pounds per square foot. Designing for this type of stability requires the expertise of a geotechnical engineer for understanding how soils beneath the building will behave when loaded. By studying the local geology, excavating test pits, and drilling cores, geotechnical engineers can specify how wide and stout the footings and floor slabs should be at a given site.

Aspect geotechnical engineers Nick Szot and Erik Andersen have guided the design of several CA-storage warehouse projects for industry leaders like Blue Bird, Gebbers Farms, McDougall and Sons, and Peshastin Hi-Up. Aspect is proud to be the tree-fruit industry’s local, responsive firm for geotechnical services in the Wenatchee Valley and central Washington, and for our role in bringing Northwest pride to homes across America and around the world. 

When Science Meets Bike to Work Month

With May just wrapped up, Aspect's annual participation in Bike to Work Month is in the books! This year, 40 Aspect employees participated in the Washington Bikes Bike Everywhere Challenge. All month long, we logged our bike rides and commuting mileage to and from our offices in Bainbridge Island, Bellingham, Portland, Seattle, Wenatchee, and Yakima to compete with other Washington Architecture and Engineering firms for the coveted 2017 A&E Bike to Work Month trophy. 

The highly coveted (depending on who’s asking) Golden Helmet that Aspect won in the A&E section of the 2016 Bike-to-Work challenge.

The highly coveted (depending on who’s asking) Golden Helmet that Aspect won in the A&E section of the 2016 Bike-to-Work challenge.

For some Aspect-ians, it isn’t enough to just ride bikes around to compete for a prize. Bike to Work Month presents the perfect opportunity to strap some expensive field gear to our bikes and mix a little science into our weekend rides. On a recent weekend, an Aspect team set out to do just this by testing two different GPS mapping devices along trails in the beautiful Chelan-Douglas Land Trust in the Wenatchee Valley.

Watch the video for a firsthand look at the trail ride.

Accuracy is at the heart of our Data and Mapping studio group. Some mapping devices are more accurate than others. A little extra effort selecting the right piece of gear before rolling out to a site visit can lead to the creation of a better dataset to help get the job done. The difference in GPS device accuracy can be hard to appreciate by reading raw numbers from a manufacturer’s specifications, but a visual presentation can drive the message home and show how your data can be improved by selecting the right device.

To demonstrate the importance of using the right tool for the job, a senior GIS analyst and her loyal canine sidekick chose to ride a loop of the Sage Hills trail system to put two common tools of the trade to the test – the Apple iPad Mini (tablet GPS) and the Trimble R1 submeter (submeter GPS).

Apple iPad Mini (left) and the Trimble R1 Submeter (right)

Apple iPad Mini (left) and the Trimble R1 Submeter (right)

After their ride, the team dropped by Aspect’s Wenatchee office and crunched the data, mapping out the trails tracked by both the tablet GPS and the submeter GPS. While the calculated overall ride length varied by only a few percentage points between the two devices, a close inspection of the data revealed dramatic variation in the projection of the trail lines over an aerial image. As shown in the photos below, the path tracked by the tablet GPS typically deviated +/- 16 feet away from the trail mapped by the submeter GPS and contradicted the trail lines visible in the overlaid aerial photos.

 This disparity is a case study in why the tablet GPS can be a good tool for recording a general site location, while the submeter GPS excels at capturing the integrity of the details at a site. The Aspect team’s efforts demonstrated the importance of high quality tools for quality data—and high quality bike rides!

Meet Fasih Khan and Lindsay Pearsall

Fasih Khan and Lindsay Pearsall are two recent additions to Aspect's Seattle office. Here are five questions we asked to get to know them better.

Fasih Khan, Project Environmental Engineer

Fasih Khan

Fasih Khan

1.    Where are you from? If you’re not from the Pacific Northwest, what brought you here? Born and raised in Hyderabad, India. Came to the US (Texas) to do my graduate degree (M.S) in 2003. I completed my studies and then worked for some time in Houston and then found a job with GeoEngineers in 2008 that made me move to the Pacific Northwest and I could not have been happier with my decision. I absolutely love the region.

2.       What inspired you to pursue environmental engineering? What made you curious about it? I did my undergraduate degree in Electrical Engineering but after coming to the US and during discussions with my Dean, I realized that no other field touched every aspect of human life as much as environmental field and it also gave me the opportunity to work outdoors which I love.

3.       What do you like best about your area of expertise? What excites you and keeps you motivated? It gives me immense satisfaction to know that I am contributing in my own way towards helping nature and doing something good for humanity. The projects are always unique and pose a different challenge depending on the end objective and stakeholders. It requires lots of communication and organization to accomplish projects and these skills are part of my expertise.

4.       What do you like to do when you aren’t working? I watch movies, listen to music, and I am very good player of a video game called Need for Speed Hot Pursuit on Sony Playstation. I have friends all over the world that come together on weekends and we have gaming fun online on the weekends. I like sports and play tennis.

5.       Where in the world would you like to travel next?  China – I want to see the Great Wall and learn about their culture and customs.

Lindsay Pearsall, Director of Human Resources

Lindsay Pearsall

Lindsay Pearsall

1.       Where are you from? If you’re not from the Pacific Northwest, what brought you here? I grew up in Montana splitting my time between the capital and the eastern farmland. I spent endless hours camping, attending rodeos, fishing, hunting, and farming. I moved to Seattle to experience true city life, experience professional sports, and get away from the miserably cold, brutal winters. I love Seattle, but I would be happy just about anywhere if the ocean is nearby.

2.       What inspired/led you to pursue work in human resources? What made you curious about it? It happened organically, but ultimately started when I found myself in a training role and could help people quickly grow in their careers and ultimately gain promotions. It was incredibly full-filling and my career path just evolved from there into recruiting and now here at Aspect.

3.       What do you like best about your area of expertise? What excites you and keeps you motivated? I believe I offer a unique perspective coming from managing a recruiting agency. That role provided me the perspective of what it takes to run a successful business while leading and developing teams within a highly competitive market, both internally and with a client base. Hiring will always be exciting for me, but also working on programming that maximizes an individual’s potential to grow professionally is a lot of fun and rewarding. Simply stated, I’m motivated by connecting people, and seeing them succeed together.  

4.       What do you like to do when you aren’t working? When we are not planning our lives around my teenager’s soccer schedule, we spend any free minute possible in Long Beach, Washington. We love the area, the people, and the history. This year will be our 17th consecutive year visiting the Washington State Kite Festival there. I also have an affinity for colored vintage Pyrex and can’t pass up a thrift store or garage sale just in case there may be a treasure awaiting.

5.       Where in the world would you like to travel next? I think it will be Italy, but maybe Germany or Ireland. We traveled last year to London, Amsterdam, Brussels, and Paris and it’s very tempting to go back to any of those areas. Really, I’m just happy to explore any place new, nationally or internationally, it’s a full bucket list; seeing at least one new place a year is the goal. 

300 Spokane Residents Turn Out to Hear About Hirst Water Rights Decision

Aspect’s Dan Haller and Carl Einberger helped Spokane County (County) officials present on the relevance of the "Hirst" Decision to a packed public meeting on May 19th. Over 300 local residents showed up to hear the County and Aspect go over:

  • The context that led up to the Hirst decision, including some understanding of the evolving interpretations of Washington State water rights law;
  • The role of watershed planning and hydrogeology studies in the Little Spokane basin;
  • Why the County has been proactively planning to implement a water bank; and
  • How a water bank works.

As counties across the state continue to grapple with the implications of Hirst and what it means for property owners and developers in rural areas, Aspect expects public outreach efforts to continue to help guide the conversation over this evolving topic and legislation.