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LED Lamps Secure Water Delivery Along the California Aqueduct

Posted 30-MAY-03

When burned out incandescent lamps threatened to disrupt the delivery of safe water to customers along the California Aqueduct, the Castaic Lake Pressure Control Structure replaced nearly 500 incandescent lamps in the facility’s control panels with Light Emitting Diode (LED) lamps from LEDtronics, a premier supplier of LED lighting solutions. LED lamps resolved not only the station’s lamping woes, but also reduced maintenance and energy costs to save thousands of dollars.

The California Aqueduct transports water over 400 miles from the Oroville Dam, located north of Sacramento, to the arid plains of Southern California. Care of this essential system rests with the Metropolitan Water District (MWD), a group of 26 cities and water districts that provides drinking water to nearly 17 million people in parts of Los Angeles, Orange, San Diego, Riverside, San Bernardino and Ventura counties.

The Castaic Lake Pressure Control Structure helps to maintain consistent water delivery along the line. Machinery and process controls within the facility feature lighted operator and indicator panels. At any given time as many as one third of the incandescent lamps were out, leaving operators in the dark about the status of critical processes.

With the urgency to take preventative measures before failed bulbs compromised the water supply, the Metropolitan Water District turned to LEDtronics for help. LEDtronics manufactures thousands of LED products ranging from discrete surface mount indicators to direct incandescent replacement LED lamps for such applications as traffic signals, panel indication, emergency lighting and decorative lighting.

LEDtronics sales representative Wayne Fischer visited the facility with a variety of LED lamps (part numbers FF200, SLF464, WF200 and BF321) to demonstrate their brightness, vivid color and performance. While fragile metal filaments and glass globes make incandescent lights vulnerable to damage from mechanical vibrations and electrical shocks, LEDs’ robust, solid-state construction withstands the harshest industrial conditions.

An LED is made from semiconductor materials, encased in a solid epoxy lens, that generate light at a specific wavelength when current is applied. LEDs come in visible (400 – 700 nanometers) and infrared (830 – 940 nanometers) wavelengths as well as white light. In fact, when white LED lamps were installed behind the milky-white lenses of annunciator panels, the appearance of the panels transformed from antique yellow to bright white to the delight of the facility’s operators.

Enthusiasm turned to hesitation when the MWD compared the price of the LED lamps with equivalent incandescent lamps. Fischer eased their concern by using the Energy Calculator available on the LEDtronics website ( to show that the investment would be returned within less than two months (0.14 years) from the savings resulting from reduced power consumption alone. Based on a quantity of 500 lamps, a 100,000-hour lamp life and an electric rate of $0.08kwh, LED lamps will save $98,200 ($1,100 per lamp) in power costs over the course of their operating lives. This comes out to an annual savings of $1,145 for 500 LED lamps. Total annual energy saved is 4774kwh per 500 lamps.

Up front incandescent lamps are inexpensive, a few dollars at the most. However, it’s the back end expenses like maintenance and labor that add up. Take for instance replacing failed bulbs: Depending on what it costs to pay a maintenance worker, even if it’s just for 15 minutes, that $0.50 incandescent lamp may cost thirty times that much! With an average 11-year operating life, LEDs last 30 – 50 times longer than any incandescent lamp.

Fueled by the success of relamping the Castaic Lake Pressure Control Structure, the MWD is incorporating LED lamps into its comprehensive energy management strategy. The MWD intends to retrofit six filtration plants, which each use 3000 lamps, in addition to three other pressure control structures. Installation of LED lamps improves the reliability of the water delivery infrastructure on which the people of Southern California depend. And, just importantly, the energy-efficiency and maintenance-free nature of LEDs helps to keep water affordable for revenue-strapped municipalities even as water supplies become scarcer and demand increases.

Publish Date: May 2003

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