Elected officials and key community leaders today previewed a “first-of-its-kind” Advanced Water Purification Pilot Facility built by El Paso Water Utilities to meet the city’s water supply needs in the face of continuing drought in the Southwest.
“El Paso has faced drought cycles and challenges for decades, and Advanced Purification is a key strategy to ensure that El Paso has a drought-proof water supply that is not dependent on the Rio Grande,” said El Paso Water Utilities President and CEO John Balliew.
The pilot facility, co-located at the Roberto Bustamante Wastewater Treatment Plant, is designed to purify cleaned wastewater through a rigorous four-step process. The high quality, purified water would be added directly to the distribution system at the full-scale facility – making it the first of its kind in the country.
The full-scale facility will treat 10 million gallons a day, helping service approximately 36,000 homes. Production will help meet city water demand especially during the summer, high-water usage months.
“We used to think our treated wastewater was only fit for irrigation or industrial purposes,” said Bob Johnson, president of the national WateReuse Association. “We applaud the efforts of El Paso Water since this project is leading our industry to prove that technology is now capable of making used water usable again as a safe, reliable drinking water source.”
The purpose of the pilot facility is to test the purification process to work out any issues or challenges ahead of time, and send results to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) for approval. TCEQ will review the pilot facility data and other information before construction of the full-scale facility begins.
“Given the severe drought in California and throughout the West, all eyes will be on our pilot project here in El Paso as we put this technology to the test,” said Gilbert Trejo, El Paso Water Utilities chief technical officer. “Successful completion of the pilot testing could lead to a full-scale facility that will introduce an important sustainable water source for El Paso.”
El Paso Water Utilities has a history as a national and global first-mover in water reuse and technology innovations. In 1963, the Utility began reclaiming wastewater for industrial use and landscape irrigation. In 1985, the Utility began injecting reclaimed water underground to replenish the aquifer. And in 2007, the Utility opened the world’s largest inland desalination plant.
ARCADIS U.S., Inc. was contracted by El Paso Water Utilities to construct and operate the pilot facility.
A series of public tours of the facility will commence in early September. Tour times and details are available on the Utility’s website at epwu.org/purifiedwater.