Annual releases from Elephant Butte Reservoir into the Rio Grande are a large part of our water supply, and the length of the season is dictated by the amount of seasonal snowmelt runoff received.
When the Rio Grande stopped flowing last fall, employees of the Jonathan Rogers Water Treatment Plant took advantage to do some major work to the four Archimedes screw pumps at the facility. Archimedean screw pumps? As in, Archimedes, the famous Greek inventor, engineer and physicist?
The screw pumps are indeed named for Archimedes, but there are accounts that date the technology back 1,000 years BC.
According to Greek historian Strabo, these Archimedean screws were used to irrigate the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. And now, 3,000 years later, El Paso Water uses them to move water at both the Jonathan Rogers Plant and the Fred Hervey Water Reclamation Plant.
According to Warren Marquette, Capital Projects Manager, each screw pump can move 22 million gallons of water per day from the Rio Grande up to the five settling ponds that supply the Jonathan Rogers plant.
“Each pump is 90” diameter, has two screws per shaft and is inclined at 38 degrees,” he said. “It is driven by a 125 horsepower motor and rotates at roughly 30 RPM. By far, these pumps deliver some of the highest volume of water for the power required to operate them.”
The maintenance, upkeep and recoating of these pumps during the months the Rio Grande is not flowing ensures maximum movement of water when it is released in spring and summer months.
“We replace the bearings on one of the screw pumps each season,” Marquette said. “The original gearboxes have all been replaced over the past three years. And there are plans to replace all four pumps and the entire lube system. The first one is on the way and should arrive in October.”
Although the Archimedes screws no longer provide water to the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, they will continue to provide safe, reliable water to El Pasoans for decades to come.