• Capabilities: Water Supply and Treatment
  • Sectors: Water and Utilities

El Paso Advanced Water Purification Facility

El Paso, Texas, USA - Designing and conducting a nine-month pilot test of an Advanced Water Purification Facility to become the second true Direct Potable Reuse plant worldwide; purifying water to diversify the water supply for El Paso, Texas.

10

Million Gallons Per Day Recycled

9

Month Pilot Test

The City of El Paso, Texas is situated in an arid, desert region, sitting on the Rio Grande River that creates part of the border between the United States and Mexico. The river begins in the mountains of Colorado and flows through New Mexico before arriving in El Paso, with multiple water systems upstream also accessing the water source for both potable and agricultural uses.  The nearest reservoir on this stretch of the Rio Grande is the Elephant Butte reservoir, which is shared by Texas and New Mexico, with a significant portion of the water rights allocated to agricultural users for irrigation.  Since 2011, the reservoir has been nearly empty (at less than 10% capacity) and it is estimated that more than 20 years of above average flows from the mountains would be required to restore the reservoir to its full capacity.

Historically, El Paso has relied on a combination of groundwater and surface water from the Rio Grande to meet its potable water demand.  However, as population increases and the surface water supply remains unreliable, the City is committed to increasing the use of more sustainable supplies. Consequently, El Paso Water Utilities (EPWU) is developing a direct potable reuse (DPR) project to recycle 10 million gallons per day (MGD) of treated secondary clarifier wastewater effluent to supplement the City’s current drinking water supplies.  Unlike other potable reuse facilities in the United States, which return the drinking water to a treatment plant or blend with other raw water sources, EPWU’s Advanced Water Purification Facility (AWPF) will use a direct-to-distribution approach, with the purified water flowing directly into the drinking water distribution system.  Upon completion, the AWPF will be only the second true DPR plant worldwide. EPWU hired Arcadis to conduct a nine-month pilot test of this concept to obtain Texas Commission on Environmental Quality approval, and to establish design criteria for the full-scale facility.  The pilot plant was designed and constructed in the first quarter of 2015 and then was operated for 9 months. The pilot testing successfully demonstrated the selected technologies, including reverse osmosis (part of the desalination method), proving that highly purified water can be consistently produced by the AWPF. Thousands of water samples were analyzed at state-certified laboratories showing that the purified water meets and exceeds all primary and secondary drinking water standards. The purified water will further diversify EPWU’s water portfolio and make the city more resilient to the future reality of increased water scarcity.

This pioneering project not only provides a more sustainable source of water supply for the City of El Paso, but also paves the way for similar efforts around the world to sustainably address drought and climate change through alternate water sources.

Outcomes

10

Million Gallons Per Day Recycled

9

Month Pilot Test

Thousands

of water samples were analyzed at state-certified laboratories

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