New facility funds help lead way in reuse

New facility funds help lead way in reuse
Posted on 09/27/2022
EPWater President and CEO John Balliew said the Advanced Water Purification Facility will be the next iteration in the utility's water reuse system.

El Paso Water is on the verge of making groundbreaking strides in water reuse with its future Advanced Water Purification Facility.

At a joint news conference with the Department of Interior on Sept. 26, EPWater was recognized as an international water reuse leader with the announcement of $20 million in Bureau of Reclamation funding for its innovative facility. The Department of Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation oversees water resource management.

Tanya Trujillo, Assistant Secretary for Water and Science for the Department of the Interior, said the funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law is providing significant investments to make a difference in communities, such as El Paso, and across the nation.

“The Advanced Water Purification Facility will be one of the first direct-to-distribution potable reuse projects of its kind,” Trujillo said. “El Paso is an outstanding model for western communities in desalination, water reuse and overall efficiency.”

Water reuse journey

The future Advanced Water Purification Plant will transform treated wastewater from the nearby Roberto Bustamante Wastewater Treatment Plant.  The Advanced Water Purification Facility will transform treated wastewater from the Roberto Bustamante Wastewater Treatment Plant into fresh drinking water. Expected to produce up to 10 million gallons a day, the facility will take water reuse a step further and route purified water directly to the drinking water distribution system. For more than 35 years, EPWater has been treating wastewater to drinking water standards and recharging the Hueco Bolson aquifer.

The utility’s planning process spans 50 years into the future. Aside from an annual river water supply, the utility has built an innovative portfolio of water resources that includes desalination, water reuse and conservation.

EPWater President and CEO John Balliew called the Advanced Water Purification Facility the next iteration in the utility’s water reuse system in El Paso. EPWater’s reuse journey began in the 1960s when the utility began supplying Ascarate Park Golf Course with reclaimed water for irrigation, he said.

“The facility’s purified water is part of our water resources portfolio,” Balliew said. “It’s a drought-proof supply. We can treat it and make it available for our customers. For every gallon of this water that we produce, it’s a gallon less of river water or well water that we must produce.”

EPWater meets the daily challenge of serving a city in the Chihuahuan Desert with its diverse water supplies. As the population increases, there will be more treated wastewater to purify.

To ensure the removal of pathogens and viruses, treated wastewater is sent through multiple treatment steps, such as membrane filtration, reverse osmosis, ultraviolet disinfection with advanced oxidation and granular activated carbon filtration. This multistage process transforms treated wastewater into a safe, reliable drinking water supply.

EPWater pilot-tested the treatment processes in 2016 and successfully demonstrated to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality that advanced purification delivers high quality water. An independent advisory panel of health and water quality experts scrutinized the project and ultimately provided full support.

Innovation leader

 After the news conference, Kay Bailey Hutchison Desalination Plant Superintendent Art Ruiz offered a tour of the plant. WateReuse Association Executive Director Pat Sinicropi (at right) and Tanya Trujillo, Assistant Secretary for Water and Science for the Department of the Interior, asked questions.U.S. Rep. Veronica Escobar praised the utility’s groundbreaking work in El Paso. 

“It gives me so much joy to see this funding make a positive impact on our community,” Escobar said. “This money would not have made a difference were it not for the leadership of John Balliew and his team at El Paso Water, who have demonstrated innovation and groundbreaking creativity over the decades.”

Pat Sinicropi, Executive Director of the WateReuse Association, said the Advanced Water Purification Facility is sure to change the industry.

“This facility is the game changer in the nation’s efforts to secure safe and reliable water supply for ratepayers throughout the West and nationwide,” Sinicropi said. “It will provide 10 million gallons a day of water that is reliable, of the highest quality and, critically, one that is locally controlled.”

Construction of the facility, which is designed by Carollo Engineering, is scheduled to begin in late 2023, Balliew said.

The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law allocated $8.3 billion for Bureau of Reclamation water infrastructure projects. The funding announced is part of the $1 billion in WaterSMART Water Recycling and Reuse grants program.

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