Interior and exterior of the KBH Desalination Plant

El Paso is home to the world's largest inland desalination plant. El Paso has vast brackish (salty) groundwater resources that were previously unusable. The Kay Bailey Hutchison (KBH) Desalination Plant filters out the salts and creates a new supply of water.

A joint project of El Paso Water and Fort Bliss, El Paso's desalination plant can produce up to 27.5 million gallons of fresh water daily. In addition to providing a fresh water supply, the plant provides other important benefits.

  • Desalination doubles as a comprehensive water treatment technology, removing salts along other potential pollutants.
  • The wells from which water is pumped for desalination are strategically placed to slow or prevent brackish water intrusion toward freshwater wells.
  • Desalination is a critical water strategy needed to enable growth of both El Paso and Fort Bliss.
  • The plant serves as a learning center for desalination research and a model for other inland cities facing diminishing supplies of fresh water.

Sixteen production wells and sixteen blend wells feed groundwater from the Hueco Bolson aquifer to the facility. Pretreatment includes sand strainers, cartridge filters and anti-scalant. There are five reverse osmosis trains, and each train is designed to produce 3 million gallons per day (MGD).

The concentrate is pumped to a surface injection facility and disposed via deep well injection into geological formations 22 miles northeast of the plant site.

During the original design and construction of the KBH plant, Fort Bliss and EPWater collaborated on various environmental assessments, including the 2004 Federal Environmental Impact Study to avoid or mitigate adverse environmental impacts.

To meet future water needs, El Paso Water plans to expand the plant in coming years to as much as 42 MGD.

Partnership with Critical Materials Corporation

El Paso Water has partnered with Critical Materials Corporation (CMC), which will recover minerals discharged in wastewater from the desalination plant. CMC will chemically separate the wastewater into high-purity, industrial-grade mineral products that are valued in commercial markets. The commodities could include:

  • Gypsum for agricultural use
  • HCI Solution for the oil and gas industry
  • NaOH Solution for the paper industry refineries

Water extracted from the process will be returned to El Paso Water and will increase water production at the KBH plant by more than 2 MGD at full capacity. The partnership also gives El Paso Water a more cost-effective option for disposal of the waste concentrate.

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