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Water Reuse Study E-Update - August 2006

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The Water Reuse Study team has created this "E-Update" to keep you up-to-date on Study activities and provide news about the recycled water industry. Each issue will be posted on this website. We are sending e-mail announcements of new issues to persons who have expressed an interest in the Study. If you did not receive an e-mail announcement and would like to, please join our news group. If you did receive an announcement about this issue, you are automatically in the news group.

If you are new to the Water Reuse Study, the Study Overview will provide helpful background information. The Frequently Asked Questions section contains additional material that may also be of interest.

Recycled Water Supplements a City of El Paso Drinking Water Aquifer

Since 1985, the City of El Paso, Texas, has been using recycled water to recharge an underground aquifer used for the city's drinking water. The recycled water is treated to drinking water standards at a water reclamation plant before it is injected into the aquifer. This indirect potable reuse project is a vital part of maintaining adequate water supplies for El Paso's future. The city is the fourth largest in Texas and has a population of 700,000.

Studies in the early 1980's identified that the Hueco Bolson aquifer, which was the primary source of drinking water for the city at that time, was being overdrawn and would run out of usable water supplies by 2025 if not replenished with water from another source. The city currently utilizes two aquifers for water supplies.

The Fred Hervey Water Reclamation Plant was constructed to beneficially reuse wastewater generated in the northeastern part of the city. Currently, the reclamation plant produces approximately 5.25 million gallons of recycled water per day. All of the water is treated to drinking water standards. Upon leaving the reclamation plant, the recycled water is distributed to specific city customers for irrigation and industrial use and the remainder is placed in the Hueco Bolson aquifer through ten injection wells that are 800 feet deep.

The high level recycled water stays in the aquifer for six years while it blends with other water present in the aquifer. In 2005, there were1,037 acre feet of recycled water injected into the aquifer. The amount of recycled water injected has been as high as nearly 5,000 acre feet (prior to 1995). Customer demand for irrigation and industrial use determines what amount is available for injection.

The El Paso Water Utilities refers to the Fred Hervey Reclamation Plant as "two plants in one," because the tertiary level recycled water is processed further with filtration, disinfection, etc. to meet drinking water standards. When water is withdrawn from the aquifer, it is disinfected with chlorine before distribution, but no other treatment is necessary before delivery to customers' taps. Water quality is monitored by the State of Texas.

The City of El Paso has 170,000 customer meters. Due to the potable water distribution system parameters, it is not possible to identify exactly which city customers are receiving water from the Hueco Bolson aquifer.

The Fred Hervey plant is one of the world's most advanced water recycling projects and has received thousands of visitors since it became operational in 1985. Many local students, environmentalists and private citizens also tour the facility, providing evidence that El Paso residents are comfortable with the concept of wastewater reuse.

Recycled Water Customer Focus - BD Biosciences

The City of San Diego has many well-known and innovative recycled water customers. However, there is currently only one customer that uses recycled water indoors - BD Biosciences, a segment of BD (Becton, Dickinson and Company). The bio-technology research and development business uses recycled water for toilet and urinal flushing in the eight employee and visitor restrooms in one of its two buildings. The water used in the restroom sinks in this building is potable.

BD Biosciences is located in the Torrey Mesa business park, north of the University of California, San Diego (UCSD). A second company building, in the nearby vicinity, uses recycled water to irrigate outdoor landscaping and in the cooling tower. This older building was retrofitted to accommodate the recycled water use. The landscaping is maintained by a management company, which handles several other buildings in the area.

When the newer building was constructed, it was built with interior recycled water use in mind. Before construction began, the building superintendent heard a presentation about recycled water and learned that recycled water was allowed for some interior uses in California. He worked diligently with the City of San Diego Water Department and recycled water regulators to get authorization to use recycled water for toilet and urinal flushing in the new facility. At that time, it was the first building in San Diego County to use recycled water indoors. The current building superintendent continues the company's focus on conservation and pride their innovative uses of recycled water. The facility has 150 employees. In fiscal year 2006, BD Biosciences used 3.67 acre feet of recycled water for interior and exterior use. An acre foot is 325,851gallons.

Recycled Water Annual Symposium

On September 10-13, 2006, the WateReuse Association, the Water Environment Federation, and the American Water Works Association will host the WateReuse Association's 21st Annual Symposium, in Hollywood, California. Topics presented by speakers and panelists include membrane technology to remove contaminants, desalination of groundwater and seawater, landscape irrigation techniques, community relations, distribution systems, and aquifer storage of recycled water.

Reclamation Plant Tours Continue in Popularity

The City's recycled water team has scheduled more tours of the North City Water Reclamation Plant for current and future recycled water customers this fall. August and September "behind the scenes" tour registrations are already full.

One group attending an upcoming tour is from the San Diego City School District. School district staff will get a closer look at how recycled water is produced and distributed during the tour. The school district currently has one high school using recycled water for outdoor irrigation. In 2007, a new middle school will use recycled water and that school's former campus will be converted to an elementary school and retrofitted for recycled water use outdoors. The water reclamation process at the North City Water Reclamation Plant can be seen on the City's website.

In the News

News Articles of Interest - a chronological compilation with links to articles, materials and information about recycled water and related topics. Recent additions include:

Be sure to visit these and other areas of our website

  • Speakers Bureau information - how to contact the Study team for a presentation, a list of completed presentations, and a downloadable flyer on the Speakers Bureau.