Good Water Overcomes Bad Press for Texas Project

A water reuse project in Big Spring, Texas, gains public support and increases potable water availability.
Good Water Overcomes Bad Press for Texas Project
Secondary treated wastewater from the Big Spring treatment plant is pumped to a new facility that includes microfiltration, reverse osmosis and advanced oxidation.

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After a lot of fuss in the press, the system to recycle treated wastewater into the drinking water supply at Big Spring, Texas, is up and running successfully, with no complaints.

That’s the report from Cole Walker, assistant general manager of the Colorado River Municipal Water District — purveyor of water to a 36-county area of West Texas.

“I think overall, the response has been positive,” says Walker, despite negative news headlines back when the plant recycling the treated wastewater was brought online. “Water is scarce out here. It makes sense to use what’s available.”

Walker thinks most residents understand and accept the situation.

“We got a lot of attention, especially early on (as construction started),” says Walker. “At one of the meetings, a guy said he’d be able to drink his beer twice. But we’ve been very open and transparent. We host a lot of tours, ranging from community leaders to elementary school students. Once the plant was built and operating, we’ve gotten very little negative reaction.”

The system details
In the new system, secondary treated wastewater from the Big Spring treatment plant is pumped to a new facility that includes microfiltration, reverse osmosis and advanced oxidation — bringing it to drinking water standards. About 2 mgd of treated wastewater is purified in the process.

Then, the treated water is blended into the district’s raw water supply line. Water is drawn from Lake J.B. Thomas, the E.V. Spence Reservoir and the O.H. Ivie Reservoir, which together hold 1.3 million-acre feet. The district also operates four well fields. Delivered through some 600 miles of pipelines, the water makes up the total supply for member cities Big Spring, Snyder and Odessa, and also serves eight other cities. All of the communities have their own water treatment plants, which process the pipeline water.

Initially, the treated water is blended with surface water. Water is then further blended with other sources in the district’s system and delivered to the cities of Snyder, Big Spring, Stanton, Midland and Odessa. The new treatment plant began operating in April 2013, and reached essential completion last October, Walker says.

Resource planning
Walker says the new process was designed and built not necessarily as a response to droughts, which continue to plague this area.

“We were basically looking for new sources of water,” he says. “This is an arid region. A lot of our water sources are brackish. We’re producing better quality water (in the recycling process).”

The concept of using recycled wastewater to supplement drinking water supplies is not new, of course. Water suppliers in California, Texas, overseas in Singapore, and elsewhere, have been operating recycling systems for years, as other sources of raw water have become scarcer.

Recently, the city of Wichita Falls, Texas, submitted plans to state authorities to recycle treated wastewater for potable use.


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