Advanced Purified Water Treatment

Purified water is high-quality drinking water that is produced using the most advanced treatment processes available. These processes are approved by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.

Precipitation, evaporation and condensation are stages of the earth's water cycle. Water circulates continuously from the land to the atmosphere and back; it's used over and over again.

Cities mirror the water cycle by reusing nature's water. For example, river water is converted into drinking water so it can be used safely in homes and businesses. The used water flows through pipelines to wastewater facilities where it is cleaned and can be used again.

Cleaned wastewater is used for irrigation, industrial processes and environmental enhancement. The rest is returned to the river where it is taken and used again.

The Rio Grande begins in the mountains of Colorado. Its water is used for agricultural irrigation and industrial enterprises. For El Paso and communities along the river, it's a drinking water source.

Upstream communities, including Taos, Santa Fe, Albuquerque and Las Cruces, discharge cleaned wastewater into the river. EPWU cleans river water to meet regulatory standards. The process is closely monitored and the water is extensively tested before it's delivered to your home.

The used water cleaned at El Paso's wastewater plants is reused throughout the city. It's used for industrial cooling towers and wetland restoration. It irrigates golf courses, cemeteries and other large turf areas. Contractors use it for construction activities. In Northeast El Paso, it's cleaned to drinking water quality and used to replenish the Hueco Bolson aquifer, which is an important water source.

EPWU plans to send a portion of the cleaned wastewater directly to an advanced water purification facility rather than into the river for downstream users. Purified water will become a new source of drinking water to augment the water supply.

El Paso Water Utilities meets the challenge of serving a Chihuahuan Desert city by conserving water resources and diversifying the water supply. We balance water from the river and two underground aquifers and recycle cleaned water from our wastewater plants. But the population is growing and the river drought has continued. We need additional water resources to meet our customers' demands.

The Rio Grande is a key resource in El Paso's water supply portfolio. Our river water plants can produce 100 million gallons of water per day. When drought reduces river water, we pump more water from the aquifers. But the aquifers are not replenished quickly, and the water they contain is not infinite. Accelerated pumping is not sustainable for prolonged periods of time.

EPWU's 50-year water resources plan projects future populations and proposes strategies for meeting the deficit when the demand exceeds the supply. For example, EPWU will build a large reservoir to capture stormwater and excess river water. That water will be stored and used when the weather is hot and dry.

Other options include importing water from areas east of El Paso or imposing water restrictions that threaten economic development and affect quality of life.

Purified water is a sustainable, drought-proof resource. As the population increases, there will be more cleaned wastewater to purify. And building an advanced water purification facility is significantly less expensive than importing water from 75 miles away.

Advanced water purification makes sense for El Paso. We can reuse the water we already have.

Water cleaned at our wastewater facilities is reused for irrigation and industrial processes. But with today's technological advancements, we can take the next step. Water passes through several phases of membrane filtration and disinfection during advanced water purification. This multiple-stage treatment process transforms cleaned wastewater into a safe, reliable drinking water supply.

Membrane filters are hollow tubes perforated with microscopic pores. When high pressure pushes water through the pores, particles much smaller than a human hair are left behind. Membrane filtration is used in industries that require ultra-pure water such as medical and research institutions, bottling plants, semi-conductor manufacturers and the pharmaceutical industry.

Membrane filtration is also used in the water treatment industry. In fact, EPWU uses reverse osmosis membranes at its Kay Bailey Hutchison Desalination Plant. Reverse osmosis membranes remove salts from water along with bacteria, viruses, pharmaceuticals, personal care products and pesticides.

Water is monitored and tested after each phase of filtration and disinfection. Next, it is stored in a tank for final testing and disinfection before the distribution system delivers it to businesses and homes.

EPWU is testing advance water purification processes at a small-scale pilot plant in the Mission Valley. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) will review the pilot plant data and other information before construction of the full-scale plant begins.

The plant must meet water quality, safety and regulatory requirements before it is fully operational. An independent advisory panel has been assembled to guide us through the process. EPWU expects to begin delivering advanced purified water in 2019 or 2020.

El Paso's advanced water purification facility will produce up to 10 million gallons per day of water. Purified water is the highest quality drinking water produced.

How did you select the plant location?
The Roberto Bustamante Wastewater Treatment Plant in the Mission Valley is the only facility that can provide sufficient cleaned wastewater for purification. The water discharged from our other wastewater plants is obligated by existing contracts. The Bustamante plant is also located in the area where we would have the most trouble providing customers with water during a drought.

Who are the independent advisory panel members?
The members are health professionals, scientists and engineers with expertise in areas such as public health, risk assessment and treatment processes. The panel reviews and makes recommendations on regulations, plant design, pilot plant data and public outreach.

What does the Texas Commission on Environment Quality require for regulatory approval?
The commission will review and comment on the data from the pilot test and the full-scale plant design before EPWU begins construction. The equipment and processes will thoroughly be tested during the start-up phase of the full-scale plant. The equipment must perform to specifications and produce water that meets drinking water standards before the plant goes online.

What happens if tests indicate that the water is not safe?
The purification stops and the system shuts down if each process does not work as it should. The water does not continue to the next step. Purified water is held in a storage tank for final testing before being released to the public. The water is returned to the wastewater plant if there are water quality issues.

Who will receive water from the plant?
The Mission Valley, east and northeast El Paso neighborhoods will receive a blend of purified water and water from the river and the Hueco Bolson aquifer. No residents will receive 100 percent purified water.

What percentage of the water supply will be purified water?
The plant will produce up to 10 million gallons per day of purified water, which is 6 percent of the 165 million gallons of water El Pasoans use on a hot summer day.

Will my water bill increase?
EPWU needs additional water resources to serve the city's growing population and to meet customer demand for water when drought reduces river water flows. Your bill will increase because new sources of water will be more expensive than the current resources.

Is purified water produced from sewer water? Does the water go from "toilet to tap"?
The water purified at the advanced water purification facility does not come directly from toilets. It is cleaned wastewater that is the same quality or better than the river water treated at the downtown and Mission Valley water plants.

Is purified water better than other water?
Yes, the quality is slightly better than standard tap water, but all of our water meets drinking water standards and is safe to drink.

Will having this additional resource end the need to conserve water? Will the conservation ordinance be modified or rescinded?
Conservation will continue to be a key part of El Paso's water future. Adding purified water to the water resources portfolio will not affect the conservation ordinance.

How can I schedule a purified water presentation for my organization?
To schedule a speaker, call (915) 594-5680.

Helpful Links

A Sustainable Water Supply for El Paso (Video)
Advanced Water Purification Processes (Video)
Ensuring Water Quality (Video)
Our Water Cycle
Fred Hervey Plant
Orange County Groundwater Replenishment System
H2O Together
Have a glass of 'purified' water by David Crowder