Water Shouldn't Only Be Used Once!

El Paso Water Utilities (EPWU), one of the nation's most progressive water agencies, has been delivering reclaimed water to the community since 1963. As a pioneer in water reclamation, EPWU has attained international recognition for its innovative and extensive use of recycled water. EPWU now operates one of the most extensive and advanced reclaimed water systems in Texas for industrial use and landscape irrigation.

All communities must treat their wastewater to a certain level prior to disposal. After treatment, many utilities or districts simply dispose of their effluent in a river, stream or ocean. EPWU's philosophy is that water is too valuable to be used only once. Located in a desert, EPWU made a decision many years ago to think of reclaimed water as a valuable resource rather than a byproduct that needs to be disposed of.

Every gallon of reclaimed water used to irrigate crops and landscapes or for construction or manufacturing is one gallon of potable water that is saved and does not have to be pumped from our aquifers or treated from the Rio Grande.

Wastewater within the EPWU service area is collected and treated at one of four EPWU wastewater reclamation plants using advanced secondary or tertiary treatment. The result is high water quality that earned EPWU the reputation of operating the first wastewater treatment plant in the world to meet drinking water standards for its reclaimed water. The other three plants meet the highest possible quality rating of Type I reclaimed water as described in Texas state regulations and monitored by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ).

Who Can Use Reclaimed Water?
Reclaimed water use has been proven safe for the following types of applications throughout the U.S. and is approved for use by TCEQ.

  • City Parks
  • School Playgrounds and Sport Fields
  • Landscape Nurseries
  • Sports Complexes
  • Golf Courses
  • Street Median Landscaping
  • Construction Projects
  • Street Sweeping
  • Fire Protection
  • Residential Landscape
  • Apartment Landscape
  • Industrial Cooling Towers
  • Industrial Processes

EPWU supplies golf courses, city parks, school grounds, apartment landscapes, construction, and industrial sites with over 5.83 million gallons per day of reclaimed water. Reclaimed water is also used for the operation of treatment plants (in-plant use) and to recharge the Hueco Bolson through injection wells and infiltration basins.

Present Projects
One current project under construction is the Northwest Reclaimed Water Project. This multi-phase project provides over 520 million gallons of reclaimed water per year through 26 miles of pipeline to various locations in northwest El Paso. A fully automated dispensing station operates continuously to provide uninterrupted service to contractors and others for construction, street sweeping, etc. The project value is $23 million paid for by grants from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, the Texas Water Development Board and through City of El Paso Water and Sewer revenue bonds from EPWU. Additional extensions are now in service to serve new schools, parks, and commercial properties in the Resler and Helen of Troy/transmountain area.

Phase I of the Central Reclaimed Water Project was completed in 2003 and provides reclaimed water service to 3 schools, parks, Evergreen Cemetery, Ascarate Golf Course, and the El Paso Zoo for irrigation. The first phase of this project provides reclaimed water through 19,200 linear feet of pipeline to various locations in Central El Paso.

The second phase, IA, extends as far as areas just north of Interstate 10 and includes the historic Concordia Cemetery (a complex composed of 5 major cemeteries), 3 parks, a storm drain station, street parkways and medians. Phase IA incorporated two automated dispensing stations into the system to provide continuous service for construction activities. These stations dispense reclaimed water into water trucks for construction sites, street sweeping, car washing, and other non-potable uses. One station is adjacent to Ascarate Golf Course along Fonseca Drive and the other near the El Paso County Coliseum on Boone Street. The projects are valued at $13.4 million, which was funded through grants from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and through the City of El Paso Water and Sewer revenue bonds from EPWU and provides approximately 325 MG of reclaimed water per year.

North Central Reclaimed Water Project

Several subsequent phases are intended to serve the Fort Bliss military base and possibly other grounds. The North Central Project, as it is named, includes additional pumping and storage facilities, and associated transmission and distribution pipelines along Fort Bliss, City parks, and schools in the central/north central area of El Paso. The project began construction in 2010 and will continue through 2011 and will provide service to some customers adjacent to the pipeline.

The Mission Valley Reclaimed Water Project supplies water from the Roberto Bustamante Wastewater Treatment Plant to the Riverside International Industrial Center through 8,000 linear feet of pipe (Phase I). This project provides reclaimed water to the City Tree Farm located east of Loop 375 and north of Southside Road.

A thorough study completed in 2005 identified new customers within the area bounded by Interstate 10, Yarbrough Drive, Border Highway, and Americas Ave. Mission Valley Phase II commenced in 2006 and provides service to Mt. Carmel Cemetery. Del Valle High School and Blackie Chesher-Zaragosa Parks, as well as a new elementary school will be served upon completion of Phases III and IV. Phases I and II currently save approximately 56 million gallons of potable water per year.

A recent project was built to serve a City of El Paso Regional Park in Northeast El Paso. Reclaimed water from the Northeast Reclaimed Water Project is used to irrigate ball fields, playgrounds and landscape. The park's first 16-acre phase was completed in 2005, with an approximate demand of 20 million gallons of reclaimed water on an annual basis and ultimately up to 72 million gallons annually after full buildup. Construction of this project consisted of installing approximately 2,200 linear feet of 12-inch and 4,150 linear feet of 16-inch purple pipe. The Fred Hervey Reclaimed Water Project saves approximately 1,225 million gallons of potable water. In addition, almost 500 million gallons of reclaimed water is returned to the Hueco Bolson for aquifer recovery through injection wells and infiltration basins.

For more information concerning the use of reclaimed water, future reclaimed water projects or issues concerning water recycling, contact: The Water Reclamation and Biosolids Management section of EPWU at (915) 594-5772 or e-mail the Water Reclamation and Biosolids Manager.