UTEP Helps EPWU Save 49 Million Gallons of Water
January 20, 2015 | UNIVERSITY COMMUNICATIONS
Anthony Tarquin, Ph.D., professor of civil engineering at The University of Texas at El Paso, has received a grant from the Bureau of Reclamation and El Paso Water Utilities (EPWU) to design, build and install special water desalination systems at three Lower Valley well sites. The units will supply the city with an additional 150 acre feet of water per year — enough to sustain about 268 El Paso households.
"These units are for treating water that is normally thrown away," said Tarquin, whose patent-pending treatment system is known as the Concentrate Enhanced Recovery Reverse Osmosis (CERRO) process.
The three wells currently pump more than a million gallons of brackish water — water that is saltier than freshwater but less salty than seawater — out of the ground each day. Seventy-five percent of this water is desalinated and recovered for use, but because of limited technology, the remaining 25 percent — about 300,000 gallons of water per day — is left heavily concentrated with salt and must be disposed.
CERRO will be applied to the leftover salt concentrate to boost the percentage of water recovered. The process will save the city from disposing about 49 million gallons of water a year and lead to EPWU purchasing less water from El Paso County Water Improvement District #1, resulting in a savings of at least $42,000 a year.
"EPWU and UTEP professors have worked hand in hand optimizing the water and wastewater system operations for the past 25 years," said Fernando Rico, EPWU's chief operations manager. "EPWU is familiar with UTEP and the quality of work performed by the University; we learn from each other, resulting in a cutting edge utility."
The installation at the well sites is expected to begin this summer. If successful, the system will be considered for installation at all 11 El Paso wells and at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Desalination Plant. Implementation at the plant could provide the city with an additional 3,000 acre feet of water per year.
"We're reaching a point here in El Paso where every drop counts," said Guillermo Delgado, Ph.D., a postdoctoral researcher at UTEP who has conducted research on CERRO. "We need to become more efficient with our water and this project is a step in the right direction."