Frequently Asked Questions

  1. How does reclaimed water taste? Will our water be softer?
  2. Is this water safe? How are germs removed from reclaimed water?
  3. What about chemicals from pesticides and pharmaceuticals?
  4. Do other cities and water districts use reclaimed water?
  5. What happens if something goes wrong at the plant? What if a filter tears, or an ultraviolet light burns out?
  6. Does the proposed system produce any by-products?
  7. How much will this cost?
  8. Who will pay for the facilities?
  9. How soon will this happen?
  10. How can I learn more?

Question: How does reclaimed water taste? Will our water be softer?

Answer:

Reclaimed water generally tastes like bottled water. Because the water undergoes membrane filtration, reverse osmosis and ultraviolet oxidation, salts are removed. Reclaimed water will make up 10-30% of the water flowing into the municipal water treatment plant, so there will be less mineral content and you will experience improved water quality.


Question: Is this water safe? How are germs removed from reclaimed water?

Answer:

Reclaimed water treated by the system proposed by CRMWD is safe for all uses. This systemusing the same methods typically used to treat bottled waterpurifies water to drinking quality before it is blended with reservoir water and sent to the municipal water treatment plant for even further treatment. Three steps in water reclamation-membrane filtration, reverse osmosis and ultraviolet oxidationdisinfect the water, removing bacteria, viruses and protozoa. This triple treatment builds redundancy into the system, giving it an extra measure of safety


Question: What about chemicals from pesticides and pharmaceuticals?

Answer:

The reverse osmosis and ultraviolet oxidation steps in the proposed system will remove pesticides as well as germs from the water. The Environmental Protection Agency has begun studying contaminants called endocrine-disrupting compounds (measuring these contaminants was not possible until recent technology development), and we will meet or exceed whatever standards are developed. Conventional wastewater treatment, which occurs now at the municipal wastewater treatment plant, removes more than 90% of these compounds. The reverse osmosis and ultraviolet oxidation steps in the proposed system will remove 99% or more of these compounds. We will monitor research findings about endocrine-disrupting compounds as they develop. Right now, the proposed system features the treatments recognized as the best available technology by the EPA.


Question: Do other cities and water districts use reclaimed water?

Answer:

Many municipalities use reclaimed water for various purposes, and many more have begun development of water reclamation systems. Odessa already has an extensive system to provide reclaimed water for large-scale landscape irrigation and industrial purposes. Snyder also provides reclaimed water to a local college for irrigation. El Paso boasts one of the most advanced systems in Texas, with four reclamation plants.

Several utilities also have provided advanced treatment steps to produce drinking-quality water for blending with other supplies. At the Fred Hervey Water Reclamation Plant in El Paso, 577 million gallons of reclaimed water processed to drinking water quality were returned to the Hueco Bolson last year to replenish the citys aquifer system. Orange County, Californias Groundwater Replenishment System features the same kind of reverse-osmosis plan proposed for CRMWD. For more information about water reclamation systems in other areas, see www.CRMWD.org.


Question: What happens if something goes wrong at the plant? What if a filter tears, or an ultraviolet light burns out?

Answer:

The proposed water reclamation plant has safeguards built into each step of its operating system. There is a 24-hour monitoring system for each procedure, in addition to continual testing of water purity and output. Obviously, there will be maintenance activities when the plant is in operation, but the safeguards will prevent water that does not meet acceptable standards from entering our water system. Water quality monitoring reports must be submitted to the Texas Commission for Environmental Quality to meet regulatory requirements.


Question: Does the proposed system produce any by-products?

Answer:

Membrane filtration backwash and desalination concentrate are produced by the purification process. The membrane filtration backwash may be disposed of by recycling the backwash through a lagoon and sending the settled solids to the wastewater treatment plant. The desalination concentrate, produced by the reverse osmosis process, could be discharged into naturally occurring saline streams (like Beals Creek) or injected into deep wells, similar to excess water from oil production operations. Disposal of these by-products is an issue still to be determined, and you will hear more about disposal options during the preliminary design stage.


Question: How much will this cost?

Answer:

Estimates for the Big Spring project call for an initial investment of about $7.7 million, and about $500,000 per year for operating and maintenance costs. The overall projected cost per gallon is similar to the CRMWDs present cost to provide water. Water from the Odessa-Midland and Snyder projects would cost somewhat more per gallon, but still would be competitive with other alternatives for increasing the water supply.


Question: Who will pay for the facilities?

Answer:

If these projects are implemented, the current plan is for CRMWD to finance and construct the facilities. As with other District facilities, costs would be recovered through long-term sales of water to the member and customer cities. There also is a good potential for financial assistance from state and/or federal agencies, due to policy initiatives aimed at promoting water reclamation and desalination.


Question: How soon will this happen?

Answer:

The District is preparing to proceed with preliminary design of the three projects to determine the specifics for the new facilities, and refine cost estimates for the reclaimed water. The next step is expected to be a pilot test for each project, probably beginning in Big Spring. The pilot test uses portable equipment to confirm that the treatment processes operate as expected on the actual water produced by the wastewater treatment facility. This testing could begin early in 2006, and permanent facilities could be in operation by late 2007.


Question: How can I learn more?

Answer:

You may contact Chris Wingert, 432-267-6341, or email cwingert@crmwd.org.