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Direct Potable Reuse in Arizona, When Analysis Aids Creative Water Conservation Efforts

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By: Samantha Saultz, Eurofins Eaton Analytical

As a resident of the East Coast, limited availability of water rarely comes up in conversation.  Occasionally we have dry summers and the watering of lawns is not recommended, but we never really worry about our drinking water.  Most of the time, literally, we have water coming out of our ears.  Even in the hottest days of the summer, the air is thick with moisture, so much so, it’s hard to breathe. Welcome to Pennsylvania. Last week [May 1 - 4] however, I had the honor and privilege to travel to the West Coast to attend the Arizona Water Conference in Phoenix, AZ and my perspective on water availability and conservation changed. Phoenix, the 6th largest city in the US, is seeing the effects of Arizona’s population rapid increase.  Population growth, coupled with prolonged drought, has strained the already scarce water resources.  Accommodating population growth in a responsible manner has required the Southwest and Arizona in particular, to be a leader and innovator in water policy.

For Arizona, water management involves great effort and dedication, especially when dealing with growth, water scarcity and recognition of environmental water needs. The solutions are not easy.  It is estimated that forty-one percent of Arizona’s water supply is tied to the Colorado River.  Over three million acre-feet of Colorado River water is stored in anticipation of future water shortages.  Arizona’s recharge and recovery statutes and regulations on conservation are central to the health and well-being of the state, as well as continued efforts to reuse treated wastewater. Agriculture, municipal and industrial water users also do their part to participate in recharge programs, called the groundwater savings program. This program has conserved significant quantities of groundwater for future use.

Water managers, public officials, and stakeholders are not sitting idly by. Numerous collaborative efforts are underway. Arizona is working with six other Colorado River basin states to develop a shortage sharing agreement and is involved in additional efforts to supplement and grow future water supplies.  The combined effort of Arizona and other water partnering states makes them a champion environmental example to the rest of the country.  Water conservation and protection of one of our greatest resources should be on the forefront of all state environmental programs, with Arizona leading the way.

Water Innovation Challenge

So where does Eurofins Eaton Analytical’s involvement in the Arizona Water Conference enter the mix?  The purpose of my travels to the AZ Water Conference was to learn more about Eurofin’s involvement with the Water Innovation Challenge.  In 2016, an award was given to Pima County Southwest Water Campus by the Arizona Community Foundation called the New Arizona Prize.  The goal of the award was to come up with an idea that created and supported the idea of “Arizona of Tomorrow” which in turn, creates a long-term solution to a persistent need.

The Water Innovation Challenge: The solution to this persistent need was to prove the community acceptance of wastewater effluent treated by a multi-barrier treatment process to produce “high quality” drinking water and therefore pave the way for future considerations of Direct Potable Reuse (DPR).  DPR is defined as the use of recycled water being directly introduced into a potable water supply distribution.  Acceptance of DPR, to the general public, is a delicate process, especially when demonstrating successful protection of human health.

The project itself involved the design and construction of a mobile treatment plant that was able to reside inside a 40-by-8.5 foot trailer.  All the equipment was donated by supporting suppliers and the treatment plant was built by volunteer labor.  The treatment plant itself was built to produce up to 3 gallons per minute of purified water on a continuous basis.  The treatment involved ultra-filtration, reverse osmosis, ultraviolet disinfection with advanced oxidation, activated carbon filtration and chlorine disinfection.  Treated water was then sent to participating laboratories to analyze and certify that the water met EPA drinking water standards.

Eurofins Eaton Analytical was one of six laboratories that analyzed and reported over 240 compounds after the water was treated by the mobile treatment plant.  Sample coordination, quick analysis turnaround time and data evaluation and validation were all crucial to the approval and release of the purified water.  This was the first time in Arizona history that this DPR method of treatment was being allowed therefore the project had to successfully prove effectiveness to support future considerations of DPR.

The mobile treatment plant treated more than 80,000 gallons of recycled community wastewater, analyzed over 3,000 water samples and traveled more than 2,800 miles educating thousands on the technology used to create recycled water.  Some of the water was bottled as drinking water and a second portion was distributed to 26 Arizona craft beer brewers from Tucson, Yuma, Prescott, Flagstaff, Sedona, and the Phoenix area.  All of the brewers were challenged to create a beer and submit for a beer challenge.  The Pure Water Brew Challenge that was held on September 10, 2017 was an immediate success.  Participants were able to learn about the project and water reuse in Arizona, taste beer, ask questions and surveyed on their perception of DPR.

The Water Innovation Challenge was a success for all that were involved.  It was a model for collaboration on many levels, involving utilities, educators, industry and the community.  The project is a model to better inform Arizona residents about water issues, water reuse and new technologies to recycle and purify wastewater into safe drinking water resources.  It also serves a model to the rest of the county that innovation on a small idea can lead to a larger worldwide effort to protect our greatest resource – water.

References:

Arizona Department of Water Resources
Central Arizona Project
Arizona Water Banking Authority
Kachina Article - Sept 2017