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CRMWD: Work on plant lags

September 17, 2012

As the race to bring alternative water sources online before local reservoirs go dry continues, officials with the Colorado River Municipal Water District say construction of a local reclamation facility is moving along slower than originally hoped.

John Grant, general manager for CRMWD, said the recent boom in the oilfield has made it difficult for the contractors working on the project to hire skilled laborers, a key ingredient for such a complex job.

“Most every business and agency in the Permian Basin is feeling the effects of the oilfield boom,” Grant said. “While it's certainly good for local economies, it has made it very difficult for contractors to hire skilled laborers. The contractors we have working on the Big Spring water reclamation plant have been feeling that same pinch. Some have even had to go as far as to bring in laborers from out of state to work on the project. It's slowed the work down quite a bit.”

The water reclamation facility — located in eastern Big Spring, near the municipal landfill — utilizes state-of-the-art technology allowing the water district to filter and re-use wastewater through membrane filtration, reverse osmosis and ultraviolet oxidation.

“We had originally planned for a substantial portion of the construction to be completed by September. Obviously, we're not going to make that date,” Grant said. “Right now, we've lost approximately 60 days on the project. And while we've had more rainy days recently than we've had in a long time, weather hasn't really played a role in the delays.”

While the additional water the plant will produce couldn't come at a better time — cities throughout the Permian Basin are being forced to reduce water consumption by large amounts — Grant said the water reclamation facility is only a small part of the overall answer.

“Cities like Midland, Odessa, Big Spring will sometimes use upwards of 72 million gallons a day during the summer months,” Grant said. “The water reclamation plant is only expected to produce 2 million gallons a day. So, it's easy to see this facility isn't an answer to the drought situation. However, it can still have a large impact. During the restricted deliveries, the city of Snyder has used, on average, 2 million gallons a day. So, this reclamation facility could actually provide water to a city like Snyder, by itself.”

Grant presented the project to the Big Spring City Council as part of a pilot program expected to cost approximately $7.7 million, as well as $500,000 annually in operating costs.

Reclaimed water is already being used in other West Texas cities, however. According to CRMWD officials, 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.

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