WILLIAMS, Ariz. — The never ending quest for a sustainable water supply in Williams took a positive turn as the city council accepted a Water Infrastructure Finance Authority (WIFA) Green Project grant that will assess the water operations at the city’s water and wastewater treatment plants.
The grant will be used to pay Hazen and Sawyer consultants to examine opportunities to reduce the loss of water from operations at the city’s water treatment plant and possibly reuse reclaimed water from the city’s wastewater treatment plant.
According to water consultant Pat Carpenter, the city loses 10,000 to 30,000 gallons per day of clean water at the water treatment plant because of back-washing. The back-washing is required to clean the carbon filters at the plant.
“The ultimate goal is to improve the efficiency of our water treatment plants,” said Williams City Manager Skylor Miller at the Jan. 12 city council meeting.
Miller said the project is two-fold. The first project is to evaluate the water treatment plant in hopes of improving efficiency and the second is to evaluate the wastewater treatment plant to see about the possibility of utilizing reclaimed water to benefit the city.
“What we’re looking to do instead of letting our effluent be used once, is seeing if there may be a way to keep it in our water shed and reuse it again,” Miller said.
Water recycling has proven to be effective and successful in creating a new and reliable water supply without compromising public health. Nonpotable reuse is a widely accepted practice that will continue to grow.
Recycled water can be used in a variety of ways. Many cities use it to water golf courses, parks, school yards and road medians. It can be used to fill lakes, enhance natural wetlands and fight fires. It can serve as irrigation for crops, commercial landscaping, and grazing animals. Energy producers have used it in cooling towers and manufacturers often use it in the production process. Reclaimed water is also used in paper mills, carpet dying, commercial toilets, dust control, construction mixing and artificial lakes.
Many states use reclaimed water to make snow at ski resorts. Arizona Snowbowl ski area in Flagstaff uses reclaimed water for its snowmaking operation.
Advances in wastewater treatment technology and health studies of indirect potable reuse have led many to predict that planned indirect potable reuse will soon become more common. Recycling waste and gray water requires far less energy than treating salt water using a desalination system.
Astronauts at the International Space Station are using water reclaiming systems, which allow them to conserve water and extend their time in space. In 2009, astronauts began using a system that was able to reclaim 75 percent of water from urine. The ECLSS Water Recycling System reclaims waste water from the Space Shuttle’s fuel cells, urine, oral hygiene and condensing humidity from the air.
The process of reclaiming wastewater for drinking water on the space station mimics the natural process of Mother Nature. On Earth, water that passes bodies is made fresh again by natural processes. Microbes in the soil break down the urine and convert it to a form that plants can absorb and use to build new plant tissue. The natural soil also acts as a physical filter as particles of clay attach to the nutrients in the urine, purifying the water.
Water eliminated by humans and animals also evaporates into the atmosphere and comes back to the Earth as fresh water, which is a natural form of distillation.
Astronauts report the final product tastes just like bottled water.
Miller did not say how the city could use reclaimed water, but said the study is the first step in looking for more options to preserve water.
“It (the effluent study) is a little more cutting edge with the state,” Miller said. “…there may be a way to keep it in our water shed and reuse it again. That will require quite a bit of improvement in our effluent quality, we’re talking about A-plus or better water. But these type of water reuse projects are becoming more popular, especially in areas that are really concerned about water conservation. Honestly, we’re potentially a guinea pig for the rest of the state.”
Council members are hopeful that, following the six to eight month study by Hazen and Sawyer, grants will be available to implement any suggestions found from the research.
WIFA is authorized to finance the construction, rehabilitation and/or improvement of drinking water, wastewater, wastewater reclamation, and other water quality facilities/projects. Generally, WIFA offers borrowers below market interest rates on loans. WIFA has financed loans most recently to the city of Williams for the Sweetwater Well.
WIFA also supplies grants and manages the Planning and Design Technical Assistance Program. The purpose of the program is to help prepare water and wastewater facilities for future infrastructure project construction.