@USBR awards nearly $1 million for water purification and #desalination pilot projects

Photo shows the Brackish Groundwater National Desalination Research Facility – BGNDRF, in Alamogordo, NM. Credit: Reclamation

Here’s the release from the Bureau of Reclamation (Marlon Duke):

Goals are to reduce costs, energy requirements, environmental impact for treating unusable water

The Bureau of Reclamation has awarded nearly $1 million for projects under an innovative pilot-scale water treatment technologies and desalination program. The selected projects will receive funding through cooperative agreements and will include a period of pilot testing at the Brackish Groundwater National Desalination Research Facility in Alamogordo, New Mexico, and other sites across the country.

On April 30, 2019, Reclamation announced that it was seeking applicants looking for innovative technologies for reducing the cost, energy requirements and environmental impacts for water purification and desalination technologies. Innovative and promising technologies would be supported to move from the theoretical stage towards a practical application.

“In June, we received 29 eligible applications for review that included $4 million in requests for federal funding. Top applicants were invited to pitch their pilot studies in August,” said Yuliana Porras-Mendoza, advanced water treatment research coordinator. “We awarded grants to seven projects focused on innovative and disruptive water treatment technologies ready for pilot testing to accelerate knowledge transfer and provide new products that serve the water treatment community and attract commercial interest.”

Funded Pilot Studies

Garver, LLC: Innovative electro-coagulation membrane pretreatment with vacuum-assisted electro-distillation concentrate management for cooling tower blowdown recovery
Project goal: improve water quality, reduce chemical consumption, reduce the potable water demand of a water treatment system and eliminate dissolved solids loading to the local sewershed.
State: Colorado

AdEdge Water Technologies: Innovative high recovery flow-reversal RO desalination process for potable reuse providing essential physical barrier with higher recovery rate & reduction in concentrate flow
Project goal: test a flow-reversal reverse osmosis technology with the purpose to introduce this technology to the US market.
State: Georgia

WIST, Inc: The first affordable, easy-to-use silica pretreatment solution: Pilot scale validation of SiSorb-Nano
Project goal: scale up and test a new resin for silica removal from water that is less expensive, more efficient, and environmentally friendly.
State: New York

Eastern Shore Microbes: H.E.A.T A biologically, sustainable solar powered system to eliminate RO concentrate in order to improve the water supply for inland communities
Project goal: test the ability for a selected group of microbes to enhance evaporation of reverse osmosis concentrate, potentially reducing the size of current evaporation ponds and increasing the rate of evaporation.
State: Virginia

University of Arizona: Electrochemically enhanced high efficiency reverse osmosis (EE-HERO) for brackish water treatment
Project goal: test an electrochemically enhanced high efficiency reverse osmosis process for treating brackish groundwater for potable use.
State: Arizona

University of Utah: Disruptive transport/sand filtration pretreatment system for uninterrupted desalination water supply during harmful algal blooms
Project goal: test an innovative system as a last defense during a harmful algal bloom (HAB) before it reaches water treatment systems that are severely impacted and, in some cases, not able to operate during a HAB event.
State: Utah

EcoVAP: Enhanced evaporation using biomimicry for brine concentrate disposal
Project goal: minimize the cost and environmental impact of inland desalination.
State: Utah

The funding provided supports the Presidential Memorandum on Promoting the Reliable Supply and Delivery of Water in the West, including the goal of improving use of technology to increase water reliability and enabling broader scale deployment of desalination and recycled water technologies.

Project descriptions are available at https://www.usbr.gov/research/dwpr.

Branson: Good luck, creativity, and persistence = success for local water treatment

Entering Branson from the south. By Jeffrey Beall – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=23339823

From The Colorado Sun (Kevin Simpson):

Faced with an inadequate filtration system and a $1.2 million estimate to fix it, the community of 55 people got creative. And it paid off.

For a while, it looked like tiny Branson, home to 55 souls in the southernmost part of the state, might almost literally dry up and blow away, becoming a footnote to history.

Not surprisingly in the arid West, water loomed as the culprit. Not that the town ever lacked abundance. Springs in the nearby hills quenched the locals’ thirst for generations. But when the state health department tightened groundwater safety regulations, then found Branson’s purification system out of compliance, the news threatened its very existence.

One engineering report put the cost of fixing the problem, which stemmed from E. coli detection and the determination that the spring water was subject to contamination by surface water, at $1.2 million. Even with loans to cover a new water system that would serve the existing 29 customers, the debt burden promised to crush Branson into the dust, even though locals note that no one has ever reported a water-borne illness.

So, just about a year later, how can the town be planning a celebration?

Last week, Branson learned that that it will receive a state grant that pushes its own unconventional efforts — including a crowdsourcing campaign to raise funds — over the finish line. Only a few bureaucratic hurdles remain before the town begins construction of a new filtration system it discovered through a company just a couple hours away in Rocky Ford. The new system will both satisfy health department standards for purity and cost a tiny fraction of the original estimate.

By embracing the narrative of the rural underdog and adopting an unrelenting bootstrap mentality, Branson found a way, starting last April when it created a web site and began its appeal for contributions from current and former area residents, as well as anyone sympathetic to the plight of diminishing rural towns.

And, as Mayor Rachel Snyder readily admits, a strong element of serendipity also figured into the equation.

The Colorado Department of Public Affairs grant used a point system to determine who would receive money, and Branson’s individual efforts and circumstances aligned to check off a lot of the boxes. Then there was the discovery of Jack Barker’s Innovative Water Technologies, the small company right up the highway that specializes in inexpensive but effective water purification systems, primarily for third-world countries.

Timing also played a significant role: If Branson had applied for the round of grant funding prior to Gov. Jared Polis taking office, it would have missed out on some significant additional savings.

It all added up to a stunning victory for the once-bustling railroad stop that has receded to a quiet outpost whose only bustling activity occurs in the four-day school that serves families in the wide-open rangeland tucked between picturesque mesas and the distant Spanish Peaks.

#ColoradoSprings is exploring solutions to blue-green algae blooms

Mechanism of operation of the SolarBee system. Graphic credit: Environmental Science & Engineering

From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Liz Henderson):

Warmer temperatures and higher nutrient levels in the water have led to more blue-green algae blooms, which are harmful to humans and potentially deadly to pets, said Erik Rodriguez a Health, Safety and Environmental specialist with the city. The daily temperature record in Colorado Springs has already been broken five times this year.

While the city struggles to find a fix, other Colorado towns have used environmentally-friendly machinery that helps aerate the water. Better circulation gives algae less chance to accumulate.

In the Green Ridge Glade Reservoir in Loveland, sit five SolarBee units — solar powered machines that float in the middle of the lake. They keep the water in the reservoir moving, disrupting the stagnant environment that blue-green algae likes, said SolarBee regional manager Dave Summerfield. Each unit costs about $40,000.

Since the units were installed two years ago, the 150-acre drinking water reservoir has been free of algae.

In the past, the popular method among water treatment agencies was to dump algicides such as copper sulfate into the water. But the solution wasn’t sustainable, said Summerfield.

The bacteria would slowly adapt to the sulfate, forcing maintenance to use more and more of it, racking up costs and dangerous toxin levels…

Rodriguez pointed out that several Colorado Springs lakes already have aeration features in them. Monument Valley Park ponds have a few aerators — devices that create small air bubbles to push the water around. Mary Kyer Park has a fountain in the middle that helps with circulation, he said.

Cyanobacteria, which causes the blue-green algae, thrives off nutrients in the water, specifically nitrogen and phosphorous. Nitrogen and phosphorous get into water in runoff from agriculture, fossil fuels, fertilizers, yard and pet waste, even soaps and detergents. The city’s recent warm weather and heavy thunderstorms haven’t helped, Rodriguez said.

Longmont suspends fluoride dosing until supply test results come in

The water treatment process

From The Longmont Times-Call (John Spina) via The Colorado Daily:

“We haven’t fluoridated for about a month,” said Bob Allen, the city’s director of operations public works and natural resources. “The water supply does have fluoride in it from natural sources, but it’s not fluoridated to the recommended 0.7mg/L level since we ran out.”

Without any added fluoride, Longmont naturally has a 0.2mg/L of fluoride in its water supply.

The effectiveness of adding a chemical like flouride to water systems has recently come under some scrutiny due to a higher use of fluoride by way of oral health products like toothpaste and mouth wash. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention even reduced the recommended level of fluoridation from 1.2 to 0.7mg/L in 2013, but that hasn’t swayed the Longmont City Council to change its policy.

“The benefits outweigh the negatives,” Mayor Brian Bagley said. “So there have been no discussions to stop fluoridation.”

Currently, the city pays roughly $40,000 a year for the chemicals as well as the labor to apply it to the water system.

Jim Kaufman, the city’s water treatment operations manager, said there is a steady supply of fluoride coming out of China, but in the past he has questioned its quality and is awaiting test results from Denver Water before he uses it in Longmont’s system.

‘Greywater’ Could Help Solve Colorado’s Water Problems. Why Aren’t We All Using It? — Colorado Public Radio

Graywater system schematic.

From Colorado Public Radio (Michael Elizabeth Sakas):

Colorado was the last Western state to legalize greywater usage in 2013. Officials say that by 2050, our water supply could fall short for over one million people. Climate change makes the future of Colorado water even more uncertain.

Colorado’s Water Plan wants to close the gap and recognizes greywater as one tool to help make that happen. However, not a single state-approved greywater system has been built since it was legalized. Only Denver, Castle Rock and Pitkin County have adopted the code, known as Regulation 86, that regulates how greywater gets done in the state.

Avery Ellis isn’t happy about that. He was closely involved when the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment set the rules.

“It takes a little civil disobedience and a little public support to push these laws into local adoption,” the greywater installer said.

In his yard in Longmont, there are young trees and shrubs that are watered through one of his greywater systems.

Longmont isn’t Denver or Castle Rock and it’s nowhere near Pitkin County. In addition to his water saving rebellion, Ellis teaches and helps others how to go greywater without a permit. Because so far, even in the places where it’s been adopted, no one has even applied for a greywater permit.

Not a single one.

In Colorado, only two types of greywater systems are legal. This first one is called “laundry to landscape.” The second is more complicated and costly. Wastewater from a shower or sink is collected in a storage tank and is used for the landscape or to flush toilets. There’s internal plumbing and the water needs to be filtered and treated and can’t be stored for more than 48 hours…

There’s been some interest in these water saving systems in Pitkin County, which adopted greywater in 2018, but environmental health manager Kurt Dahl thinks that “due to the complication of the regulation they didn’t see the benefit.”

[…]

The city of Castle Rock is the newest to adopt the state’s greywater rules, but only for new construction. Retrofitting an old home or building isn’t allowed. Mark Marlowe, the director of Castle Rock Water, cites cost as the contributing factor behind that decision…

That doesn’t mean it won’t ever happen, Marlowe said, but they don’t have the resources to allow just anyone to put in a greywater system.

And that’s why some cities and counties have chosen not to take on greywater at all. Douglas County said it would be too complicated and costly for the county to oversee. They also point to the potential for public health risks.

Boulder won’t either, at least right now. Joe Taddeucci, the city water resources manager, said they first need to study if adopting greywater is worth it. One major concern are water rights. Does the city have the OK to use greywater on lawns, instead of sending it back to the river for the next user downstream? How much water would actually be conserved? And what would it take to regulate this?

…One of the only examples of a large-scale greywater system in the state is a dorm at the University of Colorado Boulder. Williams Village North was built with plumbing that collects wastewater from showers and sinks to flush toilets. Since the city of Boulder hasn’t adopted greywater, the system operates under a research exemption.

“Testing for chlorine levels, alkaline levels. And greywater systems of this size and magnitude are still fairly new technology, and we do want to make sure that we understand it better before we implement in a new building.”

At peak use, when students are in school and the dorm is full, the system uses about 2,000 gallons of greywater a day to flush toilets. It’s an example of where some of the biggest year-round savings can happen.

Sybil Sharvelle, an associate engineering professor at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, has been involved in greywater research for nearly 20 years. She also advised the state on the rules and is disappointed to see all the growth and construction over the past 10 years has failed to include greywater.

Arkansas Valley Conduit update

From High Plains Public Radio (Abigail Beckman):

Chris Woodka is with the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District. He said part of the reason we’re seeing more water systems violate water standards is that federal and state standards have changed. They are now accounting for even more minute quantities of contaminants.

He said water from wells can be especially affected because, “shallow wells in the alluvial aquifer are high in organic contaminants, nitrate and selenium.”

“Deeper wells often have elevated levels of radioactive materials,” he said. “And nearly all of the communities east of Pueblo take water from wells.”

Some communities have responded by using water filters. Las Animas and La Junta have both installed large reverse osmosis membrane systems to remove contaminants from the water supply. Woodka said that has improved the taste and appearance.

But, he said, even after filtration, radium and uranium can still remain in the water at low levels.

And then there’s the cost.

“Those communities still face tremendous expense in disposing of the waste from the treatment processes,” Woodka said, “which can only be reduced by adding more clean water.” And extra water, let alone clean water, is hard to come by in a drought-prone state like Colorado. But there is one possible solution that’s been in the works for decades.

It’s called the Arkansas Valley Conduit.

Arkansas Valley Conduit Comanche North route via Reclamation

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation describes the conduit as a “bulk water supply pipeline designed to meet existing and future municipal and industrial water demands in the Lower Arkansas River Basin.”

It would include about 230 miles of buried pipeline, a water treatment facility, and water storage tanks. Water would be routed to six counties – Pueblo, Otero, Crowley, Bent, Kiowa and Prowers – and would serve an estimated 50,000 people.

The project was first approved in 1962. Some work was completed in the early 1980’s, but the actual conduit has yet to come to completion. Woodka said that’s mainly because of cost.

“[These] communities could never afford to build [the conduit] themselves.” Woodka explained.

Congress passed a law in 2009 that reduced the amount of money local governments would have to pitch in for the project. Woodka said that finally made the construction of the conduit feasible.

But it’s still a $500 million project.

“The main problem that we’ve run into,” said Woodka, ”has been getting adequate federal appropriations to start building it. He said they are working on ways to lower the overall costs of the project.”

Woodka said lawmakers at the state and national level have been “extremely active” in promoting this project on both sides of the political spectrum…

[Republican State Senator Larry Crowder] said the key now is for residents to get involved.

“We’re getting the cities involved, we’re getting the people in the cities involved to send letters to Senator Gardner, Senator Bennet and Congressmen Buck and Tipton,” he said, “to make sure that they are aware of how the people feel about it.”

Southern Utes approve hefty rate increase for water, wastewater users — The Durango Herald

Photo credit: Ute Camp in Garden of the Gods – Library of Congress

From The Durango Herald (Shannon Mullane):

The Southern Ute Indian Tribe Utilities Division will raise water and wastewater rates by more than 90% and 50%, respectively, starting Oct. 1.

The Southern Ute Utilities Division, administered by the Southern Ute Growth Fund, provides both treated drinking water and wastewater treatment for the tribal campus, local tribal members living near Ignacio and the town of Ignacio. Discussions of rates have caused a rift between the town and the tribe, said Mark Garcia, interim town manager. While the town and the tribe analyze their agreement, ratepayers are stuck paying ever-increasing water and wastewater utility rates.

“Wastewater and water rates are based on usage, and they’re going up,” Garcia said. Utility customers will be hit with the increase at different times, based on their level of use for water and/or wastewater. But for overall water and wastewater rates, “all levels of users will see probably an increase in their rates starting in 2020,” he said.

Starting Oct. 1, ratepayers will pay higher base rates for fewer correlating gallons of water. Water rates will increase from $32.80 per 8,000 gallons to $47.80 per 6,000 gallons, a 94% increase. The rates will jump again Oct. 1, 2020, to $62.80 per 6,000 gallons, a 156% increase over current rates, according to a July letter to Garcia from the tribe.

The town charges customers additional fees for billing, repairs and collections. Garcia said the town’s water fees will increase from $24.60 to $26.48 a month starting Jan. 1, 2020, a 6.4% increase.

Wastewater rates will also increase. Service users currently pay $72.09 per ERT, or Equivalent Residential Tap, per month. One ERT allows for 7,500 gallons of usage.

That billing system will change. The tribal utility will charge the town based on winter usage, not ERT. This shift will also make ratepayers pay more for fewer gallons. On Oct. 1, the rate will increase to $87.09 per 6,000 gallons, a 51% increase over current rates. Wastewater rates will jump again in 2020. Users will be charged $102.09 per 6,000 gallons, a 77% increase over current rates.

The town charges an additional $9.88 base rate to users for billing, repairs and collections.

According to Garcia, the average town customer uses 4,000 gallons of wastewater per month, so ratepayers are paying for more wastewater than they are using.

“With the new rates and winter flow basis, the rates that the tribe charges the town as a bulk customer will actually go down from the current bulk rate charged,” the tribe wrote in a June news release.