News Feature | October 14, 2015

El Paso Pursuing Nation's Largest DPR Program

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome,

El Paso is testing a new water purification system that would allow it to begin a direct potable reuse (DPR) program after years of using recycled wastewater to irrigate crops and public land.

Texas has led the way on DPR programs. Wichita Falls was among the first U.S. city to deliver recycled wastewater to residences. The city scaled back its program to make way for an indirect potable reuse program.

In El Paso, “recycled wastewater could provide a 10 million gallon boost, about 6 percent of the city's peak daily demand,” KRWG reported. Christina Montoya, marketing manager for El Paso Water Utilities, explained the new effort.

"Basically it's wastewater coming from homes, sinks, dishwashers, showers, toilets," she said, according to KRWG. "In our very hot summer months, when people are really running their air conditioners, that's when we get our highest water use. What happens is we come very close to not being able to meet that demand."

KRWG described how the program would look:

If approved by state regulators, El Paso’s project would be the largest in the country. Smaller Texas cities like Big Spring and Midland already have similar systems in place. At its small pilot plant, the El Paso Water Utility runs greywater through a four step process known as direct potable reuse. It involves microfiltration, reverse osmosis, UV exposure and carbon filtration. It’s a quick process that can put recycled water back into the drinking supply in a matter of hours, so constant monitoring is crucial.

Public acceptance of DPR, pilloried as “toilet to tap,” is one challenge to implementation, but it might not be insurmountable. “In both Big Spring and Wichita Falls, gaining community support for DPR wasn’t as difficult as some expected. Despite the ‘yuck factor’ often associated with water recycling, both communities were mostly supportive of the projects from the beginning. It was the dire drought conditions that convinced people that DPR was necessary,” Water Online previously reported, citing John Grant, the general manager for the Colorado River Municipal Water District.

For more DPR news, visit Water Online’s Water Reuse Solutions Center.