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El Paso/Fort Bliss desalination facilities ribbon cutting Aug 31


The El Paso/Fort Bliss desalination facilities project officially begins at 11 a.m. on Aug. 31 in El Paso.

The $87 million project is a public-public partnership. El Paso Water Utilities will build, operate and maintain the facilities, which will begin operating in 2007. The plant will produce 27.5 million gallons per day of potable water, making it the world’s largest inland desalination plant.

The Hueco Bolson contains both fresh water and brackish groundwater. The fresh water supplies Fort Bliss, the cities of El Paso and Juárez, and a number of small communities in west Texas and southern New Mexico.

A large volume of brackish water exists adjacent to the freshwater zone of the Hueco Bolson. Operating the desalination plant will reduce withdrawals of fresh water from the aquifer and intercept the flow of brackish water toward existing wells.

The Army funded the Environmental Impact Statement and the deep-well injection study, which examined methods of concentrate disposal. (The concentrate is the residual that remains after the desalination process.) The Army is also leasing land to the Public Service Board for the facilities and will provide brackish water for blending when the plant goes on line.

To date, $26 million in federal grant funds, along with $1.0 million in no-interest bonds from the Texas Water Development Board, have been awarded for the project. A total of $48 million in water and sewer revenue bonds were issued to complete the funding.