Yuma desalination plant pilot run concluded successfully

The year-long pilot run of the revamped Yuma desalination plant on the Colorado river in the USA has ended in success, the Bureau of Reclamation announced on 1 April 2011.

The pilot run was concluded by Reclamation’s Yuma Area Office ahead of schedule and under budget.

In return for co-funding, collaborating agencies – Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, Central Arizona Water Conservation District and Southern Nevada Water Authority – received water credits in proportion to the water produced during the pilot run, operated by Reclamation’s Lower Colorado River Region, and each of their funding contributions.

Reclamation began operating the pilot run on 1 May 2010, to gather cost and performance data needed to consider potential future operation of the plant. The bureau and the sponsoring water agencies will review the results from the pilot run to evaluate the potential for long-term and sustained operation of the desalting plant.

“Throughout the operation, the YDP performed above expectations,” said Lorri Gray- Lee, Regional Director of Reclamation’s Lower Colorado Region. “The YDP recycled about 30,000 acre-feet (37 million m³) of irrigation return flow water which was included in Colorado River water deliveries to Mexico. This resulted in the same amount of water conserved in Lake Mead and available to the sponsoring water agencies when needed in the future.”

Over the entire pilot run, the plant operated effectively and efficiently with no substantial equipment problems or any accidents. With the Lower Colorado River Basin in the midst of an 11-year drought, David Modeer, general manager of the Central Arizona Water Conservation District, said the agency was pleased with the outcome of the pilot run.

“We are hopeful that Reclamation, in cooperation with interested water users and stakeholders, will use the cost and performance data gathered, along with the research and environmental monitoring information, to prepare plans for the long-term operation of the plant,” said Modeer. “As demonstrated by the pilot operations, water recycling and conservation are important tools to stretch our precious Colorado River water supplies.”

Patricia Mulroy, general manager of the Southern Nevada Water Authority, said, “Beyond what we’ve learned about the Yuma Desalting Plant, the pilot run also demonstrated how the federal government, water users, environmental groups, and our neighbors to the south in Mexico can find common ground and collectively craft solutions.”

The pilot run was part of an international agreement between the US and Mexico governments as well as environmental groups on both sides of the border. In addition to the pilot run, the pact calls for actions to monitor the Cienega de Santa Clara, a wetland in Mexico maintained by agricultural drainage.