In the desert, water is a particularly precious commodity. While Western and the Bureau of Reclamation use this valuable resource to create and market power, that is only part of the “water” story. The water in the southwest supports recreation, farming crops, natural habitats and drinking water. Yet, the continued drought—coupled with increasing population—has created an even greater need to find more water. In May, an effort to supplement the Southwest fresh water resources, Reclamation ramped up its Yuma Desalting Plant.
As part of the Yuma Desalting Plant Pilot Run, Western worked with Reclamation to purchase power to run the plant.
Set to operate 365 days within an 18-month period, the desalted water is returned to the Colorado River system, while the rejected, salty brine is used to drive the energy recovery turbines at the clearwell pumping plant before flowing to the Santa Clara Marsh, also called the Cienega de Santa Clara.
Providing power and fresh water since May, the plant has operated safely and reliably every day, giving it a 100 percent on-stream factor—the ratio of operating days to calendar days. Plant Manager Michael Norris added, “The plant has recovered 5,555 acre-feet of water (more than 1.8 billion gallons) as of June 30.” This water has been included in water deliveries to Mexico; therefore, the same amount of water has not been released from Lake Mead and remains available for use in the United States. This not only helps the Southwest, but also Mexico. The United States, Mexico and a bi-national coalition of non-governmental organizations have committed to arrange the conveyance of 10,000 acre-feet of water each to the Cienega de Santa Clara, a fragile marshland at the Gulf of California, in Mexico.
“The Pilot Run is conducted on two parallel tracks: preparing plant equipment and systems and performing compliance and consultation activities,” Norris said. Consultations included water users, environmental groups, the general public, other Federal agencies and Mexico.