Water + Design-Build
Partnering with Houston to Deliver the Nation’s Largest Progressive Design-Build Project
The Northeast Water Purification Plant (NEWPP) Expansion features Water Supply Innovation and Design-Build Collaboration
The city of Houston, Texas, in association with four regional water authorities, is expanding its Northeast water purification plant (NEWPP) from 80 million gallons per day (mgd) to 400 mgd, dramatically increasing its ability to support steady residential and commercial growth while reducing dependency on groundwater. The Houston Waterworks Team, a joint venture between CDM Smith and CH2M, is delivering this $1.2 billion project in partnership with the city and the four authorities. The NEWPP project is the largest progressive design-build project of its kind presently underway in the United States.
Leading Water Supply Innovation
As part of the expansion, the Houston Waterworks Team is designing and constructing a new raw water facility, including intake, pumping and conveyance to withdraw raw water from Lake Houston and deliver it about 1.5 miles away to the expanded NEWPP. The raw water from Lake Houston is challenging to treat because it is “flashy,” meaning the water quality characteristics vary widely due in part to the lake’s shallowness. During rain events, the turbidity, organics and alkalinity of the water change drastically. These changes make the water difficult to treat with a single treatment process alone. To address these challenges while meeting the city’s goals, the team is delivering significant water supply innovation.
“To help the city nimbly adapt to the variable raw water conditions, the team developed two basic recipes for water treatment, a wet-weather recipe and a dry-weather recipe, which the city can switch between as needed,” says Randy Rogers, CDM Smith senior vice president and the project’s engineering manager. “We are bringing to bear innovative treatment strategies like chlorine dioxide, ozonation and biological filtration, which have been proven at other Texas facilities using similar source waters. We are helping the city to deliver much larger production rates for its customers, and even given a broad range of raw water qualities, preserving high-quality finished water.”
Design-Build Collaboration is Driving Success
The project will be implemented in phases, with the first phase increasing the capacity of the NEWPP from the present 80 mgd to 160 mgd by 2021, and the second phase increasing the overall facility production capacity to 400 mgd by 2024. A key element of the team’s winning approach was the way it crafted the water treatment campus layout using a smaller footprint than originally anticipated by the city. The smaller footprint preserves space on the available property that will support additional facility growth as the Houston metropolitan area continues to thrive. But a smaller footprint doesn’t mean smaller results: the NEWPP expansion will more than quadruple the city’s ability to deliver water to its customers.
Achieving the city’s goals for rapid water supply growth with an ambitious schedule will require extensive collaboration between all players involved in the project, which made this project ideal for a progressive design-build approach. “We’re working together to make this effort successful,” says Rogers. “In our Collaboration Center, we have members of the Houston Waterworks Team, staff from the city of Houston and their advisors, representatives of the regional authorities and their advisors—all together under one roof. Every time we modify or progress the design, our constructors provide input and give us feedback on the cost and schedule impacts. Our experts are constantly trading ideas and finding ways to improve the design. Working with each other and with the city, we can deliver all the benefits of design-build and make the city’s vision a reality.”