file under: Water, United States, North America, Government, Membranes

Quenching a Desert Community's Thirst

Desalination Facilities Create Sustainable Water Supply for El Paso

In the arid southwestern United States, El Paso Water Utilities was challenged by limited freshwater resources. To create a sustainable drinking water supply, the utility formed a unique partnership with Fort Bliss Army Base, and implemented the 27.5-million-gallon-per-day (mgd) Kay Bailey Hutchison desalination facilities—North America’s largest desalination plant.

North America’s largest desalination system applies reverse osmosis membranes to treat brackish groundwater and uses deep-well injection for inland disposal of concentrate—delivering reliable, economical drinking water to a growing desert community.  

The $87 million, state-of-the-art project taps brackish groundwater beneath the desert floor. We uniquely applied and refined reverse osmosis membranes—a proven technology for coastal desalination—for this inland application. Fueled by solar energy, deep-well injection safely deposits 3-mgd of concentrate more than 3,500 feet below ground with no adverse environmental impacts.

Supported by this new drinking water supply, the Army increased personnel and operations at Fort Bliss, supporting military readiness and benefiting the local economy. This flagship project demonstrates a holistic water supply approach—integrating fresh groundwater, brackish groundwater and surface water to maximize limited supplies. It will serve as a model and center of learning for other communities that are looking for sustainable options to meet their long-term water needs.

Related Solutions

El Paso Water Utilities and U.S. Army/Fort Bliss

Membrane Technology Expert
Don Thompson