Pima County’s Regional Wastewater Reclamation Department (RWRD) will be among four exemplary water and wastewater systems presenting at the national Urban Water Sustainability and Leadership Conference in Cincinnati, Ohio, on Oct. 16, 2012.
Jackson Jenkins, RWRD director, and Ed Curley, RWRD senior program manager, will join area experts to discuss the Regional Optimization Master Plan (ROMP), the largest public works project in Pima County history. “We have a very enlightened wastewater program in Pima County,” says Paul Green, executive director, Tucson Audubon Society, another panel member. “The idea of multiple uses for treated wastewater is quite rare.”
Pima County is developing and implementing the ROMP: a $660 million program to upgrade and expand the Ina Road Wastewater Reclamation Facility (WRF) and to replace the Roger Road WRF with a new state-of-the-art facility. These projects will improve the quality of the community’s reclaimed water for recharge and reuse. In addition to the treatment facility improvements, the ROMP also includes a now-operational, state-of-the-art water quality laboratory and a five-mile-long sewer interceptor that allows flexibility of flow management between the Ina Road and Roger Road facilities. Effluent discharges will continue to provide a riparian habitat and birding opportunities.
“Water is a regional issue and reclaimed water is of growing value in our community,” Jenkins says. “The ROMP will improve the quality of the community’s reclaimed water, making it an even more important piece of the community’s water portfolio. We have many local partners involved in the ROMP. Together, we are working proudly to transform RWRD’s treatment facilities into a water-centric focus area for the region, capitalizing on the natural beauty of the Santa Cruz River and the award-winning Tucson Sweetwater Wetlands.”
In Pima County and Tucson, different agencies have come together to provide multiple community benefits from the same resource – treated effluent. “Pima County is being recognized as a leader in wastewater plant renovation, for our innovation in rehabilitating older plants to a state of the art system, and cooperative water quality research with the University of Arizona,” says County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry. “The ROMP is ahead of schedule and will come in well under the original $720 million budget.”
In fact, the Water, Energy and Sustainability Center, which houses the lab and training center, is up and running. The Center features rainwater harvesting, and nearby solar panels generate power.
The Tucson Audubon Society has been working with Pima County to develop watchable wildlife sites at various treatment plants. “Studies have shown significant economic impact from tourists who come to the area to view wildlife,” says Green with the Audubon Society. Tucson’s Sweetwater Wetlands, an important habitat for breeding pairs in the spring and summer, also hosts northern species that migrate south in the winter. The Wetlands is featured in Audubon’s book Finding Birds in Southeast Arizona, and thus attracts birders from around the world.
Other members of the Pima County/Tucson panel include: Alan Forrest, director, Tucson Water; Shane Snyder, professor, UA Chemical and Environmental Engineering, and co-director, Arizona Laboratory for Emerging Contaminants; and Claire Zucker, Sustainable Environment Program director, Pima Association of Governments.
“This conference tackles the leadership questions, engages the regulators, and opens minds by presenting innovative approaches,” says Ben Grumbles, president of Clean Water America Alliance, who invited Pima County and Tucson to participate. “We will tackle the leadership questions, engage the regulators, and open minds by presenting innovative approaches.” Ben Grumbles is the former director of the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality.