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McAllen Public Utility receives $1.3 million grant to further reclaimed water project

McAllen Public Utility receives $1.3 million grant to further reclaimed water project
2 years 3 months 3 weeks ago Wednesday, March 23 2022 Mar 23, 2022 March 23, 2022 8:48 AM March 23, 2022 in News - Local

A drought resiliency project by the McAllen Public Utility was one of ten across the county to receive federal grant funding, leading the city to construct a $2.6 million reclaimed water tower at half the cost.

In total, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation approved $17.5 million in WaterSMART funding last week. McAllen ended up receiving $1,327,305 for their “Reuse Water Enhancement Project,” which “recycles” or reclaims water from the Tres Lagos community.

McAllen Public Utility General Manager Marco Vega said the department was already planning to budget for the project, but news of the grant being awarded to them means the money can be invested elsewhere.

“This just cut our capital improvement project by $1.3 million,” Vega said. “That's big for us. That's fantastic.”

The North Wastewater Treatment Plant (NWWTP) provides reclaimed water to both Calpine Energy for their cooling towers. Additionally, the plant has also provided reclaimed water to the Tres Lagos area — specifically residents’ sprinkler systems — for four years.

Vega, who hopes that reclaimed water might one day be able to irrigate homes, schools, hike and bike trails — and even the McAllen Convention Center — believes steps like these are important.

“As the Valley grows, we're going to have to provide all of that water for that population growth. Where does that come from?” Vega asked. “Right now, maybe 99 percent from the Rio Grande River for the Valley — there's a finite amount of water in that river, so we've got to start thinking of ways to utilize recycled water for irrigation… If we can recycle water and provide irrigation used for that in lieu of treated water, we will be way, way ahead.”

Vega estimates that construction and completion of the one-million-gallon elevated storage tank/tower will take 18 to 24 months. While the Tres Lagos subdivision currently contains about 300 homes, he said the tower would be able to sustain water for anywhere between 1,500 and 2,000 homes.

“This will provide that area — and hopefully maybe one day it won't just be Tres Lagos — but it will provide all of that area there with sufficient pressure and supply of recycled water for all their needs,” Vega said. “Our children, and our children's children will need that water resource for their children to go to schools, to go to work, to play — for a city to grow.

“We have to start utilizing our water in the best way that we know how. Recycling the water is one of the best ways that we know how to take advantage of that and be good stewards of that resource for future generations, and so that's why we are doing this."

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