Drought-Stricken Abilene, Texas Receives New Technology for Wastewater Reuse

GE's LEAPmbr system enables advanced treated wastewater to be sent directly into west Texas city's reservoir.

With chronic droughts and population growth reducing reservoir levels to 30 percent capacity in the West Texas city of Abilene, the city recently completed the installation of GE's LEAPmbr advanced wastewater treatment system as part of major upgrades to the Hamby Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP). Despite heavy rainfall that has eased conditions in recent weeks, civic leaders are continuing their efforts to prepare for water scarcity issues in the future.

The Hamby Wastewater and Reuse Project is the first part of a multi-phase drought response initiative aimed at addressing the city’s alarmingly low reservoir levels. By using GE's treatment solution coupled with a reverse osmosis system downstream, the Hamby WWTP now can discharge more than 7 million gallons of treated wastewater a day into Lake Fort Phantom Hill, the city's primary water supply reservoir, to protect the city from future drought conditions and increase clean water supplies for Abilene's residents and businesses.

"GE's experience delivering membrane bioreactor (MBR) systems, along with the simple installation of the LEAPmbr system, has allowed us to meet our compressed 14-month schedule and complete this successful project for the city of Abilene," said Scott Hibbs, P.E., president of the Texas-based civil, environmental and geotechnical engineering firm Enprotec/Hibbs & Todd, Inc., which oversaw the design and construction of the Hamby WWTP upgrades. "Because the LEAPmbr system is enabling the facility's treated water to meet stringent Texas Commission on Environmental Quality water quality standards, the plant can discharge its advanced treated water directly into the reservoir and immediately help to begin to boost the city's reservoir water levels."

The Abilene WWTP's upgrades were completed and commissioned in December 2014, just 14 months after GE received the order for its LEAPmbr system. By contrast, typical projects of this size normally take 24 to 30 months to complete.

For the project, GE's LEAPmbr package included the design and supply of the entire membrane filtration scope, along with several elements of the biological treatment process. The system's filtration performance meets state effluent requirements and provides top-quality water to ensure efficient performance of the downstream reverse osmosis treatment system. To help operators optimize asset performance and reduce costs, GE also will remotely monitor the Hamby WWTP via its InSight software, a cloud-based data management platform that is part of GE's Predictivity suite of software solutions.

"We are extremely pleased to showcase how quickly GE's LEAPmbr technology was installed to help the city of Abilene and how it can be used by other drought-stricken municipalities to treat and reuse more of their scarce water resources," said Yuvbir Singh, general manager, engineered systems—water and process technologies for GE Power & Water. "The investments made to upgrade the Hamby Wastewater Treatment Plant illustrate the role that our advanced water treatment solutions can play in enhancing the water security needs of millions of people."

The Abilene initiative comes as communities across the state of Texas seek to increase their infrastructure investments to address chronic drought conditions. According to the West Texas Water Partnership—a coalition of the cities of Abilene, San Angelo and Midland created to address their mutual long-term water needs—extreme drought conditions combined with a regional population explosion spurred by the West Texas oil boom have placed a severe strain on local water resources.

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