Can You Imagine a Day Without Water?

by Balfour Beatty

October 21, 2021

Water is an essential resource that fuels our everyday lives. Each time we flush a toilet, wash our hands or take a shower, there are vital systems operating 24/7 that preserve, treat and deliver quality water to residents across the US. Could you imagine what life would be like without clean water and the systems that deliver it to our faucets? 

On October 21, Balfour Beatty recognizes Imagine a Day Without Water, a national campaign that aims to educate and raise awareness about the importance of water infrastructure to environmental, economic, and public health. While most people living in the US have access to high-quality drinking water and wastewater services, more than two million people globally do not.

At Balfour Beatty, we believe in making sustainable choices that protect and enhance our communities. This includes creating water solutions that facilitate access to clean and safe water. 

While nature provides water, it takes a complex and highly specialized network of treatment plants, pipes, pumps, and equipment as well as industry experts to deliver clean water to homes and businesses, and then remove and treat wastewater so it can be safely reused or returned to the environment. 

We are proud to work in partnership with private and public entities to build and deliver systems that provide millions of Americans with clean water and environmentally safe wastewater.

Reducing the Dependency on Groundwater at the Houston Northeast Water Purification Plant

In partnership with the City of Houston, four regional water authorities, and the Houston Waterworks Team, Balfour Beatty is expanding the  Northeast Water Purification Plant (NEWPP) from 80 million gallons per day (mgd) to 400 mgd by 2024 as part of a plan to triple the plant’s output of fresh drinking water and reduce dependency on groundwater usage and subsidence.

Subsidence, or the gradual sinking of the Earth’s surface, can be caused by the withdrawal of groundwater and can result from flooding in established flood plan zones such as Northeast Houston, Texas. For that reason, regulations are put in place to limit the use of groundwater. 

By 2025, surface water must supply at least 60 percent of Northeast Houston’s water and 80 percent by 2035. The Northeast Water Purification Plant expansion is a critical part of this conversion from groundwater to surface water. 

How does this process work? 

A key component of this project includes the Intake Pump Station located approximately 900 feet from the Shore of Lake Houston, withdrawing water from the lake using two 108-inch pipes to deliver it to the NEWPP facility. 

The two pipes transmit the raw water to the head of the NEWPP Facility known as the North Plant, which Balfour Beatty is constructing. The water then undergoes various treatment processes to filter, disinfect and treat the alkalinity to ensure it is safe for drinking. Additionally, the water undergoes an oxidation process called ozonation to disinfect the water to eliminate harmful organisms, taste and odor-causing compounds, improving the aesthetic quality of the water. After completing the treatment process, the finished water is pumped from the ground storage tanks through a 102-inch finished water line to the NEWPP distribution system for use when needed. 

Treating and Recycling Water at the Sterling Natural Resource Center

In partnership with the East Valley Water District, Balfour Beatty is enhancing the regional water supply in San Bernardino, California by building a state-of-the-art facility, the  Sterling Natural Resource Center (SNRC). The facility will be capable of treating up to 10 million gallons a day (mgd), while recharging the local Bunker Hill Groundwater Basin. 

The water reclamation facility will produce recycled water for indirect potable reuse via groundwater augmentation. As wastewater enters the facility, the flow is screened to remove inorganic waste, sand or grit. It then undergoes a process to break down nitrogen and organics. After going through an Ultraviolet (UV) disinfection process to kill any remaining microorganisms, the recycled water is pumped through the water pipeline where it will spend at least 12 months in the groundwater basin before being pumped and treated for customer use. 

With a goal to make every source a resource, the SNRC team is also leveraging a co-digestion technology to transform 130,000 gallons per day of imported organic waste into 3 megawatts of renewable electricity – enough to power 1,950 homes. SNRC’s water reclamation facility will enable the District to create a drought-proof, locally controlled, and more affordable alternative potable supply to serve over 800,000 residents so they don’t have to live without water.

“SNRC provides so many sustainable benefits: it treats wastewater and transforms the water into recyclable water. The facility will also recharge the local groundwater basin and divert liquid food waste from the landfill to produce biogas. As a result, SNRC will generate electricity, offset carbon emissions, and will strive to achieve net zero by producing enough energy to run the plant,” explains Tom Murray, senior project manager for Balfour Beatty. “With programs to educate local youth and provide hands-on workforce training, SNRC is becoming a community space that inspires public pride and engagement.” 

At Balfour Beatty, our goal is to not only deliver outstanding projects but to also collaborate with our partners to provide sustainable solutions that shape thinking, enhance communities and build new futures. Join us on October 21 to imagine a day without water and appreciate the water infrastructure systems that collect, treat and deliver quality water we rely on daily.