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Lower Colorado Region
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Released On: March 31, 2011

Reclamation Completes Successful Pilot Run of the Yuma Desalting Plant
Yuma, AZ - An idled desalination plant demonstrated the potential to augment Lower Colorado River supplies during a pilot run over the past year, officials with the Bureau of Reclamation and cooperating water agencies announced today. Concluding ahead of schedule and under budget, Reclamation's Yuma Area Office successfully implemented the pilot run of the Yuma Desalting Plant (YDP).

In collaboration with The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, Central Arizona Water Conservation District and Southern Nevada Water Authority, Reclamation's Lower Colorado River Region this month completed a year-long operation of the YDP. In return for co-funding, the agencies received water credits in proportion to the water produced during the pilot run and each of their funding contributions.

Last spring Reclamation began operating the plant to gather cost and performance data needed to consider potential future operation of the plant. Reclamation and the sponsoring water agencies will review the results from the pilot run to evaluate the potential for long-term and sustained operation of the desalting plant.

"Throughout the operation, the YDP performed above expectations," said Lorri Gray-Lee, Regional Director of Reclamation's Lower Colorado Region. "The YDP recycled about 30,000 acre-feet of irrigation return flow water which was included in Colorado River water deliveries to Mexico. This resulted in the same amount of water conserved in Lake Mead and available to the sponsoring water agencies when needed in the future."

Over the entire pilot run, the plant operated effectively and efficiently with no substantial equipment problems or any accidents. With an acre-foot of water measuring 325,851 gallons of water, the pilot run produced approximately the amount of water used by about 116,000 people in a year.

"We're proud to have partnered with Reclamation in making this pilot run a reality," said Jeffrey Kightlinger, Metropolitan Water District general manager. "The run demonstrates innovative ways to increase water supplies as we and other Colorado River water users thoughtfully consider how to meet our long-term water supply needs."

With the Lower Colorado River Basin in the midst of an 11-year drought, David Modeer, general manager of the Central Arizona Water Conservation District said the agency was pleased with the outcome of the pilot run. "We are hopeful that Reclamation, in cooperation with interested water users and stakeholders, will use the cost and performance data gathered, along with the research and environmental monitoring information, to prepare plans for the long-term operation of the plant," said Mr. Modeer. "As demonstrated by the pilot operations, water recycling and conservation are important tools to stretch our precious Colorado River water supplies."

Patricia Mulroy, general manager of the Southern Nevada Water Authority, said, "Beyond what we've learned about the Yuma Desalting Plant, the pilot run also demonstrated how the federal government, water users, environmental groups, and our neighbors to the south in Mexico can find common ground and collectively craft solutions."

The pilot run was part of an international agreement between the U.S. and Mexico governments as well as environmental groups on both sides of the border. In addition to the pilot run, the pact calls for actions to monitor the Cienega de Santa Clara, a wetland in Mexico maintained by agricultural drainage.

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