Bureau of Reclamation Banner

Evaluating the costs and benefits of treating locally impaired water supply sources versus importation of fresh water

Project ID: 9252
Principal Investigator: Katherine Guerra
Research Topic: Desalination and Water Treatment
Priority Area Assignments: 2014 (Advanced Water Treatment), 2015 (Advanced Water Treatment)
Funded Fiscal Years: 2014
Keywords: awt, cost, triple bottom line, water management

Research Question

When communities are evaluating a new supply of water, often there is a choice between a local supply that is impaired and a fresh source that requires importation. This project will investigate the drivers that influence which of these alternatives is selected for project implementation.

The research questions to be addressed by this project are the following:

1. For previous Reclamation activities, what were the key factors influencing the decision to treat locally impaired water sources versus importation of freshwater?

2. Can guidelines be developed, based on past Reclamation experience, to assist water resource managers with identifying cost effective applications of AWT for future activities?

Need and Benefit

Advanced water treatment technologies are often considered to be costly; however, due to the high cost of moving water from one location to another, traditional water supply approaches may also be costly. For example, a water treatment plant may be capable of treating a local brackish groundwater source at a fraction of the cost of a lengthy pipeline to deliver fresh water from miles away. At what pipeline length will treatment be cost competitive? Clearly the answer to this question is site-specific and depends on a number of factors. This research idea will provide a framework for how to answer such questions.

Case studies using the framework will identify economic drivers that determine the viability of advanced water treatment implementation and can be used to direct future research and establish research goals for the development of new treatment technologies.

Other components, which are relevant to the need and benefit of the proposed project are to develop cost and options for small communities to conduct advanced water treatment. Reclamation has much of the information already from past planning activities, design projects, and VE studies. Synthesizing this information will determine where Reclamation has gaps in technology and knowledge.

Additionally, the results of this project can be useful to other Reclamation programs such as the Rural Water Program and the Native American Affairs Technical Assistance Program.

Contributing Partners


Research Products

Presentation at conference or workshop involving Reclamation planning officers
Webinar at AWT Community of Practice
Report in Reclamation desalination report series documenting the findings of the research effort (one for FY14 and one for FY15)
Article for trade publication or magazine

This information was last updated on January 25, 2015
Contact the Research and Development Office with questions or comments about this page