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Tempe’s next steps to reopen its only water cleaning facility by 2025 - Energy And Water Development Corp

Tempe’s next steps to reopen its only water cleaning facility by 2025

Congress is poised to give Tempe millions to restart a facility that will clean a fifth of the city’s wastewater each day, a longstanding goal for local officials who said it’s now up to them to get the staff and extra cash needed to see the project through. 

The Kyrene Water Reclamation Facility went offline 12 years ago during the Great Recession, when Tempe couldn’t afford to keep it running despite being the city’s only wastewater cleaning plant. Its resurrection has been a priority for officials who need to find new water sources before the upcoming cutbacks on the Colorado River

The project is now within the city’s grasp as city officials expect to receive $37.5 million through the federal Water Resources Development Act, although the final bill still must be worked out. The plant would clean 4 million gallons each day and help with everything from landscaping to cooling equipment at a nearby power facility.

“This one is going to provide the taxpayers a lot of bang for their buck,” said U.S. Rep Greg Stanton, D-Ariz. “It’s a great day when Tempe can take a plant that’s been offline for 12 years, bring it back online and (have) such a positive impact on dealing with the drought.”

Stanton is up for reelection this year against Republican challenger Kelly Cooper. He announced Tempe’s new federal funding on Sept. 1, although a final version of the bill hasn’t yet been put together.

The U.S. Senate and House have both passed their own versions of the multi-billion-dollar bill, which also includes funding for a similar plant in Chandler to help the expansion of Intel’s new chip manufacturing facilities. 

Both versions include funding for Tempe’s water plant, so it’s unlikely that the city will get stiffed while lawmakers sort out a final version of the plan.

Once those dollars are secured, Tempe would still need to carry the project across the finish line before the 2025 construction deadline. 

The city estimates that the total cost of the project would be around $60 million, so officials will have to take on $22.5 million in bond debt to cover the remaining cost. Each of the bonds Tempe sells carries interest, so the city will pay back more than it borrows.

Staffers said they plan to cover the debt payments using water usage fees.

Tempe also would need at least 10 more workers to staff the facility. The roles are for highly skilled employees, like mechanics and electricians, and given the nationwide staffing shortage, it’s unclear how tricky it might be to secure those extra staffers. 

Still, Mayor Corey Woods remains confident that Tempe can get the job done, saying the city will have jumped its biggest hurdle once it secures the millions in federal dollars.

“If Congressman Stanton had not been able to secure this authorization, I guarantee you we would not be having this conversation right now,” the Tempe mayor said.

More for subscribers: How Tempe lost years of graffiti cleanup progress during the pandemic

Taxpayers get ‘a lot of bang for their buck’

Water cleaned at the Kyrene facility wouldn’t become drinking quality, but it could be used for things like landscaping so that drinking water isn’t wasted on grass. The plant would be able to process 20% of Tempe’s 20 million gallon wastewater flow each day, according to city staff. 

That’s enough to take care of landscaping needs at the city-run Ken McDonald Golf Course and help the nearby Kyrene Generating Station keep itself running without using fresh water. 

“We need to do a better job of recycling water if we’re going to best manage the drought conditions,” Stanton said. “We need to do things like stop watering golf courses with drinking water. This project will allow for that to happen.”

Some of the 4 million gallons of water cleaned each day at the Kyrene facility could also be injected into the local groundwater supply, where it would be naturally cleaned and serve as a backup supply of drinking water when Tempe needs it. 

Stanton said that time might be coming soon if the federal government starts placing stricter limitations on Colorado River water usage, something the congressman believes is an inevitability that should happen before “catastrophe” strikes the region’s main water source.

Dealing with drought: Arizona loses more of its Colorado River water allocation under new drought plan

Stanton expects projects like Kyrene would be counted towards Arizona’s cutbacks as the feds choose which of the seven states that draw from Colorado have to reduce their usage the most, meaning it could have a statewide benefit should worse come to worst. 

Reach Sam at Follow him on Twitter @KmackSam.

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