Phoenix hopes to turn wastewater into drinking water by 2030

The city is moving forward with plans to build a new water treatment facility at the existing 19th Avenue plant
With Arizona getting less water from the Colorado River, the City of Phoenix has plans to build a new treatment plant to turn wastewater into drinking water.
Published: Apr. 14, 2023 at 8:11 AM MST|Updated: Apr. 14, 2023 at 8:34 AM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) — The City of Phoenix has a new goal when it comes to our water supply: it wants to recycle wastewater so you and your family can drink it. City water officials say the used water would be treated up to state and federal standards so it would be safe and just as clean, if not cleaner, than our tap water now.

However, it would take years to make this a reality and there are several regulatory hurdles to cross. It’s just one solution being brought to the table in the face of Arizona’s ongoing drought and potentially deeper cuts to our Colorado River water supply.

The Phoenix City Council recently voted to move forward with plans to build this new facility that may be able to produce up to 60 million gallons of water a day, according to Troy Hayes, the director of the city of Phoenix Water Services Department. Mayor Kate Gallego brought it up during her State of the City address this week. “I know you all understand the urgency, too,” she says, in part. “Many of your companies have set ambitious water conservation and restoration goals. We will continue to bring new ideas to the table to be good partners.”

The purification facility will be a collaboration between Phoenix, other Valley cities and water departments that will also use the water.

And what’s next? Hayes says a study will happen over the next few months to see how that collaboration may work. The new equipment will be built at an existing city treatment facility on 91st Avenue, near the Salt River, Hayes says. The construction would cost billions, so getting the financials together would be the next step with help from the state and federal governments.

Hayes adds that the design and construction could take about five or six years. The goal is for the facility to be up and running by 2030. He says without the upgrade, the water would be treated but not for drinking and then sent into the Salt River.

In terms of the treatment process, the rules are being worked on right now. Conceptually the process will include a number of different levels of filtration, including ozone, ultrafiltration and reverse osmosis, according to Hayes.

“It’s important because it’s adding an additional water resource that’s currently just being distributed to the river,” Hayes says. “So it’s putting our resources back into beneficial use to shore up the supplies that are potentially being threatened with the issues on the Colorado River. And it’s a supply that doesn’t necessarily go away, right.”