Fresh Water: Agua Nueva Water Reclamation Facility

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Fresh Water: Agua Nueva Water Reclamation Facility

Issue 4 of 2014


The Pima County Regional Wastewater Reclamation Department (RWRD) is responsible for protecting public health, safety and the environment in Tucson, Ariz. In 2006, the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality feared that runoff into the Santa Cruz River would affect not only water in the river but groundwater in the surrounding area. As a result, they required the RWRD to meet stringent standards for the quality of any runoff by January 1, 2015. In response, RWRD embarked on the largest capital program in its history — a $720 million Regional Optimization Plan. In December 2010, CH2M HILL was selected to design, build and operate the new $172 million Agua Nueva Water Reclamation Facility.

CH2M HILL took complete responsibility for the project — everything from the initial concept through final design, permitting, construction and acceptance testing, to operations and maintenance for up to 20 years. It was a complex project with many requirements, of which water quality was only one. In addition to creating a water reclamation facility that produced water to a specific standard (or better), the team also needed to meet deadlines, coordinate with the rest of the Regional Optimization Plan, optimize capital and life-cycle costs and, at the end of construction, coordinate the shut-down of the old facility with bringing the new one online, all while planning to operate the facility in the future.

CH2M HILL, as the design-builder, achieved the best possible life-cycle solution, as a single-entity team dedicated to technical innovation across each process, involving everyone with a stake in the project throughout. Construction and operations experts contributed their knowledge; engineers and designers were brought in during construction and startup to contribute their expertise and ensure a smooth transition to the new facility. CH2M HILL also used a state-of-the-art water treatment process that should meet future — and more restrictive — requirements. The project was delivered eight months early and $77 million under budget, while exceeding performance requirements. In addition, the treatment process used in the facility cuts annual operating costs by $2 million. CH2M HILL also doubled the local small business enterprise participation goal and employed more of the facility operators than was required while maintaining a stellar safety record.

As a design-build project, cooperation was a major factor in its success. Jackson Jenkins, director, Pima County Regional Wastewater Reclamation Department says, “The Agua Nueva project was the first project in Pima County history that was built through a design-build-operate procurement method. CH2M HILL made this first-time experience a great success. Our positive relationship with them is seeing us through start-up challenges and we are looking forward to working with them in the years to come.”

Ken Shelor, P.E., served as project manager for the Agua Nueva facility (since retired) and he expressed his appreciation for the working relationship: “Pima County, with our consultants and attorneys, wrote the contract with the anticipation that there would be great cooperation. During our RFQ and RFP process we had placed a premium on firms and individual staff that had a record and experience in teamwork. We included measures in the contract like formal third-party partnering sessions, surveys and co-location to insure great cooperation. During the project, both leaders and staff from Pima County, our consultants at Greeley Hansen, HDR and Canney Engineering worked as one big team with our contractor, CH2M HILL and their subcontractors, Archer Western, McDade Woodcock, Sun Mechanical and others. We always trusted that all parties were focused on successful completion of a great project and would put that goal ahead of other considerations.”

The quality of the final project earned the Agua Nueva Water Reclamation Facility a 2014 National Award of Merit and a National Award of Excellence in the Water/Wastewater Category in addition to a National Award of Excellence in Process from DBIA. The Award of Excellence in Process recognizes “excellence in the implementation of the design-build process as it forms the foundation for how the project will be developed, procured and executed to strongly influence project results and achieve a successful outcome,” as stated in the 2014 DBIA Award Competition Requirements.

“The Agua Nueva Water Reclamation Facility is one of the best projects of my career,” says CH2M HILL Project Director Greg Fischer. “We all worked together to create a true partnership environment that will benefit Pima County for decades to come. I am especially proud of our project safety achievement, which is of paramount importance to our firm. For me personally, it was essential we send each and every person on the project home safely at night to their families. We completed this project in nearly one-million work hours without one lost time incident.”