Norman IPR Pilot Project shows encouraging preliminary results

The Indirect Potable Reuse (IPR) pilot project at the City of Norman’s Water Reclamation Facility – a multi-year research initiative spearheaded in partnership with Garver and other agencies – has been completed with preliminary results showing very encouraging results that may point to a new, innovative way of producing safe drinking water for residents.

The project was approved to move forward by Norman City Council in February 2020 as a pilot program –the first in this region of the country – in order to evaluate various advanced treatment technologies also used for potable reuse systems around the nation. In essence, IPR is the blending of advanced treated, recycled or reclaimed water into a natural water source that could be used for drinking water after further treatment at a water treatment plant. Municipalities across the nation have implemented IPR systems, particularly in the Western United States where both groundwater aquifer regeneration and surface water IPR systems have been present for decades. In Norman’s case, wastewater received through Norman’s Water Reclamation Facility would be treated to Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) via advanced treatment technologies and potentially piped directly back into Lake Thunderbird – the City’s main water supply – to augment the lake and maintain water levels. The project would aid in water conservation and sustainability efforts, trimming the demand placed on Norman’s groundwater supply as well as the need to purchase water from Oklahoma City. Over-utilization of Lake Thunderbird, coupled with warnings of future droughts from climatologists, have sparked the need for creative solutions to ensure ample water supply for Norman’s future.

With the assistance of Garver, project engineers tapped into cutting-edge technology and science-based research to fully investigate and compare biological nutrient removal technologies, tertiary filtration technologies, ozone and biologically-active filtration (BAF), as well as ultraviolet-based advanced oxidation processes (AOP) during the project. These processes targeted the removal of nutrients and constituents of emerging concern (CECs). The program evaluated both demonstration-scale as well as trailer- and skid-mounted equipment over a 15-month period to test the efficiency and efficacy of the technologies using actual wastewater at the Water Reclamation Facility. 

“We are looking forward to receiving a full and detailed report regarding results in the Fall,” said Utilities Director Chris Mattingly. “We appreciate the coordination, cooperation and the support of partner agencies, Garver, and staff members that helped make this research project a success.”

The total project has come at a cost of approximately $3.4 million, paid for in part by the City of Norman; in part by a $700,000 grant received through the Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) Water Reclamation and Reuse Research grant; and in part by contributions from Garver and Walters-Morgan Contractors, Inc., project contractors. Norman is closely working with neighboring cities of Midwest City and Del City – municipalities sharing use of Lake Thunderbird – before any further steps are taken. This includes a Citizens Advisory Committee with representatives from the three cities to periodically visit the pilot facilities and review pilot results. The Citizens Advisory Committee has played a pivotal role in providing oversight and input to the pilot program and the City of Norman thanks them for their service. Other key partnerships of this project include integral support from the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality (ODEQ), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the United States Geological Survey (USGS).

Click here to access additional information about the IPR project.