Waste Not, Want Not

The Board of Water Supply’s Honouliuli Wastewater Facility is saving millions of gallons of drinking water and maybe making a little money in the process.

November, 2000

Sometimes when you live in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, you take a few things for granted—like fresh water. Even though we’re surrounded by endless ocean, it is easy to forget that less than one percent of the world’s water supply is actually available for human use.

But that often-forgotten fact isn’t lost on everyone. Earlier in July, The Board of Water Supply bought the Ewa-based Honouliuli Wastewater Facility from USFilter Operating Services. The $48.1 million plant produces recycled water (R-1) for landscape irrigation, and a second type, reverse osmosis water (RO) for industrial purposes.

“By using recycled water for irrigation and industrial purposes, we free up drinking water for humans,” says Erwin M. Kawata, Board of Water Supply’s water quality laboratory director. If the plant produces its maximum capacity of 12 million gallons per day (mgd) of recycled water, it will be saving roughly 3 mgd of drinking water in the process.

“Water is a very limited resource,” says Board of Water Supply Manager and Chief Engineer Clifford S. Jamile. “As a state, we could run into problems in 15 to 20 years…and so substitute waters always make sense.”

The Honouliuli facility diverts that wastewater through the plant, where it is re-purified and disinfected through a series of stringent filtration processes. Yet although the water is completely disinfected, virus-free, and safe for handling, Jamile stresses, “It is not designed for drinking.”

Instead the processed water is sold to a variety of customers. At $1.15 to $1.23 per 1,000 gallons, R-1 water is used by golf courses, parks, and agricultural fields. (In comparison, potable drinking water costs island residents $1.77 per 1,000 gallons.) The facility has the capacity to pump out 10 mgd of R-1 water, and the Board of Water Supply has already committed four to five mgd of water to a variety of clients, including two nearby municipal golf courses: Ewa Villages and West Loch.

Charges for RO water run a hefty $4 to $5 per 1,000 gallons because of additional refinement needed for industrial use. “The reverse-osmosis process extracts all of the minerals out that bake on the inside of high temperature boilers,” says Jamile. “It’s cheaper for some industrial plants to purchase ours rather than to treat their own water.”

At least four companies in Campbell Industrial Park are prepared to find out whether that’s true or not. This month, the Wastewater Facility will have completed its final series of regulation and compliance tests and will begin to pump out a combined 2 mgd of RO water to the Kalaeloa and AES Hawaii Inc. co-generation plants, as well as Chevron’s and Tesoro’s oil refineries. These deals assure that the Wastewater Facility will at least break even, most likely it will turn a small profit. (According to Jamile, to break even the facility must sell at least 50 percent of its 2 mgd production capacity of RO water.) But, according to Jamile, saving water, not making money, is the primary mission of the facility.

“It’s good for the community because we will be helping to save a precious resource: potable water,” says Cheveron Hawaii Public Affairs Manager Albert Chee. “That opportunity is key to our interest in this project because it allows us to fulfill one of our corporate missions, which is to conserve natural resources.”


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Jacy L. Youn