Lab gets help in saving water

-A A +A

A project funded by the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) will provide the resources that will help Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) triple the lab’s capacity to save water.

The upgrade of LANL’s Sanitary Effluent Reclamation Facility (SERF), a $16.1 million project, meets a Department of Energy and NNSA requirement for recycling water and reducing the consumption of potable water use. The 4,350-square-foot facility treats effluent water from LANL’s sanitary sewer system and meets a standard equivalent to drinking water which is ultimately recycled for industrial reuse. Using treated sanitary effluent in the cooling towers reduces LANL’s use of potable water, derived from the regional aquifer, for such purposes.

“The upgrade of the SERF will allow LANL to save critical taxpayer dollars,” said Don Cook, NNSA’s Deputy Administrator for Defense Programs. “The is a clear example of how NNSA is improving the way we do business and ensuring that NNSA is committed to improving the infrastructure needed to meet the national nuclear security mission of protecting our country.”

Originally built in 2003 to test technology for treating sanitary effluent, SERF currently enables LANL to process up to 100,000 gallons of water a day. The expansion of SERF, a new project funded in fiscal year 2011, is under construction and will enable LANL to process up to 500,000 gallons a day.

The reprocessed water will be used in cooling towers at LANL’s supercomputing facilities and its power plant. Reprocessing of the water will result in savings up to 120 million gallons, enough for approximately 4,000 households, each year.

In addition to reducing the amount of water withdrawn from the regional aquifer, the SERF process is expected to allow LANL to meet the new National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit requirements, which go into effect next July.

The SERF expansion will allow LANL to reduce the number of permitted outfalls and reduce the cost of operating and maintaining cooling towers, in addition to extending their lifespan due to the low silica content of the SERF treated water.