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Desert Water Project Wins Rookie of the Year Award

The Ak-Chin Indian Community in Arizona’s Santa Cruz Valley has a history that stretches back centuries. But these days, the Community is both thriving and strikingly young, with many members under the age of 21. Add to that the presence of a successful casino and an active farming community that tills more than 70 percent of the land within the 22,000-acre tribal boundaries and it’s clear that the water needs of this desert community will only grow.

It was with those pressures in mind that the community turned to GE’s ZeeWeed 500 technology to provide up to 2.25 million gallons of drinking water per day to the community as well as Harrah’s Ak-Chin Casino. The resulting plant won the 2013 Water Project of the Year award from the AZ Water Association, a non-profit organization comprised of 2,700 water and wastewater professionals dedicated to preserving and enhancing Arizona’s water environment.

GE also provided its ZeeWeed technology for the community’s nearby membrane bioreactor water reclamation facility, which produces Arizona Class A+ effluent for water reuse and recharge, and won an international and multiple state awards. Both of the plants helped the community support the recent expansion of its casino/hotel and family entertainment center. The Ak-Chin project is one of nearly 1,000 plants worldwide that use GE’s ZeeWeed technology to produce superior quality water.

“For what this community has been doing economically, both of these plants have been key in their economic growth and expansion,” says Jayne Long, capital project manager for the Ak-Chin Indian Community.

In addition to driving economic growth, the technology is also helping keep the community’s environmental footprint small. For example, the water from the reclamation plant is reused in the community in a number of different ways, including for irrigation, fire hydrants and sprinklers, in a central cooling plant for the casino, and for watering the grounds. “All the reclaimed water from that facility is going out and being used,” Long says.

The ZeeWeed technology is also notably efficient, allowing the facility to utilize a smaller footprint than conventional plants and keeping energy and chemical usage low.

“Ak-Chin is definitely one of the more progressive communities when it comes to opportunities to re-use water, and to protect and preserve their water resources,” says Dave Sobeck, senior vice president of Carollo Engineers in Phoenix, which designed the two projects. “We enjoyed working with the Community to identify the most cost effective and flexible opportunities to produce high quality water for reuse throughout the area.”

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