Water Conditioning & Purification Magazine

Case Study—The Sleeping Rainbow Ranch Environmental Research Station

By Greg Reyneke

Located in the Utah desert, Capitol Reef National Park is home to some 900 species of plants and more than 300 species of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish. It also includes some of the rarest geological formations in the world.

Nestled in the heart of this stark wilderness, the Sleeping Rainbow Ranch is a joint venture between the National Park Service and Utah Valley University. This multi-million dollar project is a showpiece of environmentally sensitive design and construction.

Frank Young, Director of Space Operations at Utah Valley University, ensured that the entire facility incorporated environmentally friendly ‘green’ technologies and LEED (Leadership in Environmental Efficiency and Design) building techniques. LEED credits are US Green Building Council rating measurements for the environmental effectiveness of construction. After a comprehensive water analysis, Young realized that while this location was pristine, the available well water certainly wasn’t.

Contaminants of particular concern were reported to be in the water (see Table 1). They needed to be properly addressed to meet compliance with US EPA and State of Utah primary drinking water standards.

The local plumber awarded the contract quickly realized that this wasn’t a project where he could use ‘something from the supply-house.’ Considering the delicate environmental location of this project, extreme water hardness and high water-conductivity levels, a traditional salt-based ion exchange softener was not a viable option for this project.

Due to the well pump being driven by intermittent solar power without a battery-backup, a variety of complex issues had to be considered. Others included irregular pressure and flow rates as well as the complete absence of well output at night.

‘Regular’ filtration was simply not viable. And I was fortunate enough to be selected to assist in the design and integration of an eco-friendly solution for this project.

The Park Service stipulated that no harmful chemicals could be discharged through the drainage system on site. So a specialized, low-pressure configuration was integrated with manual-cleaning protocol instead of a conventional high-pressurize system that incorporated automatic-cleaning functionality.

Technology overview

This water treatment system was integrated utilizing a hybrid approach to ensure maximum output water quality while minimizing maintenance and capital costs. The overall design emphasizes reliability, ease of use and maintenance.

The design water quality criteria for this project was simple: provide a quality of water compliant with US EPA and State of Utah primary drinking water standards (see Table 2).

Solution overview

The following steps of water processing were integrated:

Pre-treatment array (Figure 2)
•    Five gpm continuous flow at 10 psi minimum to 80 psi maximum
•    Pre-chlorination
    —    Simple split-stream calcium hypochlorite feeder
    —    No moving parts
•    Oxygenation
    —    Retention tank with food-grade oxygen concentration pump and flow-based air     injection control system
•    Macro-particulate filtration >100 micron nominal
    —    NSF-certified components
    —    Gross particle accumulation tank
    —    No moving parts
    —    Simple manual backwash to
    be  performed annually
•    Micro particulate filtration <100 micron nominal
    —    NSF-certified components
    —    Simple cartridge replacement protocol every six months
•    Template assisted crystallization (TAC) scale inhibition
    —    NSF-certified components
    —    DVGW-certified
    (Deutsche Vereinigung des Gas- und Wasserfaches e.V. –
    Technisch-wissenschaftlicher Verein. The German
    technical and scientific association for gas and water)
    —    Scale prevention media to be replaced every three years

Polishing array (Figure 3)
•    Two gpm max @ 80 psi (output flow rate declines at lower pressures)
•    Nanofiltration array
    —    NSF-certified components
    —    Specialized low-pressure compatible design
    —    Simple manual backwash (performed every six months)
    —    Chemical cleaning to be performed every six months
    —    Membrane replacement projected at three years

Water storage and pressurization
•    10,000-gallon (37,854 L) integrated water storage tank with electronic level control
•    High-efficiency pumps with battery backup

Equipment longevity and maintenance

The entire system was designed with ease-of-use and minimal manual maintenance intervention requirements. Primary infrastructure (tanks, oxygen pump, piping, pressure vessels and controls) was specified to have a projected MTBF (mean time between failures) of no less than five years, even with the extremely dirty water involved.

The maintenance schedule was simple:
•    Microfiltration cartridges to be replaced every six months;
•    Membrane elements have been integrated in such a manner and with an appropriate in-situ cleaning protocol that they shall have a projected MTBF of approximately three years when chemically cleaned every six months;
•    And, TAC media within the scale inhibitor shall be replaced every three years.

Summary and observations

Projects like this really excite me, as they should anyone in the industry, since we are making people’s lives better through the use of our trade. As many as 40 students will be living on site at this research station at any given time and this effort has substantially helped.
The untreated water certainly wasn’t suitable for human consumption or safe for the appliances, faucets and fixtures in the facility. This project-integrated nanofiltration clearly demonstrates that such technology is extremely versatile and robust when properly integrated.

About the author

Greg Reyneke, CWS-VI, is currently General Manager at Inter-mountain Soft Water in Lindon, UT, and serves on the WC&P Technical Review Committee. He also serves on the advisory board of the Smart Dealer Network, a non-profit trade association dedicated to helping independent water treatment dealers succeed in today’s changing world and reach their full potential.

About the system/product

Jared Anderson of Jared Anderson Plumbing in Ephraim, UT was awarded the plumbing contract. A ProSystems nanofiltration array and Pur-Gard chemical cleaner were specified.

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