The McPherson community was using about one-third of the water pulled from the aquifer, agriculture used another third and the CHS refinery nearby used the remaining third.
“When we saw that decline in the aquifer levels, we agreed that to be good stewards of natural resources, we needed to step up to the plate and see what we could do to reduce water use,” says Alan Burghart, senior process engineering specialist at the refinery.
One of the first options evaluated was using secondary treated wastewater from the city. An agreement was reached to utilize the treated water, followed by design and construction of a new $60 million refinery water treatment plant.
A collection basin was installed at the city facility, along with a pipeline to transport the water to a 5 million-gallon tank at the refinery. In the summer of 2015, water began flowing from the tank through a series of filters and reverse osmosis systems to purify the water to the extremely high levels necessary for refinery heating and cooling processes.
“Now the refinery is pumping about 50 percent less water from the aquifer, and I believe we can get to 75 percent savings,” says Burghart. “We’re seeing the aquifer level increase again. That water will be available for the refinery, agriculture and the city of McPherson for many generations to come."