Water from the Agua Nueva secondary clarifier will be used in the WEST Center. (Photo: Gianna Biocca)
Water from the Agua Nueva secondary clarifier will be used in the WEST Center. (Photo: Gianna Biocca)

New WEST Center to Address Water Issues

The $5.5 million facility, built by Pima County, will bring together industry, government and academia for the development of new technologies.
Nov. 24, 2015
The WEST Center is part of the Pima County Water Campus. (Photo: Ian Pepper)
The WEST Center is part of the Pima County Water Campus. (Photo: Ian Pepper)

Leaders from the University of Arizona, Pima County and city of Tucson were on hand for the grand opening of the WEST (Water & Energy Sustainable Technology) Center — a new, state-of-the-art facility that will enable UA researchers, public officials and business leaders to work together in developing new technologies that will help communities deal with water scarcity and re-use.

The $5.5 million center, built by Pima County, represents an important partnership — among few in the nation — that brings together various stakeholders to help solve the issues of water and water usage. The center represents a working partnership involving Pima County, Tucson Water, numerous industrial partners and the UA. Researchers from the UA’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and College of Engineering will be working on site at the facility.

"WEST has established a unique public/private/academia partnership tackling the issue of water scarcity and the dwindling resources. This project brings the strength of UA research and pairs it with industry experience," said Kimberly Andrews Espy, senior vice president for research at UA. "By partnering, we can look at solving the problem together, collectively."

Located within Pima County’s new water reclamation facility, Agua Nueva, near Interstate 10 and West El Camino del Cerro, WEST also is adjacent to reclaimed water recharge basins and constructed wetlands, all of which are part of the water reclamation campus and play an important part in the research being conducted in WEST laboratories.

"Addressing high-quality water resource availability for our region is necessary to assure our community’s long-term viability, and Pima County’s investment in our wastewater treatment facilities is a major step in that direction," said John Bernal, deputy county administrator for Pima County. "WEST will bring together public- and private-sector capabilities to explore improved methods for further securing our water future."

With about 25 percent of the U.S. currently affected by drought, the WEST Center is poised to answer some of the nation’s biggest questions about sustainable water and energy use. Research at the new facility also may lead to new technology regarding the re-use of potable wastewater.

"The WEST Center will target the water-energy nexus by ensuring a supply of safe drinking water to meet community needs for the foreseeable future, while meeting sustainable energy requirements," said Ian Pepper, co-director at WEST and a UA professor of soil, water and environmental science.

"In addition, the WEST Center aspires to not only become a global leader in new water and energy technologies but also focus on creating additional jobs and economic development in the region, while simultaneously providing advanced educational and training opportunities," said Shane Snyder, co-director at WEST and a UA professor of chemical and environmental engineering.

By finding ways to better society while also promoting economic growth in Arizona, WEST Center research also fits the UA’s Never Settle strategic plan.

"The UA has a long-standing history as a leading academic institution in the multifaceted study of water," Espy said. "The WEST Center advances our standing by providing state-of-the-art facilities that enable our faculty and partners to develop and demonstrate the technologies necessary for water security."