Skip to main content Skip to main content

Improving Process Water Efficiency Using High Efficiency Reverse Osmosis (HERO)

Malynda Aragon, Sandia National Laboratories


Sandia National Laboratories is located in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Albuquerque's dry climate and increasing population is creating an ever-increasing stress on its aquifer. Sandia, along with Kirtland Air Force Base (KAFB) and the city of Albuquerque, has agreed to decrease its water consumption by 30% by the year 2004. Sandia's water conservation successes thus far have included increasing the cycles of concentration at cooling towers, site wide water metering, building metering, and identifying and removing once-through cooling. Sandia has incorporated several strategies at the Microelectronics Development Laboratory (MDL) that reduce its water consumption, such as reclaim water for cooling towers, scrubbers, and burn boxes, and the new High Efficiency Reverse Osmosis (HERO) system that will recycle used ultrapure water (UPW).

The Microsystems and Engineering Sciences Applications (MESA) Project at Sandia National Laboratories is composed of 377,000 square feet of new buildings that will be built over the next several years. Without process water improvements, water usage would increase by over 200 million gallons per year. Incorporating the HERO system for recycling of UPW, along with the increased use of reclaim water, will reduce the water consumption to around 100 million gallons per year.

Several lessons were learned during the design construction and commissioning of the HERO system and DI plant. Issues arose such as probe placement, programming errors and improvements, and operating procedures. Although it was a rough beginning, the DI plant shows promise to meet the goals of water efficiency and water quality.


The findings that I would like to present are as follows:

  1. Challenges encountered during the design of the new DI plant for the Microsystems and Engineering Sciences Applications (MESA) Project.
    a. "Selling" the idea of process water efficiency into the MESA project
    b. Incorporating the HERO process, including recycling of water from benches in the fab, into the DI Plant design
  2. How the design was finally achieved
    a. Design-build construction
    b. Commissioning plan
    c. Challenges encountered along the way
  3. Finally, a working system!
    a. Present comparison of DI water quality data from old system to new
    b. Present comparison of chemical, water (and electricity?) usage from old system to new
    c. The future
  4. Advice for potential users of process water efficiency technologies

Labs21 Connection:

Because process water consumption is a significant portion of the water used at Sandia, aggressive water conservation strategies are vital to the program. In the MESA project, the reduction of both the amount of water consumption (well water) and reducing the amount of water wasted to the drain, Sandia National Laboratories is helping to minimize the city of Albuquerque's impact to the ground water supply.

The goal of implementing the HERO process into the DI Plant was to decrease potential water consumption by almost 50% from current operating levels in 2001. This equates to a reduction of over 100 million gallons of water each year. Water consumption for the DI Plant, as well as the rest of Sandia National Laboratories is measured and recorded using on-site water meters that communicate with a main computer, which stores hourly consumption and total water use. Other metrics involved with this process will be the amount of chemicals used, electricity used, among others.


Malynda Aragon holds a B.S. in Chemical Engineering from the University of New Mexico and a M.S. in Chemical Engineering from the University of California at Davis. Ms. Aragon is the program manager for the water treatment and water conservation programs at Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Although relatively new to the field of water conservation, she has over four years experience with several water conservation projects. Since entering the field, Ms. Aragon has been involved in several projects including increasing cooling tower water efficiency, reclaim water usage in cooling towers, and most recently implementing the High Efficiency Reverse Osmosis (HERO) system.

EPA Home | OARM Home | DOE Home | FEMP Home

This page is no longer updated.
EPA gave I2SL permission to house this page as a historic record of the Labs21 Annual Conference.