Cutter Lateral Reach 21 Water Treatment Plant: Finding Water in the Desert

Jacobs delivered the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s first water design-build project, which provides a reliable water supply and rejuvenates communities within the Navajo Nation.

Rendering of the Cutter Lateral Reach 21 Water Treatment Plant

Water, essential for life, is in short supply in the Four Corners region of the United States. Rapidly depleting and poor-quality groundwater sources are unable to meet current and future demand, resulting in over 40% of Navajo Nation households in the region relying on water hauling to meet their daily needs.

To address this critical resilience and environmental justice issue, Congress authorized $1.5 billion for the Navajo-Gallup Water Supply Project (NGWSP) – a large-scale regional water supply scheme that conveys a reliable water supply from the San Juan River to the eastern section of the Navajo Nation, the southwestern portion of the Jicarilla Apache Nation and the city of Gallup, New Mexico.

As a key part of this transformative project, The U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Reclamation awarded Jacobs the progressive design-build contract for the design and construction of the Cutter Lateral Reach 21 water treatment plant and related system facilities near Bloomfield, New Mexico.

This innovative plant will treat up to 5.4 million gallons per day of water at full capacity, providing a clean, long-term water source for the Navajo and Jicarilla Apache Nations communities along the Cutter Lateral component of the NGSWP. The project also includes a finished water pump station, 500,000-gallon regulating tank, 7,500 square foot operations and maintenance building and 21,400 feet of pipeline.

The Cutter Lateral Reach 21 project continues Jacobs’ more than 35-year history of partnering with the Bureau of Reclamation on water reuse and treatment projects across the country. It also represents the Bureau of Reclamation’s first water design-build project, which provided the agency with greater confidence that the project would be delivered on schedule and on budget by adopting a highly collaborative procurement model. While there were challenges with the remote location, the changing weather and the COVID-19 pandemic, the team worked more than 500,000 hours with zero lost time during construction. This project was critical to improving living conditions and combating COVID-19 now and in the future.

The team completed the project in 2020. In coordination with the overall NGWSP, it provides a water supply to meet the future population needs of approximately 250,000 people in these communities by 2040.

  • 40 %

    of Navajo Nation households relied on hauling water to meet daily needs

  • 7500

    square foot operation

  • 21400

    feet of pipeline

  • 5.4

    million gallons of water per day

Caring for our people

Cultural sensitivity was very important for the project and client. The project is located on Federal lands inside the Navajo Nation at the base of the Huerfano Mesa, a sacred and spiritual site for the Navajo people. Before the project earthwork began, a Navajo Nation Medicine Man blessed the entire area during a ceremony attended by representatives from the Navajo Nation, Bureau of Reclamation, Jacobs and other stakeholders. The Jacobs team worked with the Navajo Nation to introduce the ashes from the blessing ceremony into the Treated Water Pump Station subgrade under the bottom mat of the rebar before the first concrete placement.

This incredible partnership allowed the local stakeholders to commemorate and honor the cultural sensitivity of the area. We recognized the importance of hiring local, native-owned businesses and small businesses, including the Navajo Engineering & Construction Authority for pipeline and storage tank construction, Geomat, Inc. for geotechnical testing and liná bá, Inc. for surveying.

Cutter Lateral Reach 21 Water Treatment Plant

“The relationships our Jacobs team forged with our subcontractors and the business acumen demonstrated by our team with the client defined our initial project charter signed by all parties in 2018 through final completion in Spring 2021. This was especially significant, with this being the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s first-ever water/wastewater design-build project.”

Ted Michaelidis

Jacobs Project Manager

Award-winning design

This ground-breaking project has been honored with many awards including the following:

  • The Design Build Institute of America’s (DBIA) National Merit award in Water/Wastewater category.
  •  2021 Design-Build National Award of Excellence in the Water/Wastewater category
  • DBIA Chairman’s Award for Community Impact & Social Responsibility.
  • Project Merit: Climate Change Adaptation & Resilience from the Climate Change Business Journal for addressing critical adaptation, resilience and environmental justice issues.
  • 2022 Best Projects Award from Engineering News-Record in the Water/Environment category- ENR Southwest region.
  • 2022 Engineering News-Record 'Best of the Best': Water/Environment category

“Cutter Lateral Reach 21 was a unique project. It is through our close collaboration with our partners, the Navajo Nation and the Bureau of Reclamation, that we included local stakeholders and their cultural traditions, setting the project apart and reflecting our strong commitment to community engagement.”

Ron Williams

Ron Williams

Jacobs People & Places Solutions Americas Senior Vice President & General Manager