"That's another real testament to the planning aspect that went into it—to have the ability to allow one year for testing and selecting of processes and still meet the regulatory deadline," Williams says.

The facility ended up with two extra filtration processes. "You have coagulation and sedimentation membrane filtration, which are pretty standard, and then we have GAC [granular activated carbon] contractors and hair stripping, which are not typically found in a conventional water treatment plant."

From a process and engineering standpoint, several issues arose related to blending water sources.

"We found out that with low alkalinity surface water, depending on the blending ratio, the wastewater plants would not function properly," Williams says. "So we also had to go in and look at all the county's wastewater plants to make sure they could maintain their treatment processes. That's extremely unique. I've never heard of a situation where another engineering firm has looked into that and taken that into account through the development of a water plant."

Work began in August 2012 after about a year of preconstruction. "Our substantial completion date by contract will be January 1, 2015. So we are approximately 60% complete at this point," O'Donnell says. The team hopes to finish about 90 days ahead of schedule.

McCarthy came on board "basically at 0% drawings," O'Donnell says. "So we were able to maximize our influence during the preconstruction process."

SJRA also made an unusual move by hiring the plant manager very early in the project, "even though they didn't have a plant for him to operate or maintain," Williams says. "So we were able to get constructibility comments and input from the contractor and operations and maintainability input from the plant manager throughout the design, which is very rare.

"The partnership that we have is really fantastic; we are teammates and partners," O'Donnell adds.

The tight labor market has been a challenge during construction, given the booming Houston market. Recruiting, incentivizing and even relocating workers has helped fill voids for what would traditionally be a local labor force project.

"But we are over half a million man-hours in; we've had no lost-time incidents and an extremely low recordable incident rate job wide," O'Donnell says.