Florida County shows benefits of aggressive reclaim water program.
Programs to reclaim wastewater for reuse have been in effect for more than three decades, with treated wastewater widely used in many areas for irrigation, cooling water for industrial plants and various construction activities such as mixing concrete and other purposes.
Appropriate use of reclaimed wastewater depends on the level of treatment. Industrial and irrigation use of treated wastewater makes sense to the general populace, but proposals for using it as drinking water is questioned by many, although there are treatment facilities in operation that produce potable (drinkable) water.
"Water recycling has proven to be effective and successful in creating a new and reliable water supply without compromising public health," says the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). "Non-potable reuse is a widely accepted practice that will continue to grow."
In addition, the uses of recycled water are expanding to accommodate the needs of the environment and help meet growing water supply demands.
Wastewater reclamation programs are not restricted to large metropolitan areas. For example, the Clay County Utility Authority (CCUA) in Florida is a leading supplier of reclaimed in Northeast Florida. CCUA provides water, sanitary sewer and reclaimed water services within unincorporated areas of the county located southwest of Jacksonville.
"In 2014, we reclaimed more than 2.5 billion gallons of wastewater," said Tommy Eure, CCUA supervisor of locate and right-of-way maintenance services, keeping that many gallons of water containing waste and solids out of the St. John's River."
Of that total, Eure said, 1.4 billion gallons of reclaimed water was used for irrigation.
"For every gallon of reclaimed wastewater that is used, a gallon of potable water is saved," said Eure. "In addition, an average of about 200,000 gallons per day of reclaimed water is used by industrial customers for wash down and other purposes," he continued. "The excess not used--about 1.5 million gallons in 2014--is deposited in the St. John's River because the county has no reservoirs to hold reclaimed wastewater."
Florida state regulations set standards for reclaimed water to be used for irrigation or discharged into rivers. Changing the treatment process, Eure said, could make the reclaimed water meet criteria for drinking.
CCUA began reclamation operations in 1998 with one treatment plant. Customers bought into the idea, and today four plants are in operation. The reclaimed plants are adjacent to CCUA's conventional wastewater treatment plants. The most recently constructed reclaimed facility cost approximately $1.5 million to construct. Under normal flow rates, the process takes 24 to 36 hours to convert advanced treated wastewater to reclaimed water.
Reclaimed water is delivered through 164 miles of pipeline. Mains range from four to 20 inches in diameter, residential services are 3/4 inch, and commercial service pipe diameters range from one to 2 inches. Three major county golf courses use reclaimed water delivery through 6-inch connections. Each is supplied with water from a different reclamation plant. PVC pipe is used for mains and services.
CCUA customers currently receiving reclaimed wastewater include 11,983 residential accounts, 253 commercial customers and the three golf courses. Residential customers pay a monthly base fee of $15.48 and 60 cents per 1,000 gallons for the first 15,000 gallons, $1.19 per 1,000 gallons for the next 5,000 gallons and $1.79 per 1,000 gallons for usage greater than 20,000 gallons.
Commercial customers pay higher monthly base fees calculated on the size of meter used. There is also a bulk rate of 34 cents per 1,000 gallons for golf courses.
Reclaimed water customers are served through two meter connections: one for potable water and the other for reclaimed water. The system is designed so the two water supplies cannot be mixed.
To qualify for reclaimed water service, residential applicants must be operating a reclaimed irrigation system. "When someone builds or buys a house in a community with reclaimed water, a service representative goes to the location and confirms there is an irrigation system that is operating properly," said Eure. "If everything is in order, CCUA will conduct a cross connection inspection of the system. The inspection insures that the reclaimed water is not connected to the potable water system. Service connections are brought from the main to the source at the customer's property line.
The EPA recognizes that communities and businesses are working together to meet water resource needs locally in ways that expand resources, support the environment and strengthen the economy. It is EPA's expectation that as water energy demands and environmental needs grow, water recycling will play a greater role in the nation's overall water supply.
Residential customers without the benefit of reclaimed water for irrigation pay $1.37 per 1,000 gallons of water for the first 6,000 gallons, the next 6,000 gallons are $2.85 per 1,000 gallons, the next 6,000 gallons are $3.69 per 1,000 gallons and all usage of 18,000 gallons is billed at $4.74 per 1,000 gallons. Customers also pay a sewer usage charge of $3.37 per 1,000 gallons on water usage under 10,000 gallons per month. This translates to a minimum of $4.74 per 1,000 gallons of water in comparison to 60 cents per 1,000 gallons of reclaimed water.
FOR MORE INFO:
Day County Utility Authority (CCUA)
Clay County Utility Authority
Clay County, FL, southwest of Jacksonville and west of historic St. Augustine, is home to more than 192,000 people, many of whom commute to Jacksonville for work. The county contains 644 square miles, 39 square miles of it are water.
CCUA provides water, sanitary sewer and reclaimed water services for nearly 50,000 customers within unincorporated areas of the county. Operations are financed entirely by fees--no tax money is used.
In addition to the 164.5 miles of reclaimed water pipes, CCUA has 635.7 miles of water lines, 436.3 miles of gravity-flow sewer mains, 191.3 miles of sewer force mains and 164 miles of pipe that distributes reclaimed water to golf courses and for irrigation of lawns. CCUA constructs and maintains all main pipelines. Water service lines and sewer laterals from the main to the house or building are the responsibility of property owners.
by Jeff Griffin, Senior Editor