You water is not only essential for life but essential for the lifestyle we lead. In the U.S. water, besides being necessary for life, has become a fuel that we simply cannot live without. Reclaimed Irrigation Water in Florida Energy production, sanitation, heating and air conditioning, food production and a host of industrial processes are all made possible through water. We use more gallons of water in one day than we do oil in an entire year. With a small finite supply, how do we make this resource last for future generations? Forward-thinking communities have found a more efficient way to manage water resources by recycling. water. Water reclamation turns wastewater into a clean, reusable resource. Instead of using drinking water, reclaimed water can be used for the large majority of our water needs, especially in industrial settings and for both agricultural and landscape irrigation. By 2050 two-thirds of the U.S. will be affected by water scarcity. High water demand is creating unnecessary strain on our natural environment through resource depletion, high energy requirements and even watershed pollution. These factors, along with aging infrastructure, are causing the price of water to rise by nine percent annually. Water reclamation helps extend the life cycle of water, replacing our linear model with a partially closed-loop system.
As this is a sprinkler system blog, let’s talk about reclaimed water as it pertains specifically to lawn irrigation in Central Florida. Standardized across the U.S. water utilities, purple signifies reclaimed water. All pipes and equipment, including valve boxes, using reclaimed water must be purple or have purple markings to prevent someone from accidentally connecting them to a potable water source.
Many school districts, local state and federal government agencies are implementing recycled water programs to help save water money and the environment. Every gallon of recycled water used for these purposes saves a gallon of drinking water. Although similar, there is a difference between recycled water and grey water.
Recycled Water Grey water
Recycled water is municipal wastewater that has been treated. It’s not suitable for consumption, however, it can be used for irrigation.
Grey water, on the other hand, includes untreated water from bathtubs showers, washing machines and other sources. Grey water, usually, is only used to irrigate landscapes at the site where it is collected and is typically stored in an underground tank before being pumped out and used for irrigation.
So how can you use recycled water? First of all you can only take advantage of reclaimed water if your municipality has provided you with a reclaim meter. If they have, several irrigation manufacturers now offer components that will help you utilize recycled water.
However, using recycled water for irrigation is not without its own unique set of challenges. Purification increases the water salt content, which is not good for soil or animals and can wreak havoc on standard irrigation equipment. Valves designed for reclaimed water use are constructed from heavy-duty glass, filled nylon and designed with chlorine and chemical resistant diaphragms and components. It’s incredibly important to prevent overspray, pooling or runoff when using reclaimed water, especially any circumstances that would bring the water in contact with areas where food may be consumed or prepped. Also do not use it for washing cars, driveways structures etc. Remember to wash your hands with soap and clean water after having come in contact with reclaimed water and never use it for bathing or swimming. Some areas in Florida monitor and charge for reclaim water use. All areas also require signage, indicating that recycled water is in use. Check with your local authorities to determine the laws in your area, and even if your local regulations do not require signage, it’s still a good idea.
Now all this may seem like a to worry about. However, realize that water reuse can save money as recycle water rates are lower than drinking water rates. Most importantly, reclaimed water helps ensure that communities have enough water to meet their current and future needs. So, it’s worth the extra effort to save Florida resources.
Reclaimed Sprinkler System Water in Orlando
In Central Florida, our freshwater primarily comes from the Floridan Aquifer, a series of underground limestone formations that act as a filter and a reservoir for freshwater rainfall seeps through layers of earth and limestone and collects an underground limestone caves, Reaching as deep as 2,000 feet below the Surface the freshwater we use and depend on every day is drawn from the Floridan Aquifer and piped into our homes. We use fresh water in sinks, toilets showers, dishwashers, washing machines and more, but once used, the water contains various contaminants, such as cleansers food scraps and biological waste. It is, then, considered waste water. So what do we do with waste water and where does it go? It’s true that all water does eventually return to the environment. However, wastewater has to go through a water reclamation process.
First, in the city of Orlando reclaimed, water is sent for beneficial reuse such as irrigation, but is also safely returned to local waterways, namely the Little Econ River and the Orlando wetlands park, which eventually ends up in the ST. Johns River. So why exactly does wastewater need to go through a water reclamation process? Well, imagine if wastewater was dumped directly into a river, what would happen to the environment and the wildlife and what would be the long-term implications? As recently as the 19th century, untreated wastewater was disposed directly into rivers. It led to numerous deadly cholera outbreaks because it contaminated people’s drinking water sources. As a result, methods for treating wastewater were developed and that saved many lives. But it wasn’t until the mid late to 20th century that we realized the negative impact that even treated wastewater had on the environment, treated wastewater being discharged into rivers and other bodies of water. We are causing algae blooms and fish kills because of excess nutrients that are still present in treated wastewater.
Recognizing the crisis, the US Congress passed the Clean Water Act in 1972 to control environmental pollution by requiring more rigorous standards for wastewater treatment and discharge. This has greatly improved the health of our waterways. So how do we treat wastewater here in Orlando? The journey of wastewater starts in our drains. The city of Orlando’s water reclamation division has 240 dedicated hard-working employees. On an average day the city collects, treats and beneficial Erie uses about forty five million gallons of wastewater each day. The city’s water reclamation system includes about eight hundred miles of gravity lines, lift stations, three water reclamation facilities to reclaim water distribution systems and the Orlando easterly wetlands.
The city’s water reclamation facilities for treatment plants include one located just south of the Orlando International Airport in concert with two located on L V, McLeod Road, just east of Kirkman Road, an Iron Bridge located north of the University of Central Florida off Alafaya trail iron bridge, The Largest of our three facilities is a regional facility which serves not only the city of Orlando but also receives and treats wastewater from Seminole and Orange counties, as well as the cities of Winter Park, Maitland and Castleberry. Currently, the rated capacities for the three facilities are 7.5 million gallons a day for concert, 121 million gallons a day for concert 2 and 40 million gallons a day for the Iron Bridge facility. The focus of this video is to explain in some detail about how the wastewater collection and treatment process works specifically for the Iron Bridge facility. The producers of the wastewater that flows out of homes through underground pipes and connect to larger sanitary sewer pipes every day the average household creates around 250 gallons of wastewater gravity, moves wastewater down, angled sanitary sewer pipes. However, the pipes can only go so deep underground. Periodically wastewater has to be mechanically lifted higher by a lift station pump, so the gravity can again transmit the water down the pipes. Things like grease and rags can clog the lift stations cause malfunctions and even overflows. It’s important not to flush oil, grease, rags, flushable, wipes and other similar items into the sanitary sewers. It can have costly and hazardous effects.
There are miles and miles of sanitary sewer pipes, carrying wastewater from East Orlando, Winter Park, Maitland Castleberry and portions of unincorporated orange and Seminole counties to the iron bridge regional water reclamation facility, which is located in Oviedo. Just northwest of the University of Central Florida Ironbridge treats about 24 million gallons of wastewater per day, which flows from homes and businesses. That’s enough water to fill over 33 Olympic sized swimming pools.
The wastewater or raw influent arrives at the iron bridge master pump station, powerful mechanical pumps, lift the water high, so that gravity can then move the water through the facility. The pretreatment phase physically removes objects in the water that would otherwise block and clog pipes and equipment. Rotating bar screens catch items such as toys, rags, cell phones, diapers and even false teeth. These items are hauled off for disposal. The water then flows to grit removal tanks where the water is stirred, creating a vortex that settles out fine grit like sand coffee grounds and eggshells. The water moves on to secondary treatment for biological processes remove microscopic nutrients, namely phosphorus and nitrogen. This is especially important because an abundance of these nutrients can lead to environmental problems to surface water bodies.
Ironbridge Regional Water Reclamation facility uses a modified five stage system in the process. Water moves through anaerobic anoxic and aerobic environments where microorganisms digest and convert the nitrogen and phosphorus into harmless forms in the secondary clarifier. The flow of water slows down so that heavier biological material can sink to the bottom. Some of this material called activated sludge is returned back into the barge info system to maintain a healthy population of microorganisms. The remainder of sludge is dried and hauled off. Lighter materials such as grease and oil float to the surface where rotating skimmers collect and remove the scum. The sludge removed from the secondary clarifiers are then sent to conditioning base with waste activated sludge. Solids are hauled off for further treatment. A third-party company processes and converts the solids into a high-quality commercial fertilizer, the remaining water flows into deep bed filters consisting of 7 feet of sand and stone media that remove any remaining fine particles from the water.
At this point, the water is clear and ready for the final stage of disinfection. The water moves into chlorine contact chambers, where chlorine is added to destroy any remaining harmful pathogens. A higher concentration of chlorine is used for water that will be diverted for public reuse throughout the treatment process. The system is closely monitored and the water meticulously tested in the environmental laboratory at iron bridge. Laboratory chemists analyze things such as suspended solids oxygen demand, ammonia, nitrogen coliform, bacteria and metal analysis of bio solids. The lab provides analysis of the facilities performance, which is necessary for the facilities permit compliance, a computerized network called SCADA monitors and controls, equipment and processes throughout the facility, sensors measuring things such as flow rate temperature and more automate equipment operations. Real-Time data is also transmitted to computers and tablets, where operators can make informed decisions and control operations remotely once the water is treated with chlorine.
The treatment process is now complete and the final product is called reclaimed water. It’s now ready for discharge in three different ways: public reuse, the little Econ River or for further treatment at the Orlando wetlands park. Reclaim water sent for public reuse is pumped through purple pipes in various communities in orange and Seminole counties. Reclaim water can be used for irrigating lawns and washing cars and the like, although not toxic, it is not potable. Meaning it should not be used for drinking water. Reclaimed water is also safely discharged into the nearby little Econ River before being discharged.
The residual chlorine is removed through the addition of sulfur dioxide. However, environmental regulations limit how much reclaimed water can safely be discharged into the little Econ each year and with an increase in the volume of wastewater due to population growth The City of Orlando created an innovative solution for discharging the increased amounts of reclaimed water. In 1987, the city of Orlando built the Orlando wetlands Park to further treat and discharge reclaimed water from the Iron Bridge Regional Water Reclamation facility, while the reclaimed water already meets advanced wastewater treatment standards.
The Orlando wetlands park works to even further reduce nitrogen and phosphorus levels. So that the water can be safely discharged into the STJohns River, the Orlando wetlands park uses wetland plants and other naturally occurring biological processes to lower nutrient levels of the water. The wetlands support a diversity of flora and fauna, and this has attracted numerous visitors. The Orlando wetlands became a public park and is open for passive recreation. Seven days a week from sunrise to sunset, protecting our water is important.
Protecting our environment is important and ensuring public safety is important. The City of Orlando has struck a balance between caring for all of these things through innovative, effective and efficient methods for reclaiming millions of gallons of wastewater every day. So now, what can you do to protect our water resources and environment? Throw away or recycle cooking oil and grease. Grease can clog up pipes and cause sewer overflows so be mindful of what can be flushed down the drain and throw away rags wipes and the like. These too can clog pipes and lift stations, even if they’re labeled flushable use fresh water wisely and irrigate with reclaimed water if available, reduce the use of cleansers and soaps to only use as much as you need and don’t flush, unused medications or other substances.