Reclaimed Irrigation Water in Florida

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. 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 is municipal wastewater that has been treated. It’s not suitable for consumption, however, it can be used for irrigation. reclaimed water sign

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.

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