Recycled water will help District and Florida ensure sustainable water supplies

July 29, 2021

Small waterfall in a pond

Reclaimed water used for water feature at Kanapaha Botanical Gardens in Gainesville, Fla

With a growing population comes a growing thirst for water — a thirst that is being addressed by the state and Florida’s water management districts. The state recently launched the One Water Florida campaign to provide facts about this alternative water source and highlight its benefits.

Florida is now the third most populous state with almost 22 million residents. Floridians use nearly 6.4 billion gallons of water each day. With an estimated 1,000 people moving to the state daily, residents are projected to use an additional 1 billion gallons per day by 2040.

In our District, total public supply water use (which represented 53% of total water use in 2020) increased by 4% since 2001 to 550 million gallons per day (mgd), while total population served by public supply increased 40% to 4.78 million. Expanding the use of recycled water is one way we can help ensure there is plenty of water to meet the demand.

Recycled water is an alternative water source that is already safely used around the world and the United States, such as in Australia, California, Texas, Colorado and Georgia. Florida is the national leader in water reuse, using 49% of total domestic wastewater. In our 18-county District, as of 2020, about 55% of all wastewater flows are being reused for beneficial purposes — to replace the use of traditional freshwater supplies for outdoor irrigation and commercial and industrial processes.

Reusing water makes sense. Expanding the use of recycled water relieves pressure on Florida’s water resources and ecosystems. The more water we recycle, the more water that remains in our rivers and springs for the plants and wildlife that rely on them.

Now it’s time for the next step. Florida currently has 13 potable reuse water projects, with three located in our District, supported with nearly $2.5 million in total District cost-share funding:

  • City of Altamonte Springs PureAlta pilot project — The PureALTA project is currently treating approximately 28,000 gallons of water each day. During the study phase, the purified water is returned to the city’s reclaimed water system where it is used for irrigation. Based on the final results of the pilot project, the city could build a full-scale system with the potential to create 300,000 to 500,000 gallons of purified water daily; that’s about 5% of the city’s future daily water demand. This project won a WateReuse 2017 innovative project of the year award.
  • JEA – Purified Water Program — In 2019, JEA completed research and development, testing two different effluent streams with microfiltration and reverse osmosis, and ozone and biologically activated carbon (ozone-BAC). After extensive evaluation, the next step, should it be pursued, would be to move forward with a 1 mgd membrane treatment demonstration facility branded as Project H2.0.
  • City of Daytona Beach Potable Reuse Demo Testing Facility — The completed demonstration scale testing system was put into continuous operation (0.2 mgd) in October 2018. Daytona completed testing on one treatment scenario in October 2019. An additional year of testing began in October 2020, with plans to wrap up by October 2021.

Recycled water is exciting for Florida’s future and when used for potable reuse, meets or is a higher quality than the strict state and federal drinking water standards. Potable reuse uses recycled water to expand drinking water supplies indirectly or directly. Indirect potable reuse involves the planned discharge of reclaimed water to ground or surface waters to develop or supplement potable water supplies. Direct potable reuse involves introducing advanced treatment reclaimed water (highly treated to meet drinking water standards) into a water supply immediately upstream of a drinking water treatment facility or directly into a potable water distribution system.

Safety is paramount. Treatment for this type of recycled water is proven safe for public health and the environment. Recycled water goes through multiple advanced pretreatment processes, receives additional filtration to remove microorganisms (including viruses, bacterial and other pollutants), and undergoes further advanced disinfection treatments (such as ultraviolet light, ozone and peroxide) to ensure high-quality drinking water.

The Florida Legislature passed the Clean Waterways Act in 2020, giving the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) the authority to create and update regulations for recycled water. DEP is initiating the public process to update its regulations based on the Florida Potable Reuse Commission’s recommendations.

You can learn more about this alternative water supply and this process in a new video, on our website and on DEP’s new One Water Florida website.

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