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Reclaimed Water – Issues and Funding

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Issues Driving Reclaimed Water

Like many arid areas across the globe, Florida is facing pressures to aggressively expand all sources of water for both immediate and future potable and non-potable requirements. Many of the contributing factors are universal. Despite the slump in the housing market, growth continues in Florida and is expected to increase from an estimated 18 million in 2005 to a census bureau estimate of 24.5 million by 2030. Florida is experiencing the 3rd driest hydrologic season on record. Severe water shortages are being experienced in 2007 in all areas of the state. One of the water management districts has concluded that reliance on groundwater as a source is not sustainable without harming the environment (Central Florida). Surface water supplies also are diminishing in certain areas – Lake Okeechobee is within 5 inches of its 2001 record low of 8.97 feet, the Peace River is experiencing difficulties as a supply source and the Everglades system is now subject to a Regional Water Availability Rule. The costs of treating alternative water sources such as salt and brackish water are substantially greater than the costs of treating either surface or ground water. All of these substantiate the need to consider reclaimed water as an alternative water supply.

Reclaimed Water Considerations

This paper addresses the many considerations in examining the use of reclaimed water, including the cost, the safety and the quantity of the supply and focuses on a variety of successful, emerging financing approaches to support use of reclaimed water as an alternative source. In terms of the cost, the ultimate goal is to provide a system that pays for itself or reduces the cost of additional potable supplies. The safety issue is addressed with the provision of the proper wastewater treatment and disinfection system and maintaining the facilities. The reclaimed water system must also function in a manner that considers supply must meet the expected demand. Storage and supply augmentation may be required to supplement the reclaimed water availability and meet seasonal demands.

Fiscal Plans Address Reclaimed Water Considerations

A fiscal plan to support reclaimed water as a source must respond to the issues of cost, safety and supply and demonstrate that the cost of reclaimed water use will be competitive with potable water costs in terms of its sale to customers. In order to be competitive with potable water there may be some subsidization of the cost from either the water and or wastewater system. This issue must be addressed up front.

Fiscal Plan Examples of Implemented Reclaimed Water Systems

The financial structure, rate setting and planning elements will be presented for the Cities of Venice, St. Pete Beach, Clearwater, and Cape Coral as well as for Collier and Brevard Counties. These communities demonstrate the basics of rate setting and financial planning and act as a guideline for other communities searching for creative solutions for increasing their water sources.

Cities and counties in Florida have identified various funding sources and repayment streams in creating their reclaimed water systems. The various funding sources have been a combination of water management district grants, revenue bonds and state revolving fund loans, and internal funds. Reclaimed water systems that are in their initial stages as well as mature systems will be detailed regarding their planning elements, funding sources and debt repayment sources.

Reclaimed water can become a viable alternative water source and should be considered when identifying future water needs. The water management districts are actively encouraging the use of reclaimed water and are offering grant dollars. The costs of providing potable water are increasing. Traditional water supplies are limited. Reclaimed water may eventually become a limited source and become a more valued commodity with the passage of time.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 2008-01-01

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  • Proceedings of the Water Environment Federation is an archive of papers published in the proceedings of the annual Water Environment Federation® Technical Exhibition and Conference (WEFTEC® ) and specialty conferences held since the year 2000. These proceedings are not peer reviewed.

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