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Experiences in Design and First Year Operation of North Carolina's Largest Reclaimed Water Drip Irrigation System

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North Carolina's largest reclaimed water drip irrigation system was designed in 2005, constructed in 2006 and has been in operation approximately 16 months. This unique project in coastal Brunswick County was initiated as the first phase of a multi-phase West Brunswick Regional Wastewater Management project. In addition to the Drip Irrigation Facility, the first phase of the regional project included a new regional wastewater collection system, a 3.0 MGD water reclamation facility, reclaimed water pumping, transmission system and 100 MG wet weather storage facility. McKim & Creed was responsible for the design of both the regional wastewater treatment facility and the reclaimed water drip irrigation system.

In 2004, Brunswick County purchased 1,000 acres of commercial forest land from International Paper with the intent of utilizing highly treated reclaimed wastewater to enhance growth and production of an intensively managed loblolly pine plantation. The County uses the reclaimed water to irrigate 556 acres of loblolly pine stands varying in age from one to thirteen years and in size from seedlings to 8” diameter at breast height. The soils underlying the site vary from deep, well-drained sands to fine silty sands with seasonal high water tables hovering between 12” and 24” below the surface. The West Brunswick drip irrigation system has an annual average daily irrigation capacity of 1.9 MGD and consists of the following components:

100 MG, 26-acre earthen wet weather flow equalization basin;

Triplex irrigation pumping station with duplex disk filtration system;

22,500 linear feet of 8”, 10”, 16”, and 20” buried irrigation transmission mains;

2.6 million linear feet of pressure-compensating surface drip irrigation tubing to serve a total of 556 irrigable acres in an existing loblolly pine plantation;

Two irrigation management areas with (30) pressure-controlled drip irrigation zones;

PLC-based control system with radio telemetry interface to regional SCADA system.

The surface drip irrigation system utilizes 0.82-inch diameter HDPE drip tubing with pressure-compensating drip emitters. Individual emitters were designed with (4) different delivery capacities ranging from 0.32 gph to 0.92 gph. By varying emitter capacity and in-line spacing, the designers were able to match the specific infiltration and soil permeability associated with each of the four primary soil types underlying the site. The tubing was installed directly on the ground surface in 10-foot-wide cleared aisles that alternate with 10-foot-wide tree aisles. The cleared aisles allow personnel to easily maneuver four-wheel drive vehicles through the site for required maintenance and repairs. In addition, because the hose is installed on the surface of the ground, it can be rolled up and removed during harvesting.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 2008-01-01

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