Reclaimed water is a hot topic these days. Nearly all states now have regulations in place as to how to use reclaimed water. Recycling water is nothing new and has been used in other parts of the world out of shear necessity. But even in otherwise fertile areas like ours, we are collectively waking up to the fact that there is limited fresh water and we need to be better stewards of this life-sustaining resource.
Recycled water has varying grades (levels of treatment) and can be matched with a particular need. Class A, the highest quality of reclaimed water, has been deemed safe to use for irrigation, commercial processes, fountains and ponds, toilets, and stream/wetland enhancement (just about anything not related to drinking water). The trend is to match the water supply with the required water usage.
Here in Washington, use of reclaimed water is allowed under the Washington Reclaimed Water Act, which was enacted in 1992 and then amended in 2007. The 2007 amendment required state agencies to utilize reclaimed water where feasible. The reclaimed water permitting process was streamlined in 2009. Reclaimed water has been used by Tukwila and Renton municipalities for street washing, and irrigating municipal fields and properties and for a wetland plant nursery. The City of Olympia has signed an agreement to use reclaimed water at Heritage and Marathon parks.
|King County Government|
But the opportunity to use reclaimed water is greatly increasing. The soon to open Brightwater treatment plant physically located in South Snohomish County will serve portions of King and Snohomish counties to provide sewage treatment. But merely treating raw sewage is not its only goal. By 2013, reclaimed water, as shown by the purple pipe lines in the adjacent map, can be distributed to a large area illustrated in the light purple area for crop irrigation, maintenance of sports fields and golf courses, and replenishment of low stream flows. Future reclaimed distribution pipes in the dark purple will provide even further access to reclaimed water to the west.
The goals of the original Washington Reclaimed Water Act are being realized, with more water reclamation on the way. While we in the lush Pacific Northwest have had the benefit of significant clean water sources, most of the world, and even many areas in the U.S., cannot make such a similar claim. Matching water quality/type to water usage is a smart and progressive idea that has significant benefits to us now and for future generations to come.
For more information about King County’s reclaimed water efforts, go to http://www.kingcounty.gov/environment/wastewater/ResourceRecovery/ReWater.aspx.