Thursday, July 10, 2014

Follow the purple pipes to a better use of our water supplies

By Dan Partridge, communications manager, Water Resources

Purple pipes signal the use of reclaimed water.
Those purple pipes you may have seen at your child’s soccer field are leading us into a future where we can make better use of our water supplies.

Purple pipes signal that reclaimed water is being put to use for the benefit of recreation, irrigating crops or restoring wetlands.

It’s not for drinking

Reclaimed water is not for drinking. It is water that has been treated by wastewater plants for non-drinking uses such as fire suppression, flushing toilets or controlling dust.

Currently, only 28 out of the 330 wastewater plants in Washington state are reclaiming water that would otherwise be discharged back into the environment.

Potential benefits are great

The potential benefits of water re-use are great. The regional wastewater treatment plant for Thurston County, for example, produces up to 1.75 million gallons of reclaimed water for watering parks and providing water for wetland ponds in Hawks Prairie. In Spokane County, reclaimed water from the Medical Lake Wastewater Reclamation Facility maintains water levels in West Medical Lake and provides irrigation water for the treatment plant grounds.

Just the beginning

The facilities in place now, however, are just the beginning. The Legislature has directed Ecology to encourage more use of reclaimed water by developing guidance for the development of reclaimed water projects. At a time when existing water supplies are shrinking in Washington state with declining snowpack and growing demand from population growth, the potential benefits of reclaimed water are enormous.

It’s estimated that we’re reclaiming only 8 percent of the discharges from our wastewater treatment plants but up to 472 million gallons a day of wastewater  discharges in Washington state could be reclaimed and used again, instead of being discharged downstream. (In Western Washington that means reducing discharges into Puget Sound.)

The tie to water rights

Ecology is developing rules and regulations that will encourage the development of reclaimed water projects in a way that won’t impair the water use of other water right holders.

To learn more about Ecology’s proposed statewide rule for reclaimed water, you’re invited to a statewide video conference from 1:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Monday, July 14th. Check in 15 to 20 minutes before the start time at the reception desk at any of Ecology’s regional offices:
  • Ecology Headquarters/Southwest Regional Office, 300 Desmond Drive SE, Lacey, WA 98504
  • Ecology Central Regional Office, 15 West Yakima Avenue Suite 200, Yakima, WA 98902
  • Ecology Eastern Regional Office, 4601 North Monroe, Spokane WA 99205
  • Ecology Northwest Regional Office, 3190 - 160th Ave. SE, Bellevue, WA 98008
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