PCBA’s Position on Reclaimed Water

Posted by pcbasentry on December 18, 2008

On Tuesday, 12/16/08, The Ledger published a blog post by Tom Palmer entitled Builders’ ready to recycle critiques not water.

PCBA believes an appropriate response is necessary. Executive Director Scott Coulombe, on behalf of the Association, will submit the following piece to The Ledger for publication.

Recently, statements have been made and comments published in The Ledger concerning PCBA’s stance on the proposed Landscaping and Irrigation Ordinance being developed for Polk county.

PCBA is taking a pragmatic position on this issue, and we suggest that Polk County government do the same. It is a fact that Polk County Utilities cannot meet the current demand for reclaimed water, nor service all the reclaim systems that have already been installed. Their supply is neither predictable nor reliable. Further, according to their latest CIP, plans for extending reuse lines have been postponed indefinitely. Given this, why should the County compel a waste of capital resources by requiring the installation of yet more dry lines?

PCBA does support prohibiting the use of potable water for irrigation purposes, as well as fully supporting and encouraging the use of the nine principles of Florida-Friendly landscaping, as promulgated by SWFWMD, for all residents, County-wide.

The proposed landscape ordinance is an example of good intentions yielding unintended consequences. As the County succeeds in reducing the per capita amount of water used, the amount of reclaimed water available for distribution will be reduced proportionately. The latest figures released by PCU show that since the institution of the conservation rate structure there has been a 500 million gallon reduction in water use over a calendar year. This significant reduction further reduces the amount of reclaimed water that the County will be able to generate and distribute.

The ongoing Alternate Water Supply study, jointly funded by Polk County, SWFWMD and SFWMD, has identified industrial and commercial uses of reclaimed water as being more efficient and cost effective than the installation of individual residential connections. SWFWMD is strongly encouraging regional plans for the use of reclaimed water which favors the delivery of reclaimed water to industrial and commercial users. On the “Short List” of 15 projects that were presented to the Board of County Commissioners 12/17/08, the City of Lakeland’s project with TECO is ranked #4. While Public Access Reuse projects are included as a broad, general category, ranked as #14 on the list, no specific residential projects have been identified. It is also interesting to note that the consultants report that the individual Lakeland/TECO project has the potential to save 6.0 MGD, at a cost of $1.52 per thousand gallons.The total projected savings for the entire category of Public Access Reuse is 15 MGD, at a cost of $4.40/thousand gallons. Reclaimed water has a seasonal component. During the rainy season, when the Utility has the greatest supply, residential users have the least demand. PCU is not equipped to store this excess supply of reclaimed water. In contrast, commercial and industrial users provide a steady demand, year-round.

Another point necessary to consider, especially in the current economic climate, is cost. Reliable estimates show that compliance with the proposed ordinance can add up to $15,000.00 to the cost of the average home, and that figure doesn’t include the cost of the actual plant materials. It also doesn’t include the potential costs to Polk County of implementing and enforcing these rules.

PCBA believes that Polk County should follow the lead of the City of Lakeland. At the 12/16/08 Governing Board meeting that Board approved a renewed and modified Water Use Permit for the City of Lakeland. This permit is for 20-years and authorizes withdrawals of up to 35.03 MGD. The exceptional utilization (100%) of Lakeland’s reclaimed water that will be realized from the TECO cooling water demands enables this new permit. The City is now in the process of finalizing a 30-year agreement with TECO, the deadline for this agreement being March 31, 2009. This is a very positive development for Lakeland as the City now has an adequate water supply source for the next 2 decades. This capacity is immediately available from existing infrastructure, minimizing capital outlays for water supply. This accomplishment allows the City to focus its water supply efforts on the development of an adequate water distribution and storage network, as the source challenges are resolved.

Rather than continue the outmoded concept of requiring individual residential reuse lines, Polk County should maximize the use of its reclaimed water supply by seeking, on a regional basis, commercial and industrial users that will utilize all its reclaimed water, consistently, in the most efficient and cost-effective manner possible.


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