News Feature | October 30, 2017

Florida Counties Explore IPR System

Peter Chawaga - editor

By Peter Chawaga

Florida may be taking up the mantle in one of the drinking water industry’s ongoing battles: to increase the adoption of indirect potable reuse (IPR).

IPR, the practice of reusing wastewater as drinking water following treatment at a plant and without an environmental buffer, makes a lot of sense to those within the field. But consumers tend to stigmatize the practice, feeling that it eliminates some of the natural filtration that occurs when wastewater is discharged and mingles with source supplies.

But in two major Florida counties, there is increasing interest in expanding the practice.

“Tampa and Hillsborough County both want to take reclaimed water — essentially, highly treated wastewater that’s nearly pure enough to drink — and put it to a new use,” reported the Tampa Bay Times. “For Tampa, this would mean taking several extra steps to purify the water further and adding it to its drinking water supply, something already done from California to Israel.”

According to the report, a wastewater treatment plant in Tampa typically discharges 55 million gallons of treated effluent into Tampa Bay daily. This water could be used to meet the growing demand for potable water in the area. Under an IPR plan, the area’s water would be used more efficiently.

“Up to 50 million gallons a day would be pumped 900 feet underground into the Floridan Aquifer, the massive underground source of much of the state’s drinking water,” the Times reported. “The city would pump it back up from a depth of 300 feet… Roughly half of the water recovered from the aquifer would be sent to the city’s David L. Tippin Water Treatment Facility. The other half would go into the Hillsborough River reservoir upstream from the city dam at Rowlett Park.”

Tampa officials estimate the project could cost up to $300 million and that construction could begin within five years. But the idea has met some opposition from Tampa Bay Water, the local agency responsible for providing drinking water.

“Tampa Bay Water officials say Tampa’s plans raise the question of whether the city has the ability within the agreement that created the agency ‘to create a source of potable water for itself’ or other member governments,” per the Times.

But since a three-hour executive meeting on the subject, it appears that all parties are on board and that IPR might soon become widespread in Florida.

To read more about IPR projects visit Water Online’s Water Reuse Solutions Center.