Two recent projects in Winter Garden and Ocoee have outfitted numerous residences with reclaimed water for irrigation use.
Almost 350 residences in Ocoee and Winter Garden now have access to reclaimed water thanks to two recent projects to preserve fresh groundwater in Central Florida.
The construction of infrastructure for reclaimed water pipelines will deliver the water to 349 homes in Winter Garden and Ocoee as part of the cities’ projects to conserve fresh, potable water by utilizing wastewater.
“It’s the wastewater that comes back to the city for processing after the potable water has been used,” said Jamie Croteau, assistant director of utilities in Ocoee. “So, it is wastewater that has been treated to a certain standard and can be applied for irrigation. And it saves you from using potable water, which is drinking water, on (your) lawn.”
Both projects were funded in part by the St. Johns River Water Management District’s cost-share program, which helps fund construction costs for infrastructure that gives residents access to reclaimed water.
The Winter Garden project included retrofitting 221 households in the Stoneybrook West community by replacing certain potable water infrastructure with pipes for reclaimed water. In total, the project was $1.2 million — half of which was paid for by the city and the other half was paid for by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the SJRWMD.
The Ocoee project installed reclaimed water lines to 128 homes in Windermere Groves. The total cost of the project was $413,600, with the SJRWMD contributing 33% of the construction cost.
Croteau said construction is almost finished with only a few meters left to install.
Ocoee Assistant City Manager Craig Shadrix said not only is irrigating with reclaimed water cheaper for residents, but the water also contains more nutrients than potable water.
“So, you could make the case that it’s healthier for your lawns and trees and shrubs,” Shadrix said.
Croteau said there is a higher demand for reclaimed water in Ocoee than the city can provide the infrastructure for.
“We do have neighborhoods that actually request it and we just can’t get to,” Croteau said. “We have a … capital plan, and it goes through the neighborhoods that we would be retrofitting over the next 10 years.”
According to the city of Ocoee’s website, it takes the wastewater of three to five households to provide for the irrigation needs of one home.
Croteau said the project is just one of the initiatives that the city undertook to ensure long-term access to potable water for residents.
“We all know that the aquifer source is slowly going dry,” Croteau said. “It may be 100 years, it may be 200 years, but the waste-management agencies have all been working in concert to require local governments to conserve water, especially with the population growth that we’re experiencing.”
According to Dale Jenkins, chief of the Bureau of Project Management at the SJRWMD, about 50% of water used in a household can be reclaimed and used for irrigation.
“We don’t need to put drinking water on our landscaping,” Jenkins said. “And so whenever we have an opportunity to work with our local governments to fund projects that put a lower-quality source on those types of applications instead of drinking water, then we’ve done a good job of protecting our groundwater supply and making those supplies more available for future use as well.”