Groundwater replenishment is a two-step process that includes purifying reclaimed water to better-than-drinking water standards and then recharging the aquifer using this purified recycled water. Also known as aquifer recharge, it is used to improve water levels within the aquifer and provide additional water supplies.
What is the project’s goal?
The project’s goal is to replenish the aquifer and provide a new local water supply that protects the environment and ensures the sustainability of high-quality drinking water to meet the current and future needs of our community.
Is groundwater replenishment safe?
Yes. Groundwater replenishment is safely used throughout the country and the world. A 2011 feasibility study concluded this specific groundwater replenishment project to be safe and economical.
The results from the one-year pilot and demonstration phase (June 2013 to June 2014) proved that the process consistently purified reclaimed water so that its quality was better-than-drinking-water standards and bottled water standards. Detailed reports are available online. The city of Clearwater and the Southwest Florida Water Management District are recommending implementation of this project after verifying that it is safe for people and the environment.
Who will be drinking this water?
No one will be directly drinking the purified water from the Advanced Water Purification Plant. The purified recycled water will be used only to recharge the aquifer. This project will potentially benefit groundwater well users within the northeastern portion of the city of Clearwater, in the northern part of Pinellas County.
Is this a toilet-to-tap project?
No. The source of water supply for the water purification plant is reclaimed water, which will be treated by the water purification plant to better-than-drinking-water standards. Reclaimed water is highly-treated wastewater and can be used for irrigation and other uses to extend our water supplies.
What regulations are in place to ensure this project is safe?
State rules regulating potable reuse include Florida Administrative Code (F.A.C.) 62-600. Additionally, utilities in California have operated groundwater replenishment projects for many years, and their health guidelines are being used to ensure this project is safe. The project will be implemented only after it receives final approval from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.
What other groups or cities have or are developing projects like this?
Orange County, California has an existing groundwater replenishment project that has been operational since 2008, as do the cities of Scottsdale, Arizona and El Paso, Texas, among other locations. In Florida, some other municipalities have piloted potable reuse projects and are investigating their next steps.
When will the water purification plant be built, where will it be located, and when will purified water be replenishing the aquifer?
Design of the Advanced Water Purification Plant began in January 2016. The plant will be located at the city’s Northeast Water Reclamation Facility, located at 580 and McMullen Booth Road. Construction of the four recharge wells is anticipated to begin in 2018. Construction of the Advanced Water Purification Plant is expected to begin in 2018. Replenishing of the aquifer with purified water is expected to begin in 2020.
What are the costs, and who is paying?
The project costs will be co-funded by the city of Clearwater and the Southwest Florida Water Management District.
What kind of water quality testing will be used?
Clearwater routinely collects and tests water samples long before it reaches your water tap, and it will be no different with this project. Monitoring and testing was a large part of the pilot and demonstration phase, and more than 25,000 tests were performed. Rigorous, ongoing water monitoring and testing of the recharge wells will be conducted. The purified recycled water from the plant will be tested on an hourly, daily, weekly, monthly and quarterly basis as required by permits. Results will be compiled, analyzed and reported to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection on a consistent basis.
How can one learn more about Clearwater’s Groundwater Replenishment Project?
To schedule a speaker for your group or organization to learn more about the Clearwater Groundwater Replenishment Project, contact Project Manager Lan-An Nguyen at (727) 562-4581 or Lan-Anh.Nguyen@MyClearwater.com.