What is Reclaimed Water?
Reclaimed water or recycled water is former wastewater that is treated to remove solids and impurities, and used in sustainable landscaping and agricultural irrigation, to recharge groundwater aquifers, and to meet commercial and industrial water needs. Reclaimed water is an element of the City's strategy to extend potable water reserves. It is also an important component of wise water management.
Reclaimed water is derived from domestic wastewater, industrial process water, and inadvertent stormwater flows in the wet season. The process involves a highly engineered, multi-step treatment process that speeds up nature's restoration of water quality. The process requires a high level of disinfection and reliability to assure that only water meeting stringent State permit requirements leaves the reclamation facility.
When you see purple pipes or fire hydrants, they signify that carefully-treated reclaimed water is being delivered!
Sequim Class A Reclaimed Water Facility
The City of Sequim's water reclamation facility ("WRF") is a state of the art plant designed to treat wastewater to a high level so it can be used for all beneficial uses other than drinking. The "Class A" title is a high standard of classification that requires at a minimum, that the reclaimed water is at all times oxidized, coagulated, filtered, and disinfected. The process mimics nature by using microorganisms to break down the waste and remove it from the water. The water is then filtered and disinfected with Ultra Violet Light (UV) before distribution into the purple pipe system.
The facility is located east of the City on a four-acre site just north of Bell Creek and west of Schmuck Road. It was converted from a secondary wastewater treatment plant to a water reclamation facility producing reclaimed water in 1998. The conversion included construction of a clarifier and installing coagulation equipment, filters, ultraviolet disinfection facilities, backup power, and alarm systems to ensure the wastewater is always treated to the highest standards. Soon after, the distribution line into town was built (in 2000), along with the development of the City's Water Reuse Demonstration Site adjacent to Carrie Blake Park.
The City expanded the facility in 2008-10. This project doubled capacity, installed redundant aeration blowers, and converted an oxidation ditch to a conventional activated sludge plant with computer-based control for enhanced nitrogen removal.
Putting Reclaimed Water to Good Use
Water reclamation is using treated wastewater for beneficial purposes such as agricultural and landscape irrigation, industrial processes, toilet flushing, and replenishing ground water (referred to as aquifer recharge). Water recycling offers a resource and financial savings. Wastewater treatment can be tailored to meet the water quality requirements of a planned reclaimed water use.
If you’ve ever been to Carrie Blake Park then you have seen Sequim’s reclaimed water in use. The Class A Water Reuse Demonstration Site on the north half of the park uses it in the fish pond and toilets as well as for irrigation of the play fields and landscaping-and note the purple fire hydrants!
In summer, Bell Creek is replenished with reclaimed water at the Carrie Blake Park Friendship Pond. Sequim’s reclaimed water is also used for watering the City's hanging flower baskets and landscaping throughout downtown and for dust control on construction sites.
Benefits of Reclaimed Water
Reclaimed water can help mitigate impacts on fresh water supply from needs such as irrigation. For example, it can be used to decrease diversion of freshwater from sensitive ecosystems, such as the Dungeness River. During the late summer months the snow pack in the Olympics can be very low or non-existent. The result is typically very low flows on the Dungeness River.
During these low flows the salmon are running; this is also a time when agriculture demands for water can be at their peak. Reclaimed water can play an essential role to help alleviate the strain on the Dungeness watershed areas. Plants, wildlife, and fish depend on sufficient water flows in their habitat to ensure a healthy ecosystem.
Next to water conservation, water recycling is the only significant, readily available practice that can help meet the domestic, industrial and environmental water demands that are increasing on a daily basis.
Regulations & Permits for Using Reclaimed Water
In 1992 the Washington State Legislature passed the Reclaimed Water Act, Chapter 90.46 RCW, directing the Departments of Health and Ecology to develop standards for reclaimed water use and to jointly administer a reclaimed water program. The goals of the Reclaimed Water Act are to:
- Encourage and facilitate reclaimed water use
- Assist in meeting future water requirements of the state by
- Replacing potable water with reclaimed water for non-potable uses
- Expanding the use of reclaimed water for non-potable uses
- Supplementing existing surface and ground water supplies
- Ensure public health and safety
- Encourage environmental protection
- Gain public confidence and support for reclaimed water
- Develop and expand financial support and incentives for water reclamation facilities and address current barriers to the use of reclaimed water
Washington State standards are some of the most comprehensive and technically sound in the United States. Reclaimed water facilities are subject to stringent regulations set by the Departments of Ecology and Health. The generator of the reclaimed water shall have an Ecology-delegated industrial wastewater pre-treatment program and all industries discharging into the generator's wastewater collection system shall have a current waste discharge permit issued by Ecology.
More information on Sequim's reclaimed water process, plans, and projects may be found in Chapter 4 of the City's General Sewer Plan (PDF).