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Water Wednesday Recap: Reclaimed Water

Reclaimed water is something that has been engineered and perfected over time. We have so much of it within Florida too. The benefits of using reclaimed water are exceptional. So, what exactly is reclaimed water?

Reclaimed water is former domestic wastewater that has been treated and disinfected as a wastewater treatment plant. There is a social negative connotation about reclaimed water. As Dr. Yilin Zhuang so famously says kids refer to it as “poo poo water”. Contrary to belief it is far from that. It goes through very detailed processes to ensure its sanitation.

Reclaimed water is former domestic wastewater that has been disinfected and treated to remove solids and certain impurities. The treatments include:

  • Primary Treatment: sewage held in a basin so solids can settle
  • Secondary Treatment: water left behind is chemically and/or biologically treated to remove impurities
  • Advanced Treatment: further treatment to remove harmful chemicals and pathogens

After treatment at a wastewater treatment plant, the cleansed water can be safely discharged into a nearby stream, wetland, or ocean, or this water source may be piped back into communities for reuse by various residential, industrial, and commercial users. The use of reclaimed water is a method to recycle water, plus it helps to conserve water resources. Though reclaimed water cannot be used for drinking, it has been used throughout the United States and the world for decades as an ideal choice for watering lawns and crops, recharging groundwater, and in industrial processes.

Reclaimed water is different from grey water. Gray water is generated from domestic activities like laundry, dishwashing, and bathing, and is recycled on-site (at its place of origin), often without any preliminary treatment. Gray water may be directly recycled within the home or garden after being collected with a separate plumbing system that contains no human waste. In contrast, reclaimed water is not recycled on-site; it is diverted from the place of origin to a wastewater treatment plant, treated, and sent back to the community for reuse.

Reclaimed water is especially commonly used in overpopulated areas. There are trends of this throughout Florida. Even though reclaimed water is put through a lot of treatments it is still high in nutrients. Both nitrogen and phosphorus are in wastewater and not all is removed by wastewater treatment. When planning to fertilize your lawn it is best to consider this in your plan. Reclaimed water is never used for drinking purposes, but it does not contain any known disease-causing pathogens. The future of water in Florida relies heavily on the use of reclaimed water. Building a sustainable structure for Florida means UTILIZING reclaimed water.

To learn more about reclaimed water, please watch the Water Wednesday – Ask Extension about Reclaimed Water with the UF/IFAS State Specialist Dr. Mary Lusk and Water Resources Specialized Agent Dr. Yilin Zhuang.

Additional Resources

This blog was written by Holly Stralka and edited by Dr. Yilin Zhuang. Stralka is a Senior Student in UF/IFAS Soil and Water Science Department. Dr. Zhuang is the Water Resources Regional Specialized Agent in UF/IFAS Extension Central District.

Special thanks to Dr. Mary Lusk, Assistant Professor and State Specialist in UF/IFAS Soil and Water Sciences Department for presenting at Water Wednesday in November.

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