Florida is a recognized leader in the use of reclaimed water and its reuse program was the first recipient of the United States Environmental Protection Agency Water Efficiency Leader Award in 2006. Encouraging and promoting reuse in Florida is a state objective for conserving freshwater supplies and preserving rivers, streams, lakes, and aquifers.
Reclaimed water is water from municipal wastewater treatment plants that has been treated to levels that allow safe use for designated purposes. “Water reuse” is the term used to describe the application of reclaimed water for beneficial purposes. Reusing water helps conserve drinking water supplies by replacing the use of drinking quality water for non-drinking water purposes. Opportunities for reusing reclaimed water are numerous and include irrigation, industrial cooling water, groundwater recharge, and preventing salt water intrusion in coastal groundwater aquifers.
Irrigating Public Access Areas with Reclaimed Water
In Florida, reclaimed water is used in a variety of ways with the largest amount used for irrigating public access areas (shown Figure 1). Public access areas include residential areas, golf courses, athletic fields, parks, etc.
Groundwater Recharge & Industrial Cooling Using Reclaimed Water
Following public access areas, the next largest uses are groundwater recharge and industrial uses such as cooling water in power plants. Most of the reclaimed water used for agricultural irrigation is used to grow feed, fiber, or other crops that are not for direct human consumption.
Reclaimed water can be used to grow crops for human consumption in Florida, but it must meet the same stringent treatment and disinfection requirements as water for public access area use and it is not allowed to come in direct contact with crops that will not be peeled, skinned, cooked, or thermally processed.