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Interest in water reuse swells

The county must implement reuse within the next five years because of an agreement it has with Swiftmud.

By JOSH ZIMMER

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 18, 2000


LECANTO -- Earlier this year, Black Diamond Ranch general manager James Carman was having a talk with Citrus County officials about development issues when the topic of water reuse popped up out of the blue.

He said engineers wanted to know whether, instead of using well water, the exclusive development would consider irrigating its lush grounds and championship golf course with reclaimed wastewater. Carman could not give a definite answer, but said he would think about the request.

The county followed up with a letter but little else, Assistant Public Works Director Ken Frink said.

Now Citrus is seriously considering reuse, although it may be a long time before users, such as Black Diamond, can tap into delivery lines.

Reclaimed water essentially is bad water turned good through a combination of chemicals and equipment. Wastewater is treated and recycled. According to the Citrus' grant agreements with the Southwest Florida Water Management District, the county must implement reuse within the next five years in exchange for the district's $1.8-million investment in the Homosassa central wastewater project.

In addition to Carman, the county Public Works Department has talked with an engineering consulting firm, Frink said. So far, Carman's Black Diamond is the only potential customer to be approached.

The project is playing second fiddle to other public works priorities, such as moving the Homosassa sewer project forward, Frink said.

"We're quite a ways out before we do anything," he said.

The preliminary drawings, however, show lines connecting the county's two wastewater treatment plants -- Brentwood and Meadowcrest -- with neighborhoods. The main connector runs through Black Diamond, making it the ideal first user, Frink said.

Black Diamond, one of the county's largest well-water users, would use most, if not all, the reclaimed water the two plants could produce, he said.

Carman is interested enough to pose questions and wait for answers.

"Obviously, if they have a gallonage request . . . then it would be nice if they could do that to one large user of water," Carman said. "I simply said anything that would be beneficial to us and the county, I would be glad to look into it."

The development has built wells and installed a computerized irrigation system that allows managers to turn single water heads on and off with the push of a few buttons, he said.

He said there is concern the salt content in reclaimed water could damage the foliage, such as the many azaleas decorating the grounds.

However, reuse has an obvious plus side, Carman said. Despite the wells and irrigation system, parts of the golf course are drying up. And because the development is not completely built out -- 300 more homes are planned -- Black Diamond will need more water sources.

"There are no Swiftmud restrictions on reuse," he said. "If the county was ready right now (and) we were developing a 100-lot subdivision, we could go in and pipe the individual irrigation system to reuse. It could be a selling point."

Swiftmud spokesman Mike Molligan said the district has spent or has budgeted $133.5-million to produce 187-million gallons per day of reuse water.

"Why should we use drinking water to irrigate lawns?" he said.

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