Message from Executive Director Dr. Ann Shortelle

Water Reuse observance highlights many benefits of reclaimed water

May 13, 2021

Governing board members standing next to a declaration

District Governing Board members and staff gather after approving a proclamation designating Florida Reuse Week. From left are Governing Board members Chris Peterson, Doug Bournique, District Executive Director Dr. Ann Shortelle, Board members Susie Dolan, Janet Price, Cole Oliver, Rob Bradley and District General Counsel Mary Ellen Winkler.

As part of the St. Johns River Water Management District’s water supply core mission, our staff encourages the use of reclaimed water — also known as water reuse. The purple pipes you may have seen around your neighborhood or community are helping to extend Florida’s water supplies. We are pleased to say that more than half of all wastewater in our District is now treated and reused for beneficial purposes.

During our meeting this week, the District’s Governing Board voted to recognize May 16–21 as Florida Water Reuse Week. We are joining others around the state in this annual observance focused on celebrating and encouraging the use of reclaimed water.

Florida is a national leader in using reclaimed water. Reclaimed water — wastewater that has been highly treated to remove harmful organisms and substances — has been used in Florida since 1966. In our District alone, more than 57 percent of all wastewater is reused for beneficial purposes to replace traditional freshwater supplies. The use of reclaimed water continues to increase for irrigating residential lots, golf courses and other green spaces, and for groundwater recharge, environmental enhancement such as wetlands creation and restoration, fire protection and industry. Reclaimed water also provides an environmentally responsible alternative to disposal of wastewater, which contributes to improving water quality (another of our core missions).

Currently, there are 140 reuse systems in our 18-county District that use more than 217 million gallons per day of reclaimed water. We continue to actively promote effective use of reclaimed water through the District’s cost-share program, providing financial assistance to entities developing alternative water supplies. These include:

  • Water reuse
  • Pilot programs to explore innovative treatment technologies
  • Innovative uses and applications of reclaimed water

Since 2014, we have provided more than $96 million in funding from the District and state sources for reuse projects, which today are responsible for more than half of the reclaimed water made available daily within our District. Reuse projects continue to be among those reviewed and ranked by staff for consideration by our Governing Board to receive cost-share funding.

Thanks to our many local government partners, utilities and others who are investigating and implementing projects to expand the use of reclaimed water. Next time you come across some of these purple pipes, join me in seeing them as a sign of our progress in protecting our precious water supplies.

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