WateReuse Pacific Northwest
Whether we call it reclaimed, recycled, or reused, water is an essential resource in the Pacific Northwest. The number of water reuse facilities that are operational, under construction, or in various stages of planning has increased significantly in the Pacific Northwest over the past several years. Now, several utilities and organizations in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho have joined together to form a Pacific Northwest section of the WateReuse Association.
WateReuse Pacific Northwest is planning a series of webinars on water reuse topics that will provide practical information to communities, utilities, planners, elected officials, engineers, and operators in Idaho, Oregon, and Washington. Information will be posted here as these are developed.
Idaho has been supporting reuse since 1988, and state Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) data indicate that over 4 billion gallons of water are reused every year. The drivers for the use of recycled water include more stringent discharge regulations, water supply demands, the need to offset potable water use, and a need to reduce pollutant loads and discharge volumes in receiving waters. There are over 125 reuse permits in the state, and the number of permits is expected to grow due to strict Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) limits for pollutants such as phosphorus. The first municipal land application/reuse permit was issued to the city of Rupert in 1989, and the first industrial reuse permit was issued in 1990 to Lamb Weston, a potato processor.
Since 2004 the Idaho DEQ has organized an annual water reuse conference designed to enable water and wastewater professionals to continue their education, networking, and discussion of key issues related to water reuse in Idaho and the West.
Idaho has both reuse regulations and guidelines that include treatment and beneficial reuse of municipal and industrial wastewater. Water reuse by different types of land application facilities is allowed by state regulations. In 1988, Idaho’s Wastewater Land Application permitting rules were promulgated and guidance was developed. Idaho has a public advisory working group that meets periodically to advise guidance development and review existing and future reuse guidance. In 2011 reuse regulations were updated, and the name of the rules changed to Recycled Water Rules (IDAPA 58.01.17). The Idaho Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) is the state agency tasked with issuing both industrial and municipal reuse permits. In Idaho, the NPDES permit program, which includes discharge of reclaimed water to surface waters, is administered by EPA, which means EPA is responsible for issuing and enforcing all NPDES permits in Idaho.
Beneficial use of Recycled Water has been practiced in Oregon for several decades. The drivers for water reuse in the state include limitations imposed by new surface water discharge regulations, impaired water bodies with TMDLs, opportunities due to upgrades with advanced treatment technologies, and water supply needs. Multiple facilities implement water reuse programs throughout the state.
Uses practiced in Oregon include irrigation of golf courses, playing fields, poplar tree plantations, and commercial landscapes; cooling in the production of electricity; and wetland habitats.
The Oregon Administrative Rules, Chapter 340, Division 55 (OAR 340-055), “Recycled Water Use,” prescribe the requirements for the use of recycled water for beneficial purposes while protecting public health and the environment. The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality is responsible for implementing these rules. The Department coordinates closely with the Oregon Department of Human Services and the Oregon Water Resources Department in implementing these rules. Facilities are required to manage and operate recycled water projects under a water reuse management plan. These plans are specific to each facility and are considered part of a facility’s NPDES or Water Pollution Control Facility (WPCF) water quality permit. Site-specific conditions, such as application rates and setbacks, may be established to ensure the protection of public health and the environment.
About 30 reclaimed water facilities are operating in Washington State, with about one-third in eastern Washington and two-thirds in western Washington. Many more reclaimed water facilities are in various stages of planning, design, or construction. Design capacities range from less than 1 million gallons per day (mgd) to 21 mgd.
The drivers for reclaimed water facilities in Washington vary by facility and include discharge regulations, impaired water bodies with TMDL water cleanup plans, efforts to restore Puget Sound, water supply needs, wastewater treatment capacity needs, and opportunities due to upgrades or new facilities with advanced treatment technologies. As the state’s Water Reclamation and Reuse Standards were being developed in the 1990s, the state provided funding for four pilot projects, including the cities of Ephrata, Royal City, Sequim, and Yelm. Those initial pilot plants went on line between 1998 and 2000.
Today, water reuse in Washington includes agricultural, forest, golf course, turf, and urban landscape irrigation; street sweeping and dust suppression; toilet flushing; decorative fountains and ponds; commercial and industrial processes; and environmental uses such as groundwater recharge, aquifer storage and recovery, wetlands enhancement, and stream-flow augmentation.
The Washington State Legislature passed the Reclaimed Water Act, Chapter 90.46 of the Revised Code of Washington (RCW) in 1992. The Reclaimed Water Act and Chapters 90.48 and 90.82 RCW encourage the development and use of reclaimed water, require consideration of reclaimed water in wastewater and water supply planning, and recognize the importance of reclaimed water as a strategy within water resource management statewide. State standards were developed jointly by the state Departments of Ecology and Health in 1997. The two agencies jointly issue state reclaimed water permits. The state has been in the process of creating a new reclaimed water rule since 2006, but fell under a rulemaking moratorium in 2010. The process was reactivated in 2014, and should result in completed new regulations in 2016. Under the existing statute and guidelines, the owner of the reclaimed water facility receives an exclusive right to the use of that water. Reclaimed water is considered a new water supply and is recognized as a resource that can be integrated into state, regional, and local strategies to respond to population growth and climate change. The state also recognizes reclaimed water as an important mechanism for improving water quality by reducing discharge of treated wastewater effluent into Puget Sound and other sensitive areas.