Effluent Water Could Soon Be Drinkable in Nevada
Potable water use increases, dramatically, during the summer months, but so does effluent water demand. The reclaimed waste water is used for irrigation along parkways, schools, parks, and golf courses.
"Water that's at a much lower cost than potable water and at the same time, preserving our potable water resources for drinking, for showering, for cooking," says Dwayne Smith, Director of Engineering and Capital Projects for Washoe County.
But the water does not meet drinking water standards. Not yet, anyway. Technology is available that would convert waste water into drinking water.
"Some of the challenges include what the public perception is of treated waste water," Smith said. "Remember, at the end of the day, it's just water."
Still, effluent water has been a major source of water for many years. The South Truckee Meadows Water Reclamation Facility treats more than 3 million gallons of waste water per day, but summer demand reaches 12 million gallons per day.
Smith says a team of local water experts are working with the Nevada Department of Environmental Protection to establish regulatory framework to allow Indirect Potable Recharge. The practice involves injecting effluent water into the ground, that would eventually be used as drinking water. Several states are already using this method, including California, Arizona, Texas, and Colorado. Regulations could be in place, in the Silver State, by next summer.
"That would tell us how far we would have to treat the water, how many of the impurities that we would have to take out of it before we could get it back into the ground," Smith said.
The regulations would have to be adopted by the legislature during the 2017 session. Smith says he is hopeful that, eventually, water can be treated and piped directly to people's homes. The practice is already being used in Texas and Singapore. Smith says with time and community outreach, it could also be used in Nevada.
"It really is a community approach but I think it's going to pay us big dividends in the end," Smith said.
Reclaimed water is more than 30 percent cheaper than potable water. Smith says if this new technology takes hold in Nevada, it would allow water to be used, multiple times. That would decrease the demand on Truckee River water, allowing more of it to continue it's path to Pyramid Lake.