Water conservation has been a hot topic across the country for many years. Indiana American Water and other water utilities and conservation groups are committed to spreading awareness of the importance of saving water and protecting healthy water quality. As a result, the way we talk, think about, and use our water is changing.
One of the emerging terms from this new focus on water is water reuse. This practice involves finding alternative uses for existing water supplies, and reclaiming used water in order to enhance sustainability.
Read on to learn more about this emerging practice.
What is Reused Water?
Water reuse, also known as water recycling or reclaimed water, is water that has been used for human activities but is then re-treated at a wastewater treatment plant or other similar system by state and local standards to be reused for another designated purpose.
Common water reuse purposes include agricultural and landscape irrigation, potable water supplies, groundwater replenishment, industrial processes, and environmental restoration.
While regulating water reuse typically falls to state regulatory authorities, the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Water Reuse Program helps foster collaboration between stakeholders in water reuse to move applications across the country forward.
Types of Water Reuse
There are two types of water reuse – planned and unplanned.
Unplanned water reuse occurs when a body of water made up of used water is subsequently used again as a water source for a different purpose. An example of unplanned municipal wastewater reuse is when major rivers, such as the Mississippi River, are filled with treated wastewater discharges. Oftentimes communities also draw water from these rivers into new treatment plants for other water systems.
On the other hand, planned water reuse is much more deliberate and requires specific water systems to be created in order to work. In this scenario, a community will come together to find a way to recycle water before it is reintroduced to the environment, for example, taking used water and recycling it for potable reuse or groundwater supply management.
How Can We Reuse Water?
Common examples of how we can reuse water in our communities include:
- Landscape irrigation, such as watering parks and golf courses
- Potable reuse projects
- Irrigation for agriculture
- Municipal water supply
- Process water for power plants, refineries, mills, and factories
- Toilet flushing
- Construction processes such as mixing concrete
- Replenishing artificial lakes and reservoirs
- Environmental restoration
- Fire suppression
When establishing planned water reuse, it’s important to denote exactly how the reclaimed water will be used so it is treated accordingly, in other words, “fit-for-purpose.” Water used for landscape irrigation has different treatment water requirements than water used in an industrial process.
Do We Drink Reused Water?
The answer is complex. Reclaimed water as we’ve discussed in this blog is always kept separate from drinking water. It even has its own color-coded pipe system with reused water pipes being marked with a distinct purple color.
However, drinking water can be recycled in its own system. While the Orange County Water District in California runs the world’s largest water recycling plant, there are similar operations across the country, and even in your own backyard.
Indiana American Water frequently incorporates water reuse features into its new water treatment plants. Over the last several years, the company has built facilities, including in Mooresville, Kokomo, Richmond, and Northwest Indiana, that recycle most or all the water used for regular backwashing of the filers at its water treatment facilities. This water, which would typically be discharged into the sewer system, nearby streams, or settling basins, is instead recycled by routing it back through the treatment process – providing significant savings for customers while enhancing the local environment.
In Gary, IN, the addition of these backwash recycling facilities and the re-routing of stormwater runoff from nearly 65,000 square feet of roof space at the company’s pumping and treatment buildings into infiltration trenches, allows it to be retained on-site and naturally percolate into the soil. This helps the City of Gary to reduce combined sewer overflows into nearby waterways and Lake Michigan.
Drinking water supplies are constantly recycled through indirect potable reuse or direct potable reuse. Indirect reuse involves recycling through natural processes like the water cycle, while direct reuse uses a variety of professional water treatment methods to protect public health and safety including:
Water Reuse at Home
Did you know you can partake in simple, but highly effective water reuse practices at home? Here are some common examples:
- Take water used to rinse vegetables or cook pasta and recycle it by using it to water your houseplants (once it’s cooled off of course!)
- Scatter leftover ice cubes on your lawn or houseplants
- Place a bucket in your shower and collect and reuse the water that runs while you’re waiting for it to get hot
- Use a rain barrel to collect water runoff from your roof
The Importance of Water Reuse
Water reuse is still a new phrase for many Americans. However many water reuse systems have been in place across the U.S. in some format since the early 1960s, and it’s only expanding. Bluefield Research reports that there were more than 763 water reuse projects being planned in 2017 alone.
Recycled water is important because it contributes to our greater water conservation efforts. Water is a finite resource and we need to treat it as such. While it does require secondary treatment, water reclamation is beneficial for a variety of reasons, including:
- Promotes sustainable resource utilization
- Allows for proper demand management by influencing demand
- Provides solutions for water scarcity issues
- Reduces water consumption and helps prevent overconsumption
- Results in overall cost savings
Contact Indiana American Water Today
At Indiana American Water, we strive to meet our goal of providing every resident of Indiana with safe, reliable access to fresh water. Part of our efforts include spreading awareness and education about responsible water practices, including distributed water reuse systems. Contact our dedicated staff for information about our water services or visit our website for additional resources on water reuse.