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Recycled Water Could Conserve Supply, Save Money

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CARY, N.C. — Raleigh city leaders are considering an updated version of a concept that some cities across the nation are already using that allows residents to use treated, recycled water for irrigation purposes.

Cary was the first town in the state to pump treated wastewater to homes and businesses for irrigation and cooling purposes. Arizona, Florida, California and Washington also use reclaimed water for the same purpose.

"It's reclaiming a resource that would have been wasted," said Cary resident Tom Ricketts. "(It) frees up a lot of potable water that we may have to ration a lot further if we didn't use recycled water."

Ricketts lives in Cary's Wessex subdivision, where even amidst an early fall drought, residents have been watering their grass as much as they want.

The entire subdivision is piped into the town's non-potable water system.

Raleigh has some of the infrastructure in place to do the same thing, but right now, it is hardly used. Part of the reason, city leaders said, is that the wastewater treatment plant is 15 miles outside the city and the price of running new pipes to neighborhoods is too high.

But with upcoming growth, water in demand and voluntary water restrictions in place, leaders are studying "satellite water reuse," a new approach that, in concept, could prevent restrictions in the future.

"There's a potential here to make reuse water available quicker and at less cost," said Raleigh Public Utilities Director Dale Crisp.

Instead of sending used water several miles to the Raleigh plant and into the river, used water would be redirected to a series of satellite plants, treated on the spot, and sent to surrounding customers.

In addition to future water restrictions, "satellite water reuse" could also save water customers money.

In Cary, for example, customers who water their lawns three days a week with the recycled water can save an average of about $30 on their monthly water bills.

"Last month, we used about 600,000 gallons a day," said Marie Cefalo, Cary's Water Conservation Team leader. "So, that would be an offset to our potable demand."

Whether it would be cost-effective for Raleigh, however, is still unknown. The study to find out could take about six months to complete.


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