El Dorado Irrigation District Director of Communications and Customer Services Mary Lynn Carlton talks with EID Environmental Manager Dan Corcoran and Environmental Compliance Analyst Marty Johnson about the effect of the drought on recycled water production, use and conservation.
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Now that we’re in a drought, the usage of recycled water is all the more important to help conserve water resources. Tell me about recycled water use in the district.
Today the district is a statewide leader in delivering recycled water to residential customers, but actually EID first began delivering recycled water in the late 1970s to commercial properties for outdoor irrigation. Fast-forward to today and you’ll learn that the district has made incredible strides in the growth of its recycled water treatment and delivery capabilities, resulting in one of the largest recycled water operations in the state. The district currently delivers more than 1 billion gallons of recycled water annually to 3,870 residential and 27 commercial customers in the western portion of the district’s service area.
What makes water “recycled” and how does it get to its destination for use as irrigation?
Recycled water is produced by treating wastewater collected from our sewer customers at our wastewater treatment plants located in Cameron Park and El Dorado Hills. The district utilizes sophisticated treatment technologies to produce the highest quality treated recycled water (termed “tertiary”) that is visually almost indistinguishable from drinking water but is not suitable for drinking. Once treated to strict state regulations, the water is delivered to customers through a dedicated, completely separate, distribution system to individual customers. Each of these activities is overseen by the district’s Wastewater/Recycled Water Operations Division.
From there the district’s Environmental Division handles oversight responsibility for onsite usage and works with customers to ensure delivery and irrigation systems meet applicable design, construction and use requirements. All systems conveying recycled water require strict adherence to state and district construction and identification criteria to ensure the public health and safety are protected at all times. To accomplish this, certified district inspectors review proposed recycled water irrigation system plans and inspect systems during construction. Once recycled water irrigation systems are installed and approved, staff conducts annual site inspections to ensure continued compliance with state and district regulations.
Can I recycle my own water?
The treatment and use of recycled water is strictly controlled by state regulation and permitting. Only entities permitted by the state can produce recycled water. However, if you are interested in potentially reusing gray water (water that has not come into contact with toilet waste) from your home to meet irrigation demands on your property, please visit the district’s Webpage dedicated to this subject at eid.org/graywater to learn more information.
How does recycled water use help the district save drinking water?
Creating an alternative water supply that can be repurposed for non-drinking uses from a source that would otherwise be discharged to a water body results in a tremendous benefit to the district. Each gallon of recycled water produced satisfies irrigation demands that would otherwise be provided by the district’s drinking water system and extends the drinking water supplies, which become even more valuable during times of drought.
Can you tell me more about the need for recycled water conservation during the drought?
Although the district has the ability to produce a large amount of recycled water, we are unable to store seasonal demand quantities. As a result, peak summer recycled water demands must be supplemented with drinking water. Additionally, as customers reduce interior water use, wastewater production is also decreased — which, in turn, decreases recycled water production capabilities. As of June 17, cumulative year-to-date (since Jan. 1) conservation is at 4 percent. So it is crucial that our recycled water customers also meet the current 30 percent conservation goal to help ensure adequate drinking water supplies for all customers especially if the drought continues another year.
What can recycled water customers do to achieve the district’s conservation goals?
The first step any customer should take is identifying and stopping unnecessary water loss inside and outside of the home by repairing leaks and stopping other sources of unintentional loss. Once this has been accomplished, customers should evaluate how water is being used and determine what water use behaviors can be modified to further reduce unnecessary usage, such as checking timers to ensure watering is only occurring on designated watering days and avoiding overwatering. One unique benefit all recycled water customers have is the ability to track irrigation usage through their dedicated recycled water meter. This allows each customer to accurately measure savings after adjusting watering activities and also measure their progress toward meeting the 30 percent conservation goals in real time by checking the meter during the time between billing periods. For more information on how to read your water meter please visit the district’s webpage at eid.org/ReadMeter.
Where can customers find out more about recycled water?
The district’s Webpage dedicated to recycled water at eid.org/recycledwater is a great place for many resources. The district also holds monthly recycled water orientation meetings. These meetings are required for new homeowners with recycled water and landscaping contractors installing recycled water irrigation systems. The meetings are open to anyone who is interested in learning about the obligations associated with use of recycled water.