March 5, 2001
Area stakeholders discuss reclaimed water
by Jeanette Knutson
The call for water conservation efforts by Seattle Public Utilities, provider of water to 1.3 million people in the Seattle area, made last week's Metropolitan King County Council Committee-of-the-Whole meeting especially relevant. The focus of the meeting was water reuse challenges and opportunities.
With the region on the threshold of its first severe drought in nine years, King County is entertaining the implementation of a water reuse program in the shape of a pilot project in the Sammamish Valley.
And people lined up to say they were interested.
"[Reused] water in nonpotable water applications can be utilized in homes, agriculture, industry and recreation," said Rick Kirkby of the King County Department of Natural Resources. In the Valley, it can be used to provide water for salmon (by supporting or maintaining river flows), for crop, nursery stock or even golf course irrigation.
This alternative water system can stretch valuable water resources by taking the stress off the existing water supply. It can be achieved by creating usable water from processed wastewater.
Ideally, if a processing facility were added to the yet-unbuilt North End Wastewater Treatment Plant, 7 million gallons of reused water could be created per day. The next best alternative would be to build a satellite plant eight to 10 miles from a wastewater treatment plant. Such a facility could produce 3 to 5 million gallons of reused water per day. A third option would be to get reused water via a mobile unit. Such a unit could produce one-half million to 1 million gallons of recycled water a day and could be doing so in a year, said Kirkby.
Kern Gillette, president of Molbak's, spoke to the council as a potential customer of such reclaimed water. His company owns 42 acres at 124th and Woodinville-Redmond Road, 10 acres of which have been in production since the mid-80s. The nursery uses approximately 8.3 million gallons of water a year, drawn from its own well and a pond that fills with runoff and rainwater. But the company has 20 fallow acres that could be used if more water were available.
Gillette emphasized a need for a water supply suitable for agricultural purposes and available at an affordable price.
Jonqpao Yank addressed the council on behalf of the 50 Indochinese farming families in King County. Three families work 18 acres in the Sammamish Valley. For them, water availability is a serious problem. They have sought permission to drill a well for their Woodinville operation, but have been denied a permit. Their water shortage has forced them to grow mainly flowers.
"We would be happy with water or reused water as soon as possible," said Yank.
Andre Suske represented T & L Nursery, a 15-year-old business with 15 full-time and five part-time workers. Suske might consider using reclaimed water, but he has three concerns: 1. His business needs an affordable water source. 2. It needs a reliable water source, even if a high-season drought should occur. 3. And it needs a consistent-quality water source since fertilization would have to be adjusted to compensate for changes in water quality.
Brian Patton, co-owner of Willows Run Golf Course, is another Sammamish Valley businessman who sees a use for reused water. His 36-hole golf course plus 9-hole junior course and 18-hole family course sit on 300 acres, 135 of which are irrigated using 40 million gallons of water a year.
"We've been supportive of the [reuse] program. Golf courses are ideal uses for it," said Patton.
As part of its permitting process, Willows Run agreed to create wetland habitat on the property. Not keeping the wetlands hydrated would be a violation of the permit that granted the golf course, and reclaimed water would be perfect water for the job, said Patton.
One by one other individuals stepped up to the microphone to comment before King County Council on the possibility of using reclaimed water. Comments were largely positive. There was no dissension. There were no pointed comments about safety.
Mayor of Carnation Bob Patterson, representing the Snoqualmie Valley, spoke eloquently of his community's need for a wastewater treatment plant. Without one, Carnation's downtown will die. He appealed for county, state and federal help in paying for the $15 million project, a project too costly for the city's 2,000 residents to shoulder alone.
But he also mentioned a desire to have a recycled water component built into his town's wastewater treatment plant, knowing full well such a feature would add another $1 million to the plant's price tag.
"There are a number of uses for recycled water around the city of Carnation," said Patterson after the meeting. "There are plans for 47 acres of show gardens to be built within the city. The golf course would very much like to use it, and certainly Remlinger's and other area farms would benefit from reused water."
Despite interest expressed in the reclaimed water project, county officials made no final decisions on any reused water proposal.