June 18, 2001
Water deal for valley hinges on DOE approval
by Jeanette Knutson
The county is working on a deal to provide water to several of the Sammamish Valley's major water users, such as Willows Run Golf Course, Hmong farmers, Farm LLC and Molbak's.
The deal will afford these businesses partial use of King County's water rights, allowing them to draw river or groundwater ... temporarily.
The county will monitor use with an eye toward maximizing efficiency and businesses will pay the county for the water used. But once reclaimed water is available in the area, these businesses will switch to using reclaimed water and stop using the river and groundwater.
Carolyn Duncan, public affairs manager for King County Department of Natural Resources (DNR), sees the swap of temporary water rights in exchange for future use of reclaimed water as a real cooperation.
"We need customers for reclaimed water, and they need water. Both groups have needs and since the reclaimed water won't happen right away, sharing the county's water rights will help [these businesses sooner rather than later]."
Tom Fox, county DNR water reuse coordinator, said, "These businesses indicated various needs for water. [As they use the ground and river water,] we will be given access to some of their facilities. We will monitor their use of water to make sure they are using it at an agronomic rate (no excess water runoff, etc.), and this will help us design our reclaimed water facility. Seeing how they use the water will help us determine where to place the pipes, for example. We're just working with people to solve problems. We hope to get information from this."
Fox stressed that the plan to share county water rights has not been finalized.
Duncan said the county has applied to the Department of Ecology and the DOE will make its decision public, maybe in July.
The King County project to establish a reclaimed water facility in the Sammamish Valley is now in the preliminary design stage. Construction of a one to five million gallons-per-day satellite treatment facility is expected to take place in 2002 and 2003.
The siting of this reclaimed water plant here in the Sammamish Valley is in no way tied to the siting of the Brightwater wastewater treatmeant facility, said Fox and Duncan.
"The highest potential rate of reclaimed water use for King County is here in the valley," said Fox.
Jo Sullivan, public involvement coordinator for King County DNR, said the county actually had requests from valley businesses to participate in a reclaimed water project.
An early action phase of the reclaimed water project is already underway. Four garden test plots have been planted and are being watered with reclaimed water which is being trucked in. The demonstration gardens are located at the Hollywood Pump Station on 124th Street Northeast, just off the Sammamish River Trail.
In July the county hopes to have a mobile advanced technology system in place at the test garden site that will produce approximately 10 gallons of re-used water per minute. They will also test a wastewater filtering mechanism at the Westpoint Treatment Plant.
Said Fox, "We are going to be testing a number of different technologies. We want to demonstrate that using reclaimed water works. We want to test the water in the pipes, get the characteristics and then compare the technologies. [The various units] can all produce Class A water. We want to judge or compare costs and operations and see which works best."
Reclaimed water (for the unintiated) is highly treated wastewater that is safe for irrigation, recreation and industrial uses. Said Sullivan, "It is water treated to a Class A-level, safe for everything but drinking. It's been used on food in California, on golf courses in Arizona and on soccer fields in Texas."
The valley test gardens were planted with items similar to those grown by potential reclaimed water users: ornamentals, herbs, vegetables and native plants. The specimens were grown from small plants put in the ground May 24. The soil is a Cedargrove two-way topsoil mix.
Sullivan monitors the plants' progress, keeping a log of her findings. To date the plants look extraordinarily healthy. Only the big leaf maple is exhibiting signs of stress. Sullivan suggests the rich soil may be the cause, or the fan in the pump station that blows over the "natives" test plot.
"It's important to understand that this is just the start," said County Executive Ron Sims. "These projects will allow us to learn, innovate and jump-start the feasibility and cost effectiveness of reclaimed water in our region. Water is our most precious resource and we are planning ahead to make sure people, fish and wildlife have a quality reliable water supply for the future."