December 14, 2016
Fort Myers explores options for use of reclaimed water
The city of Fort Myers is seeking creative alternatives for use of its excess supply of reclaimed water, which is wastewater that has been treated and disinfected to meet the standards of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, and to protect public health and environmental quality. It is typically used for irrigation purposes.
At a November workshop, the Fort Myers City Council discussed several options that could benefit city residents in the form of expanded access or improved water rates. The council gave the go-ahead for the mayor and city manager to negotiate the sale of excess reclaimed water to neighboring communities. The incremental revenue produced could then be used to offset water rate increases in the future or fund greater accessibility to reclaimed water in the city.
“Our citizens would need to get some benefit out of selling this commodity,” said City Manager Saeed Kazemi. “That’s either by reducing rates or expanding service.”
At this time, reclaimed water is available to a small percentage of Fort Myers residents through bulk service. Bulk service customers include industrial and agricultural customers and community developments that provide service to their residents through a master meter. With a new initiative in place, the city could provide bulk reclaimed water service in more areas, making irrigation more affordable and environmentally sustainable.
“Water conservation is a high priority for the city,” Mr. Kazemi said. “We want our residents to have access to this reclaimed water for their lawns and gardens.”
Fort Myers’ two wastewater facilities have the combined capacity to treat 23 million gallons of wastewater every day. When production of reclaimed water exceeds customer demand, the remaining water is treated, disinfected and released into the Caloosahatchee River.
If the city is unable to agree to terms with neighboring communities, a second option would be to store excess reclaimed water in underground injection wells, where it can be retrieved for future irrigation needs.