PLANT CITY — The Walden Lake Golf & Country Club is getting more environmentally conscientious when it comes to water usage.
The 36-hole country club in the city's southwest end is set to join more than a dozen golf courses in Hillsborough County that irrigate with reclaimed water instead of groundwater pumped from the aquifer.
"We decided to do this from a goodwill standpoint," general manager and part-owner Steve Mercer said. "We wanted to be good neighbors."
Starting Monday, workers will begin digging a trench to run a pipeline from the city's treatment plant at Victoria Avenue and Plant Street to the golf course 2 1/2 miles away. The 10-month project is expected to cost $4.5 million, with half of that coming from a Southwest Florida Water Management District grant.
"The big picture here is that we're using reclaimed water in areas that otherwise would be drawing from other sources of high-quality water," city utilities director Frank Coughenour said.
The city will charge a fee to pump water to the course. Mercer said the cost will be equivalent to what the course pays now in electricity and maintenance to pump groundwater to storage ponds.
"It also has the potential to help if we have a really bad drought," he said.
The city has tried to boost reclaimed water usage since opening its treatment facility in 1997.
Currently, two main sites receive the water — the Mike E. Sansone Community Park, where it irrigates ballfields, and the fertilizer company CF Industries, which receives 2 million gallons daily for its processing plant, Coughenour said.
The biggest obstacle to expansion so far has been the cost to lay pipes. One reason the city chose to install a 24-inch wide PVC pipeline to the golf course, instead of a smaller line, is to have the option to expand to the city's western portions, Coughenour said. The golf course will receive roughly 375,000 gallons a day.
Reclaimed water, essentially treated wastewater, is not permitted for drinking, bathing or most crop irrigation, but is suitable for lawns, ornamental shrubs and industrial purposes. Already, 14 Hillsborough golf courses and dozens of planned developments use the water.
A common misconception is that it contains properties conducive to growing plants. Officials said the main benefit is that it's an alternative to ground-water pumping.
"When the city approached us we thought it made sense," Mercer said. "As long as it didn't cost us anything we thought, 'why not?' "
Coughenour said the pipeline will zig-zag along local roads, including Woodrow Wilson Street, Airport Road and Sydney Road.
Workers will start near Oak Avenue and Risk and Lemon streets, working their way north to avoid problems when classes resume in the fall at Bryan Elementary School and Tomlin Middle School. After that, the crews will head south toward the golf course. The project is supposed to be finished in May 2013.
Rich Shopes can be reached at (813) 661-2454 or [email protected]