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Largo sets standard for reclaimed-water commitment

When a local government works hard to do the right thing, it should be recognized. Largo is the most ambitious city in north Pinellas County when it comes to improving and enlarging its reclaimed water system.

The city deserves credit for its effort.

Largo is completing a $4.2-million project to build a 10-million-gallon storage tank, 24-inch reclaimed water main and more powerful pumps to meet increased user demand. City officials say the tank will be the largest reclaimed water storage structure in the state.

In a separate project, the city is upgrading its sewage treatment plant to produce 18-million gallons of treated wastewater a day. With the addition of the new tank, it will be able to store that same amount of reclaimed water.

Why praise a local government for doing its duty? Because putting millions of dollars into a reclaimed-water distribution system isn't always the most popular way to spend city money. Reclaimed water is not really a moneymaking endeavor, and its benefits are not immediate or obvious.

But the use of reclaimed water for irrigation and industrial purposes adds to the quality of life in Pinellas County in four ways:

+ For every sprinkler system hooked up to reclaimed water, hundreds of gallons of drinking water are saved.

+ Homeowners also save money by using the less-expensive treated wastewater for irrigation instead of highly treated drinking water.

+ Discharge of treated wastewater into the bay and gulf is reduced when the water is pumped to businesses and homes.

+ Reclaimed water that is used on lawns and then filters into the aquifer helps recharge groundwater supplies.

Largo has made its dollars count. In the recent project, for example, the Southwest Florida Water Management District is paying for half the $4.2-million cost. But you've got to spend money to save money.

Largo's reclaimed water goes not only to home sprinkler systems, but also to businesses and industry. Largo "sparkling water," as it is called, is used in the cooling tower at the county's resource recovery plant and in the air conditioning system at Home Shopping Network. Every gallon that is used for such purposes does not have to be discharged into the lakes near Feather Sound, where the city disposes of the reclaimed water that it cannot sell. That water eventually ends up in Tampa Bay; other North Pinellas cities discharge their treated wastewater into the gulf.

The new storage tank will help Largo meet fluctuating demand. Reclaimed water for irrigation is used more in the evening and in dry periods, so it must be stored until demand is high.

The next challenge for Largo is to expand the distribution system to more neighborhoods, a process that could take years.

But if city leaders continue their strong support for conservation of our water resources, Largo will continue to stand out as the leader setting the example for other cities to follow.

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