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Reclaimed water has variety of uses

With growth comes change, and Hernando County has been growing and changing for more than two decades. Finally, the county's utility department changed its thinking and leadership when it announced an application to the Southwest Florida Water Management District for a reused water grant (Reclaimed water, cheaper water, Nov. 25 Times). The commissioners approved this, promising a reliable supply of a diminishing resource.

However, reclaimed water has uses far more beneficial, varied and economical than golf course irrigation. Florida has more than 500 county and municipal users of reclaimed water that the state Department of Environmental Protection and the federal Department of Environmental Protections have approved.

The uses of this tertiary-treated, odorless, sparkling water should benefit more than our developers and golfers. Tallahassee has been using this water product for agriculture irrigation since 1966. Manatee County has followed with vegetable crop watering. Since 1977, St. Petersburg provides reclaimed water for park landscapes, residential lawns and school use. Largo uses it for commercial, industrial, street-sweeping, power generation and supplemental firefighting operations. Orlando's citrus growers also irrigate with reclaimed water.

Ingenious future uses could include toilet flushing, aesthetic fountain spraying, dust control and aquifer recharging. Such water contains some nitrogen and phosphorous, which are ingredients of fertilizer products. Use of reclaimed water also would lead to reduction in local watering restrictions when metered onto residents.

Eventually, reclaimed water distribution systems might be used to restore and retain the drought-stricken, moon-scaped, once-pristine lakes, ponds and canals in Spring Hill, specifically the Weeki Wachee prairie lakes (Citrus, Theresa, et al.). Timber Pines, Glen Lakes and the Heather all have interconnecting reclaimed waterways.

Hopefully, Swiftmud and the commissioners will recommend the expansion of the county's application efforts to include more than irrigation of mostly private golf courses and developer perks to new home buyers.

John P. Fallon lives in Spring Hill. Guest columnists write their own opinions on subjects they choose, which do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this newspaper.