From Waste to Wetlands
Updated: Oct 18
Did you know that over 300 million gallons of partially treated sewage gets dumped into the Atlantic every day? Sounds like a lot, right?
But how does that water get into the ocean?
Canals, Sewer Outfall pipes & Storm Drains
It's easy to assume that excess rain runs off into our storm drains and canals. But it's important to note the amount of nutrients and pollutants left on land that also runs off with that rainwater.
Think about your local neighborhood, or the development going up over on the next street. The codes and beatification standards from a local city commissioner generally require that every commercial and residential property be maintained up to code depending on location and setback. These parameters traditionally entail sprinkler systems, fertilizers and pesticides along with other harmful chemicals. Combine this, with irrigation and fertilizer utilized within the agriculture codes of practice from our Everglades Agricultural Area...and you have a whole lot of nutrient runoff which ends up in our canals, inevitably leading to our ocean.
Wastewater to Wetlands
Located in the city of Delray, Wakodahatchee Wetlands Nature Reserve is a man-made wetland system built as an extension of the local wastewater utility plant. Created in 1996, Wakodahatchee uses treated sewage used for irrigation (non-potable water) to create a biodiverse wetland for South Florida's native ecosystem. The Southern Region Water Reclamation Facility pumps two million gallons of highly treated wastewater into the Wakodahatchee Wetland which acts as a percolation pond, returning billions of gallons of clean water back into the water table. The water purification system is self-sustaining using pond berms and native plants as buffers. This renewable wetland cleanses and saves millions of gallons of fresh water from being streamed into our ocean.
Biodiversity is Vital
Wakodahatchee wetlands house over 170 species of birds, small game, and of course the famous Florida gator. Renourishment, as well as water and soil filtration support our food web including energy exchange up the food pyramid. Native plants and animals benefit from biosolids and organic nutrients, which assist in building a healthy habitat for resource partitioning and cohabitation. This wetland system supports an entire ecosystem through consistent energy exchange between trophic levels. Keeping South Florida's biodiversity sustained is crucial for the survival of our planet. Imagine the amount of water and other resources we conserve each year when working in tandem with nature!
Daily demand of freshwater consumption increases every year. The world must figure out how to reuse water for agriculture, irrigation, urban development and wetland management to prevent water waste. We must prevail to find sustainable solutions for treated wastewater, so we stop dumping pollution into our ocean and continue to have fresh, clean drinking water without draining our aquifers.
How Can I Help?
Here are a few practical ways you can help conserve water from your home:
Turn the faucet off while you brush your teeth.
Even when hand washing dishes, you can save gallons of water when you turn that faucet off in the process. Only use it when you need it!
Shorten your average shower time by 5 minutes.
The shorter the shower the better! According to a study performed by dermatologists, it only takes 5-10 minutes for the skin and hair to be clean.
Always choose the shortest cycle possible when running your dishwasher and/or clothing washing machine.
Your clothes and dishes will get done in the shortest amount of time. Check to see if your washing machine has a "suds saver" option.
Plant self-sustaining native plants in your yard rather than exotics.
This will drastically help reduce your water bill as well as water consumption from your watering/sprinkler systems. Native plants generally require less water and maintenance. We should only water lawns every 3-5 days instead of once or twice a day. Overwatering does nothing, especially in a drought. Soil is often hydrophobic. Meaning the water cannot penetrate only inducing runoff. In extreme hot weather, you can water up to 15 millimeters every 3 days.
Install a purification system on your tap or invest in a Brita Filter.
Instead of purchasing water bottles which drains our springs and aquifer as well as wastes plastic, reuse tap water.
Utilize "Grey Water" from your home gutter and soffits to water your plants/lawns.
Grey water is domestic wastewater left from showers and rain drains, etc. used for irrigation. There are efficient grey water home systems you can install now as well.
Understand your watershed models.
There is so much knowledge available to the public today, you can easily become a part of the solution. Your department of Health Science and Human Ecology, Dept. of Agriculture, Soil and Water conservation board and wastewater treatment plants, offer information to the public. Certain water permits allow civilians to discharge domestic use/ reclaimed water in local wetlands for natural purification. It is important to be aware of the purple non-potable hoses when you see them. Do NOT drink the water, however you can use it for irrigation.
To learn more, contact us email@example.com & check out our latest blog Aquifer You, Aquifer Me (youthenvironmentalalliance.com)
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Written By Rachel Taylor