By Nirvi Shah
While the roads along the Delray Beach coast are torn up, the temporary inconvenience will soon give way to a long-term change in residents' water-use habits.
The ripped-up strip of the coast from Atlantic Avenue north to Beach Drive is the fifth section of the city being fitted for pipes that will carry filtered wastewater for use on lawns and other purposes, aside from drinking, said Victor Majtenyi, deputy director of public utilities.
"If we can get their irrigation done on reclaimed water, that will be a big help in off-setting our use of potable water," he said.
He estimates this part of the project alone will keep at least 230,000 gallons of drinking water from being sprinkled on lawns each day. If more grant money becomes available, the next phase of the project would be from Beach Drive north to George Bush Boulevard along the coast. That part of the water reclamation work could keep another 720,000 gallons of drinking water off residents' yards.
"Funding is going to be the issue," Majtenyi said.
The current South Florida Water Management District grant of more than $1 million requires the pipe now being laid to be in place by the end of August. It could be another two months before the roads are back to normal, however.
Eventually residents will be required to connect to the web of pipes that carry recycled wastewater. They should be getting notices of that in the next few months. Majtenyi said the cost to homeowners should be small and will be subsidized by the city.
Delray Beach started its wastewater reclamation project in 2003, adding pipes to different parts of the city as grants were secured from the water management district. If more grant money becomes available, a city masterplan calls for eight more phases of water reclamation work.
Each customer added to the reclaimed water system gets the city one step farther from building a new water plant for drinking water that might require the expensive conversion of salt water into fresh water, he said.
"Plus, it's the right thing to do," he said, because filtering wastewater and putting it on lawns keeps sewage out of the ocean and from being injected deep underground.
Further south, Boca Raton has been working on its own recycled water project since the mid-90s. Some 977 customers tap into the system now, including some especially large water users -- golf courses. The plant now processes about five million gallons of wastewater a day, but it can handle twice that load. The city has plans to expand the project's reach to more customers.
Boca Raton says their project has saved over 10 billion gallons of drinking water since their water reclamation project was put in place.