Recycling, Reuse Comes to Disney

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I have been traveling a fair amount lately, making stops in Denver, Austin, Orlando and even Biloxi, Miss., just before Hurricane Georges blew in. A funny thing about me and traveling - Im always excited when it comes time to leave and Im even more excited to get home.

I was in Orlando for WEFTEC and I made the mistake of mentioning my tough travel schedule to a fellow attendee. He noted that as a consultant he travels constantly. A resident of New Jersey, he had flown in from Switzerland to attend the conference and was headed to Spain next. He definitely had me beat.

The Water Environment Federation annual conference is a huge event. This year organizers estimated that more than 15,000 people attended, along with some 750 exhibitors. Attendees came from as far away as China, Australia, and the Philippines. In all, 71 countries outside the United States were represented.

One highlight of the conference for me was a special seminar for journalists hosted by the federation. Entitled "Water Quality Issues for the 21st Century," it covered such topics as water reuse, biosolids recycling, and watershed planning. One session was devoted to reuse and recycling at Disney World.

From an infrastructure viewpoint, Disney World is equivalent to a city with a population of about 300,000. The Reedy Creek Improvement District operates a 15 mgd wastewater treatment plant that serves the park. The utility provides reclaimed water for irrigation of landscaped areas within the Walt Disney World Resort Complex. That includes five golf courses, landscaped areas at five hotels and highway medians.

Reclaimed water also is used to irrigate a 110-acre tree farm which produces horticultural materials for use throughout the Disney Complex. A network of 85 rapid infiltration basins are used for ground-water recharge, so the complex is nearly zero-discharge.

The district operates a composting facility that mixes wastewater biosolids, wooden pallets and trash wood products, plus food wastes from the many restaurants at Disney World. The composted material is used to fertilize the parks grounds. Disney also operates an extensive solid waste recycling program and requires businesses at the park to sort their trash into four categories.

Even though I have always thought of Florida as a wet state, it has significant water supply problems and is a leader in water reuse programs. According to figures presented at the seminar, Florida has 426 water reuse systems providing a billion gallons of recycled water per day for use on 152,000 acres of land.

There are some 57 residential reuse systems in the state, along with irrigation systems serving 156 golf courses and 118 farm regions.

Although residential reuse programs are growing, there are still concerns about using recycled wastewater in and around homes. In Florida, the reuse systems are for outdoor use only. One major concern for system operators is that some enterprising weekend plumber will inadvertently hook the reuse system into the city water supply. Sounds like something I would do.

Hose bibs are also a concern with reuse systems. Some utilities have reuse systems designed to hook directly into sprinkler systems. However, many allow hose bibs so recycled water can be used by any homeowner with a hose.

But give someone a hose and a place to hook it up, and who knows what use the water will be put to? Heres an idea: "Hey honey, lets fill up the swimming pool and go for a dip!"

Sounds refreshing, doesnt it?

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