WSU, City of Pullman to receive grant for water reuse project

The Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology) will award more than $1 million to Washington State University (WSU) and the city of Pullman for a project that will help improve water resources in the area...

SPOKANE, WA, Nov. 18, 2008 -- The Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology) will award more than $1 million to Washington State University (WSU) and the city of Pullman for a project that will help improve water resources in the area.

The city and WSU will use the grant money to help develop a project to reclaim and reuse treated water. Reclaiming or re-using water means using engineered treatment systems to speed up nature's restoration of water quality. Wastewater can be cleansed and re-used in many non-drinking uses in landscapes, public parks, and to irrigate golf courses.

The Ecology grant comprises only a portion of the total estimated costs of the project, which is about $16 million.

Reclaimed water may also be used in agricultural and industrial uses, for toilet flushing, dust control, construction activities, and to create wetlands and ponds.

The WSU project involves three strategies:

• Increasing the amount of water in Airport Creek.
• Improving vegetation and habitat along the South Fork Palouse River by planting bushes and trees along the banks near the city's Wastewater Treatment Plant.
• Improving the wetlands that border the newly expanded WSU golf course. Examples of how this is done may include improving the way the water moves in and out of the wetland or planting native plants.

The project will use a portion of the treated effluent from the city's wastewater treatment plant that would otherwise enter the South Fork Palouse River. The diverted water will undergo further treatment before it is used to water the golf course and green areas on campus.

"This project will be a big benefit to the community, as well as to the environment. The funding from Ecology will go a long way toward helping us develop a good system for conserving and re-using water," said Pullman Public Works Director Mark Workman.

The city and WSU applied for Ecology funding for the project last year through the Palouse Watershed Planning Unit. The planning unit is composed of people representing a variety of local water interests who work with local and state government to improve the watershed's water quality and supply. More than 40 watersheds statewide have planning units.

Ecology and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife worked closely with the city and WSU to make sure that the environment would benefit as much as possible from the project. As a result, the project not only takes some pressure off the community water supply but also helps improve the environment.

"Ecology supports the re-use of water, but it's especially great when we can work with the community to increase the benefit of a project while doing what we can to help sustain water supply," said Mimi Wainwright, Ecology watershed lead for the Palouse Watershed Planning Unit. "Re-using wastewater means the water in the aquifer will last that much longer."

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