Also, the city's public works director says no effluent has been discharged in the river in the last couple of months.
In addition to causing dramatic health and economic challenges, COVID-19 has also contributed to an unexpected environmental challenge in the city of Ormond Beach: The supply of reuse water is down from about 4.7 million gallons per day to 3.8 million gallons per day. That means an increased amount of drinking water has been used for watering lawns.
Therefore, changes are coming to Ormond Beach's reuse water irrigation schedule, as the city will reduce the service to two days a week per zone starting June 1.
The adjustment is meant to help the city consistently meet the demand for reuse water, also known as reclaimed water, which it is having a hard time doing with the current three-day schedule per zone. Public Works Director Shawn Finley said that, with the current schedule, they found that they had enough reuse water to serve customers on Monday and Tuesday, but by Wednesday, there was little reuse water left. The new schedule will give the city three days to replenish its reuse water, rather than one.
“We’re doing this to be dependable and to be able to provide it so that they know that it’s going to be on," Finley said.
The new schedule will be as follows:
- North Breakaway Trails
- Forest Quest/Deer Creek/Briargate
- South Peninsula
- Mallard's Reach
- South Breakaway Trails
- Hunter's Ridge
- North Peninsula
The hours will also be reduced, from the current 4 p.m. to 10 a.m. schedule to 8 p.m. to 10 a.m. The city will send letters to customers regarding the changes soon.
The new schedule also splits the customer base more evenly: About 1,800 households will have access to reuse on the active days. Before, 2,000 customers were all on one schedule, with the remaining 1,600 on the other.
Other factors impacting the city's ability to meet the demand on the present schedule are rainfall, seasonal peak demand and the pandemic, Finley said. This year to date, the city has only received abut 6 inches of rain compared to the annual average of 12. It's also the dry season, meaning people water their lawns more often and for longer periods of time. Finley added that the city has also seen less effluent coming into their wastewater treatment plant due to the governor's safer at home order; a result he attributed to things like fewer dishes to be washed at restaurants and decreased utilization of public restrooms.
In March 2, the city was processing 4.68 million gallons of effluent per day. By May 5, that figure dropped to 3.81 million gallons per day.
The average reuse water customer on a quarter acre lot uses about 17,000 gallons of reuse water a month, Finley said. It takes the effluent from five houses to support that need. With 3,700 customers currently on reclaim, Finley said there are no plans to expand.
“We’re pretty much at right where we want to be," Finley said. "Unless we get a lot more sewer customers, we’re not going to really plan on expanding the reclaim water system any.”
Challenges with the system
So what happens now when the reclaim water runs out? The city supplements it with well water.
That counters the whole purpose of having a reuse water, said Mayor Bill Partington at the May 12 commission meeting, where the commissioners briefly discussed the changes. The mayor said he agrees that residents in the service areas (who pay a fee of $16 a month, or $8 if they live within the West Ormond Utilities District) should get a credit if reuse water isn't available on their assigned day. But, in the long run, Partington said that could end up costing the city thousands of dollars.
"The system is broken somehow, and I don’t think that was the intent when we got into it," Partington said. "The intent was to help the environment and provide a service.”
An interconnection with Holly Hill's reuse system is in the works, and that should also help, Partington said. Holly Hill's reuse water is used to irrigate the Riviera Golf Course, and the interconnection would help Ormond Beach supplement its own system with the leftover reuse water from Holly Hill.
The city is also continuing to monitor its own use of the reuse water, which it uses for watering medians and ball fields, Finley said.
“We’re taking a look at every opportunity we can to make sure that we’re not overwatering ... and that we’re not asking people to make sacrifices that we’re not willing to make," he said.
Currently, Finley said the city can't identify an area that is using more than its allotted amount of water. However, sometimes the problem isn't the amount of water, but the synchronized utilization of the system.
For example, in recently in Breakaway Trails, Finley said they ran 2,500 gallons of reuse a minute in a five-hour period.
“That’s about 800 people all with their sprinklers on, all at the same time," he said. "That’s quite a bit of water."
The storage tank there holds 2 million gallons of water, but one of the challenges in that subdivision is that the fire hydrant system operates on reuse water. When the water reaches a certain volume in the tank, the city has to shut off reuse to make sure the hydrants have enough in case of a fire.
An option that is on the table for future discussion is adding reuse water meters. It would be costly, though — each meter carries a $350 price tag, costing about $1.3 million overall.
Finley said the reason to install the meters would be to see if people are using more reuse water than they should be (the St. Johns River Water Management District states irrigation should be limited to no more than three-fourths of an inch per irrigation day) and to see if reuse is being used at the wrong times.
City Commissioner Troy Kent wasn't keen on adding meters.
"Does anybody believe we’re going to spend a million dollars on meters so that we could just see if you’re using too much, so we can go and knock on your door and tell you, 'Hey you’re using a little bit too much?'" Kent said. "That’s not how that was laid out to people.”
If the city is able to solve the reuse plan by changing the schedule, he said, they don't have to spend money on meters, or more storage, which is also an option for the future. Finley said adding reservoir storage would help during the rainy season when demand for reuse water is low.
The goal for the city's reuse water has always been to reduce the discharge of effluent into the Halifax River to zero. Finley said that as recently as two years ago, the city was discharging between 1.5 million to 2 million gallons per day of effluent into the river. By the end of last year, the city reduced the discharge to less than a half million gallons a day.
In the last two months, Finley said the city has not "put a drop" of effluent in the river. Everything has been used in the reuse water system.
“It’s been years in the making, and we’re finally at that point of being able to say that we’re consistently not putting anything out to the river and hopefully we can keep that going," Finley said.