The state of Florida reclaims and reuses more wastewater for non-potable demands than any other state in the nation. While Florida’s west coast has embraced the use of reclaimed wastewater, the southern part of the state has struggled to implement reuse projects. This is likely to change, however, due to a law that requires counties that dump wastewater offshore to reuse a minimum of 60 percent of their wastewater by 2025.
In 2016, Florida’s west coast and inland farming counties reused close to 100 percent of their wastewater, primarily for irrigation purposes. In South Florida, on the other hand (Miami-Dade, Broward, and Monroe counties) wastewater reclamation hovers at a mere 4 to 7 percent.
A state law, passed in 2008, gave counties a 15+ year horizon to implement broader scale wastewater reclamation and reuse at the municipal level. However, many areas have found that implementing a municipal-scale reuse system can often be cost prohibitive. A recent study conducted by the Water Environment Federation highlighted the challenges facing municipal reuse systems. “Reuse points can potentially range widely across a municipal jurisdiction, which can imply high costs for a network capable of reaching them. This often makes centralized systems economically unfeasible.”
In an interview with the Miami Herald, Deputy Water and Sewer Director Doug Yoder, says: “The language in the statute says that reuse needs to be economically reasonable and technically feasible.” “We would be inclined to say if it increases the cost of water by a factor of 10, that hardly seems on its face to be economically reasonable.”
Southern Florida is still in dire need for impactful water conservation and reuse programs. Significant drought has hit the state this year and salt water intrusion continues to be a problem in many coastal areas. While centralized, municipal-scale reuse systems may not pencil out for many counties, an alternative solution may lie in the form of distributed or decentralized water reclamation systems.
In a study, published by the Water Resources Management journal, researchers outlined how decentralized treatment can complement existing municipal infrastructure. “Advancements in treatment technology have allowed for a compact approach to wastewater reclamation. These technologies, when applied to a decentralized strategy, can further reduce infrastructure requirements by limiting the number of wastewater collection facilities and associated energy costs.”
Given the state’s need for long-term water supply planning, a decentralized network of reclamation systems provides water supply resiliency to existing city infrastructure. A study by Research and Markets found that “decentralized wastewater management could be a cost effective method of managing wastewater on-site, with rapid population growth and industrialization.”
For now, the counties of South Florida are developing options to meet the state’s mandate. A plan is scheduled to be completed and presented to the state for review by the beginning of December.
 Staletovich, Jenny. Miami-Dade, lagging behind state, seeks cheap, non-icky ways to recycle its wastewater. Miami Herald, June 17, 2017. Web.http://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/environment/article156659064.html
 Leverenze, H. & G. Tchobanoglous. (2009). Satellite Systems for Enhanced Wastewater Management in Urban Areas. Water Environment Federation, 5592-5608.
 Staletovich. Miami-Dade, lagging behind state, seeks cheap, non-icky ways to recycle its wastewater. http://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/environment/article156659064.html
 Makropoulos, C. & D. Butler. (2010). Distributed Water Infrastructure for Sustainable Communities. Water Resources Management, 24 (11): 2795-2816
 Buisness Wire. Decentralized Wastewater and Solid Waste Treatment Technologies-Research Markets. Research and Markets, June 16, 2017. Web. http://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20170616005290/en/Decentralized-Wastewater-Solid-Waste-Treatment-Technologies–