CFPUA will ‘investigate and advocate for’ wastewater recycling for irrigation, household use, drinking water

The Cape Fear Public Utility Authority is recommending to its board that a $5 credit be issued to the thousands of residences affected by high fluoride levels. The spike in fluoride levels was caused by a mechanical malfunction. (Port City Daily photo | Benjamin Schachtman)
The Cape Fear Public Utility Authority is considering long-range plans to recycle wastewater to conserve resources. (Port City Daily photo | Benjamin Schachtman)

NEW HANOVER COUNTY —- Residents are a long way from drinking recycled urine like astronauts, but the county’s main water provider is considering long-range plans to recycle wastewater for a variety of uses, including drinking water.

That’s because while the Cape Fear River is a bountiful resource, it’s not inexhaustible or invulnerable.

The river, along with several major aquifers, provides drinking water for nearly a half-million people, but its viability as a water source is threatened by a host of factors, including salt-water intrusion, increasing temperatures, pollution, and population growth.


This “wide range of environmental scenarios that could impact the Cape Fear region’s water supply” is something that the Cape Fear Public Utility is considering. These are very long-range plans, according to spokesperson Vaughn Hagerty, “because infrastructure projects often take years to design and build, we must plan for potential hazards, patterns, and trends many years in advance.”

At last week’s Cape Fear Public Utility Authority meeting, Board Member Larry Sneeden told the board he would like to see language in the utility’s long-range plan “that we investigate and advocate for [the] potable and nonpotable reuse of wastewater for our system … So that we’re not cleaning water up and just dumping it out.”

Hagerty confirmed that recycling wastewater is on CFPUA’s long-term agenda.

“To ensure we are designing a water system with future generations in mind, CFPUA has joined utilities across the globe in considering the viability of water reuse practices,” Hagerty wrote. “Water reuse — using treated wastewater for irrigation, household, or drinking water purposes — can bring substantial environmental and financial benefits.”

Recycling could address both supply and cost, according to CFPUA.

“The practice would conserve the finite supply of water from our local aquifers and the Cape Fear River. It also could provide customers with a reliable, less-costly source of water for washing their cars, irrigating their lawns, or flushing their toilets,” Hagerty said.

According to Hagerty, implementing wastewater recycling plans is not something CFPUA can do on its own.

“Implementing water reuse practices on a community-wide scale would require new technologies, regulatory standards, and land-planning norms—changes that CFPUA cannot initiate alone. CFPUA supports, and will advocate for, changes that encourage water reuse as an option for supplementing future water supply needs,” Hagerty wrote.


Send comments and tips to Benjamin Schachtman at ben@localvoicemedia.com, @pcdben on Twitter, and (910) 538-2001.

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