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May 1 / Peter Polito

Conscious use of our natural resources

Arguably Earth’s most dire resource, but only recently receiving any major discussion, is water. As a previous post pointed out the American Southwest is projected to become a drier climate while funding for monitoring and mitigation continues to decrease.

Over the past few years the plight of the Southeast has received a fair bit of press, but overshadowed by Atlanta’s water woes is the brilliance of Clayton County. In the 1980’s the Clayton County Water Authority built a series of wetlands to replace the last step of the water reclamation process. Water entering the sewers continue on to the reclamation facility and pass through the standard filtration systems designed to remove large debris, sediment and any other solids. The purification process is completed by feeding the water into their wetland systems where organisms, from single-celled bacteria to water lilies, do the rest. After the water is gravity-fed through a series of four wetland pools, the water enters their reservoir and is available for reuse. According to a recent story on NPR, of the 26 million gallons used a day in Clayton County, the wetland reclamation process returns 10 million gallons of potable water for future use. Not only are they getting 40% of their water back but the wetlands have created 4,000 acres of green space.

Source: Clayton County Water Authority.

Constructed wetlands are proving to be more efficient, more cost effective, and more environmentally sensitive than comparable secondary treatment methods. The wetlands allow the CCWA to increase its wastewater treatment capacity, while dropping the costs incurred in the process. The cost to build wastewater facilities using constructed wetlands is $4.73 a gallon, compared to nearly $10 a gallon using the more conventional methods.

The Authority’s LAS fields and constructed wetlands are included among the over 4,000 acres of protected green space that will never fall prey to residential or commercial development. This acreage provides for hearty forests and wildlife, not to mention incredible recreational opportunities located in such a close proximity to a major metropolitan city.

In addition to money saved, there have been no complaints about odor and unlike neighboring Atlanta, the residents of Clayton County were never in danger of running out of water during the recent drought.

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