History and Facilities
Bonita Springs Water System, Inc., is a member-owned, not-for-profit utility. It was incorporated in January 1970 by local residents to provide potable water service to homes and businesses in Bonita Springs. In February 1970, the Lee County Commission granted a franchise for the original service area in unincorporated Lee County.
Six production wells approximately 100 to 120 feet deep provided the first potable water service in late 1971. Water was drawn from the Lower Tamiami Aquifer and treated through a lime softening process. The Utility expanded slowly at first to serve additional customers in the Bonita Springs area. In the late 1980s, the Company added wells, treatment capacity and infrastructure to accommodate substantial increases in residential and commercial customers. In 1998, the Lime Softening Water Treatment Plant (WTP) was expanded to a production capacity of 9.0 million gallons per day (mgd). The plant drew water from 19 wells in the east and west well fields.
In the early 2000s, with the availability of new technology and a focus on a more sustainable water resource, the Company developed a Reverse Osmosis (RO) Water Treatment Plant adjacent to the Lime Softening WTP. The RO WTP was to be served by water from deeper brackish water wells approximately 800 to 1,120 feet deep into the Lower Hawthorn formation of the Upper Floridan Aquifer system. The RO plant began service in 2004 with a treatment capacity of 6 million gallons per day from eight wells. Over time, the Company added new wells. In 2019, the RO Plant was expanded to 8.56 mgd and at that time was served by 15 brackish water wells.
The Company has completed engineering design for a 4.0 mgd RO Plant expansion, which is scheduled for completion in 2023. Eleven new Upper Floridan Aquifer wells will provide the water source for the plant expansion. This project will include construction of 2.0 mgd by-pass capability, which will allow blending of Lower Tamiami Aquifer well water with Upper Floridan Aquifer well water to reduce RO system operating cost and provide backup capacity when the Lime Softening WTP is down for maintenance.
In 1989, the Utility invited 11 volunteers from community and civic organizations to form the Bonita Springs Wastewater Research Committee. With support from the Utility and the Lee County Board of County Commissioners, the Committee studied the environmental impact of septic tanks and older package sewer treatment plants on groundwater and area waterways, and the feasibility of a central sewer plant in the Bonita Springs area.
As a result of the Committee’s work, and with funding through the Lee County Industrial Development Authority, the water utility acquired the wastewater treatment plant serving the Bonita Bay development in 1991. With this acquisition, the Company was renamed Bonita Springs Utilities, Inc. Following expansion of the plant and installation of a backbone force main system, more than 40 privately owned, wastewater treatment package plants were taken off line and the homes they had served were connected to the central sewer system.
From 1997 through 2008, BSU undertook its gravity expansion project, eliminating approximately 5,000 septic tanks in the Imperial River watershed and replacing them with central wastewater service. The Utility plans to expand the gravity system and eliminate septic tanks wherever possible and financially feasible.
To accommodate continuing growth in the area, the original wastewater plant, known as the West Water Reclamation Facility (WWRF), was expanded in phases to 7.0 mgd. In 2007, the Company completed construction of a second East Water Reclamation Facility (EWRF) on the east side of Interstate 75. This facility is a state-of-the-art 4.0 mgd membrane bioreactor system with a biosolids dryer that produces pelletized Class AA residuals suitable for use as fertilizer. Biosolids from the WWRF are also sent to the EWRF for processing through dryer.
Both plants treat wastewater to public access irrigation standards. Virtually 100% of the treated wastewater to be reused for irrigation purposes in the service area. Three days of reclaimed water storage capacity is available in the system. The WWRF is also equipped with a deep injection well, which is used for effluent disposal during extended wet weather conditions when landscape and golf course irrigation is not available.
A History of Reclaimed Water
Wastewater effluent is a byproduct of the wastewater treatment process. Each day, BSU treats millions of gallons of sewage and must dispose of this treated wastewater in a sanitary and cost-effective manner.
In the past, it was common for utilities to pump effluent directly into rivers and oceans. As treatment methods and pollution regulations evolved, the practice of discharging to water bodies was replaced by the use of storage ponds where effluent evaporated into the air and seeped into the ground. Some utilities built deep wells to dispose of effluent.
Today, advanced methods of treatment have made effluent cleaner and safer. However, population growth, landscape irrigation and saltwater intrusion place increasing demands on our fresh water supply. Reclaiming effluent for outdoor irrigation makes sense and helps conserve potable (drinking) water.
Read more: Reclaimed Water White Paper
The number of employees has increased over the years to keep pace with additional services, ongoing development in the service area and the increase in customers. The Company currently employs approximately 135 people.
In 1996, an Administration Building was constructed in front of the water treatment plant on the East Terry Street campus to house the Customer Service Department, Administration and a Board of Directors Meeting Room. As the Operations Department grew, employees were housed where space was available. In 2008, the Operations Service Center was completed to house the Operations Administration staff, Distribution/Collection staff, Utility Maintenance staff, a fleet of vehicles and heavy equipment used for utility construction and repairs.
In 2017, the Company constructed a new two-story support staff building adjacent to the Administration Building. The new Administration Building houses the Finance, Engineering, Information Technology and Administration Departments.
In 2019 the original Administration Building was demolished and replaced with a new Customer Service Center, better designed to serve our members. The Customer Service Center houses the customer service representatives, billing office, meter readers and Board Meeting Room. Around that time, the old support staff building, a part of the original water plant and office, was demolished, as was the beach water tower. The Company continues to develop our facilities for the long-term benefit of our members.
Recent Water Treatment Facilities Awards and Recognitions
- 2011, 2012, 2015, 2017, 2018 Winner of FSAWWA Division, 4 Water Distribution Award for Outstanding Performance.
- 2016 Winner of the AWWA Region V Best Tasting Drinking Water Contest
- 2005-2006 SEDA Plant of the Year Award for the RO Plant
Recent Wastewater Facilities Awards & Recognition
- 2014, 2018, 2019 1st Place Winner of the FWEA Earle B. Phelps Award to the Wastewater Treatment Team at the East Water Reclamation Facility
- 2016 Runner up of the FWEA Earle B. Phelps Award for the East Water Reclamation Facility
- 2018, 2019 Leroy H. Scott Award for Jake Hepokoski, the East Water Reclamation Facility Lead Operator, for his exceptional contribution to FWEA operators and doing the best job of managing a plant
- 2018 Safety Award from the FWPCOA for the Operations Staff’s outstanding safety record at the East Water Reclamation Facility
- 2018 Safety Award for the Utility of the Year from the FWPCOA for its outstanding safety record
- 2017 FWEA Biosolids – Residuals Excellence Award for the East Water Reclamation Facility
- 2016 Domestic Wastewater Plant Operations Excellence Award for the East Water Reclamation Facility
- 2014 FWEA Biosolids Awards for Excellence for the EWRF
- 2014 FWEA Top Ten Safety Award
- 2012 Winner of FDEP Plant Operations Award for the EWRF
- 2008 Winner of ASCE- Florida Section Project of the Year for the EWRF
- 2008 Winner of Design-Build Institute of America National Design-Build Award for the EWRF