Wastewater FAQs

How does BSU’s wastewater system work?

BSU provides wastewater service through a central collection and treatment system. Wastewater (sewage) flows from homes, restaurants, schools, offices and other businesses through a network of pipes to one of two wastewater plants, the West or East Water Reclamation Facilities (WWRF and EWRF), for treatment. Both plants treat wastewater to public access irrigation standards.

What is wastewater effluent?

Wastewater effluent is a byproduct of the wastewater treatment process. Each day, BSU treats approximately 5.0 million gallons of sewage and must dispose of this treated wastewater in a sanitary and cost-effective manner. With advances in treatment methods, effluent can be made clean enough and safe to use for irrigation in our community.  

What is reclaimed water?

Reclaimed water, also known as recycled or reuse water, is highly treated wastewater that is used for irrigation. It contains nutrients, such as nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. These nutrients are required by plants for normal growth and are typically applied using fertilizers. Taking advantage of the nutrients in reclaimed water helps reduce fertilizer use.

Virtually 100% of reclaimed water is reused for irrigation purposes in the service area. Using reclaimed water is a state objective for conserving freshwater supplies and preserving the water quality of rivers, streams, lakes and aquifers.

Where does the reclaimed water go?

BSU sells reclaimed water to Resource Conservation Systems, LLC (RCS). In 1991, BSU purchased the wastewater treatment plant serving the Bonita Bay development to expand service throughout the community. Selling reclaimed water to RCS allowed continued irrigation in Bonita Bay (and later other communities with dual irrigation systems). It also avoided a rate increase for BSU wastewater customers who would otherwise have to pay for effluent disposal. This approach was the most cost-effective and environmentally beneficial method of effluent disposal then, and it remains so today.

How much reclaimed water does BSU produce?

Reclaimed water is a limited resource, based on wastewater flows. Each year BSU produces an average of 5 million gallons each day. More is produced in the winter months (during “season”) and less in the summer. An industry rule-of-thumb is that it takes wastewater from four to five houses to supply the reclaimed water needed for one house. As a result, utilities provide reclaimed water to only a small number of wastewater customers.

The reclaimed water BSU provides to RCS makes up only half of the irrigation water RCS provides to its customers. And RCS’s customers make up only a small percentage of BSU’s overall customers. Any utility will provide reclaimed water to only a limited number of customers. These are often golf courses and other large users to keep effluent disposal costs, and therefore wastewater rates, as low as possible.

Does BSU get paid for selling its reclaimed water?

Yes. RCS pays BSU $0.56 per thousand gallons for reclaimed water. This charge is a market rate based on the average of Collier County and Lee County Utilities reclaimed water rates. It generates approximately $1 million per year, which offsets the cost of wastewater service to BSU customers. In other words, it keeps rates down.

Many utilities make little or no money from reclaimed water sales because customers have other inexpensive irrigation options like self-supply wells.  Many utilities also must pay to install reclaimed water distribution pipes and provide reclaimed water storage for rainy days. RCS pays for all of this.

What happens when it rains and reclaimed water can’t be used?

BSU’s contract with RCS requires RCS to provide three days of reclaimed water storage during wet-weather (rainy) periods.  BSU also utilizes a deep injection well as a back-up effluent disposal system.  These storage and back-up facilities are required by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.   

What are biosolids?

In addition to reclaimed water, biosolids are produced through wastewater treatment process.  BSU utilizes a 4.0 mgd (million gallons per day) membrane bioreactor system with a biosolids dryer that produces pelletized Class AA residuals suitable for use as fertilizer. The state-of-the-art biosolids dryer services biosolids from both the East and West Water Reclamation Facility.

Does BSU use a combined system for treating wastewater and stormwater?

A combined sewer system (CSS) collects both rainwater runoff and domestic sewage.  Many older cities, particularly in the northern United States, still use these systems. Combined sewer overflows can occur during storms when there is more stormwater flowing than pipes and treatment plants can handle. This can lead to excess runoff that flushes human waste, oil, toxic metals, pesticides, and litter and other pollutants into rivers and bays. Very few CSSs can be found in Florida and BSU does not support this out-of-date technology.