Salmon, soccer and savings: Why King County recycles water  

Sampling Brightwater recycled water

Here’s something you don’t think about every day: recycled water. Millions of gallons of water are cleaned every day at the five wastewater treatment plants that King County Wastewater Treatment Division (WTD) operates. After the water is cleaned, some of the water is recycled for other uses like industrial, irrigation and wetland purposes.

In fact, WTD even uses recycled water to cool machinery and buildings at the West Point and South Treatment Plants. By using recycled water, WTD saves the county approximately $650,000 annually, and saves millions of gallons of water.

“We’re helping to recycle and reuse water, but it’s also providing businesses the resources they need,” said Jacque Klug, Project Manager for WTD’s recycled water program. “Using recycled water is a great way of helping the environment because it conserves drinking water supplies for people and allows us to keep more water in our rivers for fish.”

Jacque has been with King County since 2014 and is passionate about water regulation and supply. She helps connect potential irrigation and industrial customers to the program and ensures customer satisfaction. Jacque explains that recycled water is exciting because she gets to support businesses and help the environment in creative and engaging ways.

One resourceful way in which recycled water has made a difference is in the 2008 wetlands project in the Chinook Bend Natural Area. Water from the Carnation Treatment Plant serving the homes and businesses in Carnation is treated and delivered to enhance native plants, manage soils and allow for fish passage. The project was awarded Small Project of the Year in 2008 by the WateReuse Association, and increased the size of the wetland to nearly four acres, benefiting wildlife and enhancing opportunities for recreation at Chinook Bend.

“This project was a great partnership between King County and the community to support environmental restoration and recreation” said Jacque. “We work hard to be on the cutting edge of recycled water.”

Sampling water at the South Treatment Plant

This desire for innovation began when the first recycled water facility, the South Treatment Plant, opened in Renton in 1998. As one of the first facilities in Washington State to produce recycled water, it has a long history in the field and serves as a resource for other agencies that want to start recycling water.

“Our staff at the South Plant are experts in recycled water production and provide technical assistance to other state and national utilities,” said Jacque. ”After going through the treatment process our water is actually very clean, with no measurable bacteria.”

The ongoing process of reaching out to new interest groups, educating people and delivering cost effective and sustainable water to area businesses are the more challenging aspects of the Program. Jacque explains that participating in annual conferences, like the recent Washington Turf and Landscape Show, and partnering with community organizations has helped to ensure future success.

Successful partnerships include a 2007 research project with the University of Washington demonstrating that recycled water is a valuable and safe water source for growing food and landscape plants.

“The conferences allow us to learn about the needs of potential customers,” said Jacque. “Partnering with people in the community helps us to improve the process and our work.”

The ground-breaking involvement in wetlands restoration and water research has continued to pay off. Companies and organizations, like the Starfire Sports Complex (practice field to the FC Sounders team), Willows Run Golf Complex in Redmond, WA and 60 Acres Park, recognize the importance of using recycled water to further provide rich, vibrant opportunities for patrons of their facilities.

“Water is the life blood of our region,” said Jacque. “It’s essential to all the things we love about living in King County – to recreate, to live, for salmon, for sports and more.”

To learn more about WTD’s recycled water program, visit the website or contact recycled.water@kingcounty.gov. To learn more about King County wastewater services overall, visit the King County website.