News

Going purple to save some green?

By PAUL BALCERAK

Staff writer

The Silverdale Water District may have a new favorite color: purple. Specifically, purple pipe, which is designated as the color for piping that transports reclaimed water through a water system.

Purple pipe? Reclaimed water? The phrases may sound a little foreign or technical, but water district customers could be hearing them a lot more in the next few years if the district decides to pitch their newest plan.

The district has already been approved to receive funding from a Washington State Department of Ecology grant for a feasibility study on water reclamation in the area. The grant could be worth as much as $250,000, but officials are still hashing out the details.

In the meantime, the district is dreaming of the benefits purple pipe could bring to the area and the money that could be saved in the long run.

“Somebody has to do this sort of long-term thinking for the viability of our peninsula,” Water District Commissioner Marcus Hoffman said at a Feb. 7 board meeting.

The concept of purple pipe is a little complex. At its most basic level, it involves treating wastewater and reusing it for various purposes — irrigation, recharging wetlands, etc.

Other states in the country have been “doing this for years,” Water District General Manager Morgan Johnson said. “It’s a shame we didn’t have the foresight years ago to take this on.”

He’s convinced purple pipe is an inevitable need for the district and could benefit customers in the area.

“We’re thinking about looking at the irrigation side of our system,” he said, in reference to purple pipe.

Specifically, he thinks reclaimed water could be transported to customers for irrigation purposes and free up a big chunk of the district’s system capacity. About 25 percent of the water in the district’s system is currently used for outside irrigation.

“If you were to take away all that outside water usage ... our existing system could serve 25 percent more customers than it does now,” Johnson said.

The 25 percent that could be freed up could be used as drinking water — a hot commodity in the county at times.

“Kitsap County is basically an island,” Johnson said. “All the water we have for drinking water basically falls on Kitsap County (in the form of rain).”

Best of all, district officials already have a source in mind for wastewater: the Central Kitsap Wastewater Treatment Plant on Brownsville Highway. The plant services most of the area and pumps out massive amounts of treated water — about 3.5 million gallons on average and as much as 11 million gallons on peak days.

The plant could pump as much as 21 million gallons, Johnson said.

Unfortunately, every last drop of water that’s treated there now ends up about 45 feet below sea level in Port Orchard Bay.

If the project goes forward, Johnson envisions public perception as the biggest hurdle to overcome. After all, the district would be selling them wastewater, albeit treated, for irrigation purposes.

“That’s, I think, gonna be the biggest challenge,” he said.

If and when the time comes, the district could contract a public relations firm to help sell the system. In other words, it could be a while before any purple pipe is opened to reclaimed water.

“It could be five to 10 years down the road before we send any water through the system,” Johnson said. “It’s gonna depend on how aggressive the district is gonna be and how the public responds to it.”

The district has scheduled a commissioner’s meeting for Friday, March 14, to discuss the system.

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