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Selling purple to the people

t Uphill battle could loom for Water District.

The Silverdale Water District may have been hit with its first big challenge in its ongoing investigation into the feasibility of water reclamation.

A King 5 newscast on April 2 explored the concept of water reclamation and “purple pipe,” a sort of water recycling system first reported in a Feb. 23 CK Reporter story titled, “Going purple to save some green?” The report focused largely on the idea that the recycled water would be the product of an unpopular source: wastewater. In other words, any water that goes down a drain — including the toilet.

That little nugget of truth is what water district commissioners see as the biggest challenge of ultimately selling the public on a purple pipe system.

“It’s gonna take a concerted effort to educate the public and convince them that it’s not, ‘shocking clips at five’ and ‘you’re drinking toilet water,’” Commissioner Marcus Hoffman said in what he stressed was a “tongue-in-cheek” comment at the district’s April 3 meeting.

Nevertheless, Hoffman’s remark was telling of how much the district is anticipating an uphill battle to win public support of water reclamation.

If the plan went through — and it’s still in its infancy right now — water district customers wouldn’t see a whole lot of change. Purple pipe, the color designated for reclaimed water, would be laid down progressively across the district and used to pump treated water into areas needing irrigation.

Wetlands, aquifers and local streams could all benefit from increased water flow.

Maintaining the water level of Island Lake, for example, requires about 18 million gallons of water to be pumped out of the Island Lake aquifer each year. A total of 250 million gallons are pumped from the aquifer for that and other uses.

Reclaimed water could be used to do the job instead.

The plan could be costly to start, but it could save money in the long run. About 25 percent of the water in the district’s system is currently used for outside irrigation. By shifting the source of that irrigation water to reclaimed water, the district would free up about a quarter of its water supply, meaning more customers could be served overall.

“It’s a money saver for the future, but for the environment, it’s a good thing,” water district General Manager Morgan Johnson said.

Whether eco-friendly, cheap water is enough to get people on the district’s side, however, remains to be seen.

Johnson, who was interviewed in the King 5 report, has gotten fairly positive feedback from the public so far, he said.

In fact, two of the people interviewed in the segment — one who said the idea was “kind of creepy” and another who said she wasn’t “real fond of that idea” — told Johnson they would be receptive to the idea, so long as there was no health risk involved, Johnson said.

Water district officials have assured that that much is the case. Supposedly, when all was said and done and the water traveled through the purple pipe to its eventual destination, it would be safe enough to drink.

Besides that, it’s not like anyone’s drinking water has ever really been all that new.

“Everything we do, we recycle,” Johnson said, referring to the fact that the world has essentially been recycling its natural resources for eons. “This water that we drink, you can’t even guess how many times it’s been recycled.”

Or where it’s been.

For the time being, Silverdale residents and water district customers don’t have to worry. The district received a $250,000 grant from the Washington State Department of Ecology to conduct a feasibility study on water reclamation in February, but it will be another two months or so before any outside consultants begin to review the district’s plan.

The district’s push for a public education campaign — which could involve the hiring of a public relations firm — likely won’t begin until after the feasibility study has been completed, Johnson said.

The district will focus on water reclamation at its next commissioner’s meeting at 9 a.m. April 17 at the district’s headquarters on Newberry Hill Road.

More information can be found at www.swd16.org.

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