JEA Board Approves Land Buy, A Step Toward Making Drinking Water From Treated Sewage
JEA’s Board of Directors approved a $3 million purchase of land on Jacksonville’s Southside to build a water purification testing facility. The facility is expected to cost $40 million and will include a visitor center, where the city-owned utility will try to sell the public on the idea of drinking water that was formerly sewage.
The project has been in the works since 2016 as a potential solution to meet the city’s projected water demands. This new testing facility won’t be putting any water into drinking fountains, though. The purpose for the planned site is to process a million gallons of water per day that will be returned to the city’s reclaimed water system, which is used for irrigation and other purposes, but not drinking.
Eventually, JEA hopes to use the lessons learned at this site to build additional sites where wastewater will be processed into drinking water. Based on projected water demands for Jacksonville’s population, a purification site for drinking water could be needed as soon as 2028.
At the JEA Board meeting Friday, Board Chair John Baker said, “Part of the project is to educate and train and learn for ourselves, train operators, and teach the public what is going on and how we’re going about doing this.”
At least 4 million Americans already get drinking water from recycled sewage, according to the Wall Street Journal. JEA officials say this type of water purification is critical to avoid depleting the region’s aquifers. The demonstration facility is scheduled to be operational by 2024.
JEA’s board on Friday also approved an increase in the cost of hooking up water, sewer and irrigation to new developments. Those rates are set to climb over the next 18 months.
A group of developers pleaded with the board to reconsider the rate increases, some saying they would have to pass on costs to renters and homeowners. Other developers complained that projects already underway weren’t budgeted with the rate increases in mind.
JEA’s Board of Directors agreed to consider whether existing projects could be grandfathered in at the current lower rates. A JEA committee next month will present a proposal on how to bill the existing projects.