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January 26, 2013

Water supply’s future

DEQ is key to reusing resource

NORMAN — Norman’s water supply future could depend, at least in part, on the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality’s willingness to envision a future where water reuse plays a vital role in serving the needs of a growing population.

Clean water is the mark of modern, industrialized nations, and agencies like the DEQ are charged with protecting people who drink that water, but 97 percent of treated water is used for some purpose other than drinking, Norman Utilities Director Ken Komiske said.

Komiske and his staff have been working to find ways to safely reuse water for nonpotable — non-drinking — uses, and the DEQ will be an integral part of that movement forward.

Last week, city staff met with DEQ officials from at the city’s compost facility to determine if treated effluent from the Water Reclamation Facility could be used to water the compost. The compost facility uses approximately 1.6 million gallons each year. While that is a relatively small step forward, it is one more step in an overall movement toward safe water reuse practices.

“In the summertime, when we’re running low on water and we’re wanting people to conserve, this place uses over half a million gallons a month, and that’s when we need it the most,” Komiske said.

Moisture is needed in compost to keep the natural chemical process going. Currently, drinking water is used to water the city’s compost.

“Those guys that work down there are like chefs,” Komiske said. “They have to put together the right amount of nitrogen with carbon and moisture. The internal temperatures can reach 130 or 140 degrees. That’s when it starts breaking down to make the good compost for your garden.”

Treated effluent from the wastewater facility is slightly higher in nitrogen and would be beneficial because nitrogen is one of the ingredients necessary for breaking down mulch into compost.

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