With many parts of the US experiencing record drought, and a dry winter behind us, we remain blessed to have billions of gallons of clean, safe water. Providing access is not, however, without an energy cost. Do you know how much water you use? How much it costs you? What are the key issues? Understanding is the first step so please check out these key facts, and get involved with our campaign toward a conservative approach to energy use in Naples, Florida.
The NPower campaign helps you save energy and money. We want to help you learn and apply current techniques in energy efficiency and conservation to make smart choices for your community and your kids and grandkids.
Unlike so many parts of the world and even our own country we are very fortunate here in Naples to have constant access to affordable, clean drinking water. Our City-run utility serves around 70,000 customers, providing over 5 billion gallons of drinking water each year for personal consumption and use, then collecting, treating, and disposing of the wastewater produced.
What does water have to do with energy?
In 2008 an energy audit was completed for the City of Naples, quantifying energy used in all homes and businesses within the city limits, and taking a more detailed look at operations and services provided by city government. One of the most eye opening results of the study was that proportionally, the city uses more energy in the water sector than any other area of service; operating water facilities was responsible for over 63% of the energy use and greenhouse gas emissions attributable to the city.
This high number is in part due to those customers located outside of the city boundary but the data is a reminder that water comes with an energy price and in south Florida it’s a high one. The department’s electricity bill is over $1 million a year, partly due to all the pipes, pumps, and boosters required by our flat terrain, and also due to treatment methods to ensure the final waste product, treated sludge, is safe enough to be spread on fields as fertilizer.
Where does our water come from?
Like most of Florida, we extract groundwater from the porous limestone bedrock just below our feet, which absorbs and conveniently stores our soaking rains. The major water source for the city is the Lower Tamiami aquifer; there are around 52 wells dug into it in two well fields – the first was dug in 1958, and is still going strong.
Wells in the Coastal Ridge well field are located in the vicinity of the Fleischmann Water Plant and spread out alongside Goodlette-Frank Road up to Vanderbilt Beach Road. The Golden Gate wells are farther to the east, in Golden Gate Estates between Everglades Boulevard and DeSoto Boulevard. Extracted water is pumped to the plant on Fleischmann Boulevard where it is treated by lime softening and provided to customers. We are fortunate to have clean safe water: in 2010 there were no reports of drinking water quality violations, per state and federal rules.
What happens to our wastewater?
If you live in the city your drains head back, assisted by those pumps and lift stations, to the wastewater treatment plant on Goodlette-Frank Road. For many Collier County residents while the city supplies potable water, waste is treated at one of the two county plants. Both facilities incorporate aerobic treatment to breakdown the nutrients and pathogens in wastewater to safe levels, and the liquid effluent is treated with chemicals to finalize the disinfection. At the Naples plant, the remaining biosolids or sewage sludge are given a final treatment in what is essentially a giant oven to produce Class A biosolids. The liquid effluent, or reclaimed water is put to good use as supplemental irrigation supply for willing homes and businesses as well as city-maintained landscaped areas. What cannot be used in this way must be disposed of via Naples Bay.
How much does it cost?
Unlike electricity bills, unless you have a huge amount of landscaping or have recently sprung a leak, you might not balk at your very reasonable water bill. Our rates are some of the lowest in the nation. Fees on your bill include base charges for water and sewage supply, these vary depending on your meter size; county sewer rates are slightly higher. Then, you are charged by consumption – what your meter says you’ve used. Water gets more expensive the more you use. If your consumption stays below 15,000 gallons you pay only $1.29 per thousand gallons, rising to $3.87 over 45,000 gallons. Talking a closer look at residential usage gives some interesting observations and the overarching conclusion is that while some of us do use much more than others the fact remains that water here in Naples is cheap! Using a mean average for use and excluding those who use more than a million gallons a year, with all base charges considered for a single family home we pay only about one-half cent per gallon!
Most of us use much less than the mean; in Naples, 37% of residential supply is used by just 8% of the accounts. The majority of accounts fall into a range from 30,000-60,000 gallons per year. Note that these are total household quantities; your personal use will depend on how many reside in your home.
What are the issues of concern?
In Naples irrigation water demand is the largest component of existing water use.
- Approximately 70% of our drinking water is used for irrigation.
- Existing supplies cannot meet demand, largely due to demand for high quality irrigation water; expansion is in the works.
- A small number of customers are consuming a majority of the water supply.
In 2008 the City of Naples analyzed several options to expand supply. While a great deal of the produced reclaimed water (treated effluent) is used to supplement irrigation, it was suspected that leaking pipes had allowed salt water to leak in at certain locations and property owners complained of poor quality water for their landscaping needs. The city addressed this issue and embarked upon finding solutions to the supply problem. A comparatively cost-effective one was selected. Underway in 2011 is the construction of several deep wells – known as aquifer storage and recovery – designed to store water extracted from the high summer flows into the Golden Gate Canal, and extracted during the dry winter season. This water can be blended with the reclaimed water to achieve the desired salt content. The total cost is around $5 million for this phase.
The NPower campaign includes tips and suggestions to reduce your water consumption. The growth and future of our coastal town depends in large part on being able to provide consistent water supply. Nearby the wetlands of the Everglades – dependent themselves on stable water tables – continue to draw tourists to our coastal paradise. Practicing water conservation is an essential part of being a steward of Naples. As our utility puts it:
“The long-term supply of quality water depends on good conservation practices and the development of alternative water supplies for the irrigation of the tropical landscape enjoyed by most utility customers”.