Virginia Coastal Policy Center
 

Authors

Conor Jennings

Abstract

The Hampton Roads region is one of the fastest growing population centers in Virginia, meaning that demand for clean drinking water is only increasing. In response to this growing problem, the Hampton Roads Sanitation District (HRSD), whose mission is to treat the region’s wastewater, has developed and begun to implement the Sustainable Water Initiative for Tomorrow (SWIFT) project to better reclaim treated wastewater by directly injecting it into the aquifer. Currently, HRSD’s treated wastewater is simply released into surface waters but this process does not help replenish the aquifer because the natural replenishment of the underground aquifer through surface water seepage is much slower than the rate of withdrawal. Under the SWIFT project, wastewater will be treated with advanced technologies and injected directly back into the aquifer. That way, the recycled wastewater is used to directly recharge the aquifer. HRSD elected to complete an aquifer replenishment system because it would be a more direct form of water recycling (compared to surface water discharge) and would address most of the problems associated with aquifer depletion. First, injection of the treated wastewater would create pressure in the aquifer that would slow down land subsidence. Second, the pressure would also push back on brackish water intruding from the Chesapeake Bay. Third, by injecting the wastewater into the aquifer and not surface waters that empty into the Chesapeake Bay, it will be easier for Virginia to meet Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) total maximum daily load (TMDL) requirements regarding pollutant discharges into the Bay. In addition, an aquifer recharge project is less expensive than some other water supply projects, like desalinization, which is comparatively expensive. This paper will look at the costs of SWIFT, the advanced methods SWIFT will use to treat wastewater, and how to approach the risks and benefits of a project of this magnitude, with a special emphasis on emerging contaminants.

This abstract has been taken from the author's introduction.

Document Type

White Paper

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