This summer, city workers installed at least three 2,000-gallon holding tanks on land behind Downriver's fifth green. Lars Hendron, a principal engineer in the city's Wastewater Management Department, says crews fill the tanks with treated water that's trucked from the city's reclamation plant. That water is treated again with liquid chlorine to ensure it's safe for human contact -- although not for drinking -- before it's applied to the golf course.
"We've had good success so far," says Hendron. "That water has been consistently meeting the health standards." Hendron says cities in other parts of the state have used reclaimed water for years, but Spokane officials don't know if people here will accept its use on public land.
But the city is moving ahead anyway. For one thing, even with hundreds of millions of dollars in improvements intended for the wastewater treatment plant, it's unclear if the plant will then meet the state's new, more stringent, standards for phosphorus in the Spokane River. That means the city may have to adopt land application as a strategy to reduce the amount of water it pipes into the river. "We may have to send it somewhere else during certain times of the year," says Hendron, referring to those times when the river's level is at its lowest. The city has plenty of parkland, golf courses and other areas that could benefit. "We can conserve water on our golf courses, where we use up to a half million gallons a day on the hottest summer days," says Hendron.
Last month, city officials held an open house with homeowners who live near the Downriver test plot. "We've had a mostly positive response from the few neighbors who have been paying attention to this," says Hendron. Workers in the city's golf division have also been asking questions, he says.
Next spring, the city will set up a second test plot at the Creek at Qualchan. "There are different, newer grasses there, and we're curious how those will respond to this water," says Hendron.
Ultimately, he expects the city to use reclaimed water also for street sweeping and other industrial uses, perhaps even selling it to private businesses that have uses for water that isn't quite up to drinking-water standards.