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Planting the seeds of hope to end water shortages

By Ann Knoedler

Do you remember all the reports about severe drought conditions in Georgia during the last few years? Well, I came across a water success story down there that might offer hope for communities in Wisconsin that also have critical water shortages.

The Clayton County Water Authority in Georgia has limited surface or ground water supplies, but they manage to recycle over 10 million gallons per day of reuse water. Their success is due to a progressive water/wastewater treatment system that is comprised of a series of wetlands, wetland plants and reservoirs.

It’s a fascinating process that uses “constructed wetlands as a final treatment stage of water reclamation. These wetland systems provide filtration, plant uptake and an environment for microbial treatment of the water that flows through them.”

Check out this website describing the benefits of prairie plants and grasses for both water and wastewater treatment systems.

Wisconsin has its own areas of critical water shortages. The two that come to mind immediately are the cities of Abbotsford and Waukesha. Could this innovative system be put to use in those areas of the state?

Years ago, Waukesha did have an abundance of water. A recent news report caught my eye regarding the city of Abbotsford water crunch (plans are under way there to build a new well field and water treatment plant).

Abbotsford’s engineer, Short Elliott Hendrickson Inc., is recommending that the city plant prairie grass in the area of the drainage basin that replenishes the current and future well fields. The deep roots of these plants would capture storm water runoff to keep it from moving out of the area.

This gives me some hope. I’m sure this concept is nothing new to engineers who design water systems in Wisconsin, but I’m curious to know if the Georgia CCWA model has been tried in this state?

The added benefit is that these plantings would leave a living legacy of natural beauty and wildlife.

Ann Knoedler is the lead data reporter at The Daily Reporter. She can be reached at (414) 225-1822.

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