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Direct Potable Reuse Pilot

Polk’s Need
Polk County’s population is growing at an exponential rate. According to 2022 U.S. Census estimates, about 80 people a day are moving into Polk County. That growth means an increased demand for services, including water.

The Upper Floridan aquifer that supplies water to Polk, and four other areas in Central Florida, is under tremendous strain. At our current rate of use, Polk will need an additional 21 million gallons of water per day by 2040. Like so many communities where water supply does not meet the population’s demand and a lack of groundwater availability threatens natural resources, Polk County Commissioners must continue to examine its options to supplement its potable supply.

What is Direct Potable Reuse?
Through engineering and technology, systems have been established and implemented to provide communities across most of the world with water quality safe for drinking. Potable reuse is highly treated, recycled water that can be using for drinking, cooking and bathing.

There are two types of potable reuse, direct and indirect.

Direct vs. Indirect Potable Reuse
The fundamental difference between direct and indirect potable reuse is the use of an environmental buffer.

Indirect potable reuse uses an environmental buffer (lake, river or a groundwater aquifer) to provide additional treatment before the water is treated at a drinking water treatment plant.

Direct potable reuse is wastewater that is treated all the way to drinking water standards and then sent directly to homes and business for all purposes. Direct potable reuse utilizes a process that uses technology to accelerate the treatment and distribution of water without an environmental buffer.

The Pilot
Polk County’s Direct Potable Reuse (DPR) Pilot project’s goal is to demonstrate that the direct potable reuse process can produce drinking water that meets or exceeds federal and state standards and provides an option for increasing Polk’s water supply in the future.

Through a joint agreement with the Southwest Florida Water Management District, the county built a potable reuse facility to conduct a pilot project at the Cherry Hill Water Production Facility in the Northwest Regional Utility Service Area.

Construction on this $2.5 million project is complete.

Cherry Hill Direct Potable Reuse Pilot Facility

The Cherry Hill Direct Potable Reuse Project is a feasibility pilot project, therefore water treated and tested will not be introduced into the drinking water supply at this time.

Reclaimed water will be transferred from Polk County’s Northwest Regional Wastewater Treatment Facility to the Cherry Hill Water Production Facility, where the DPR site is separate from the water production facility.

At the DPR facility, the pilot project will further treat the reclaimed water through a series of processes, utilizing a multi-barrier treatment approach that includes technologies such as enhanced coagulation, advanced oxidation, ultrafiltration, granular activated carbon, and UV disinfection that can run at a flow rate of 10-20 gallons per minute. This process scrubs the reclaimed water to remove any remaining trace chemicals, pharmaceutical residue, hormones, bacteria, protozoa and viruses.

For more information on DPR, visit:

Learn about other potable reuse projects in the U.S. and beyond

Project Update
All water treatment equipment has been installed. Demonstration testing began in August 2023 and will continue for 12 months.

Water Conservation

Who doesn’t like to save money and in the process save the environment, too? By applying for these water conservation programs below, you can save hundreds of dollars in rebates, improve your irrigation system and help preserve Polk’s water supply for generations to come.

Technology changes over time, even with household plumbing. Through Polk County Utilities’ partnerships with the Environmental Protection Agency and the Polk Regional Water Cooperative, you can upgrade to newer water-saving fixtures that can make a big financial impact.

Indoor Water Efficiency
On average, 50 gallons of water per day per person is used for cooking, cleaning, washing and other household functions. You can save water and money daily by making a few simple changes. See if any of our free items or rebate programs can help you save.

Free Indoor Conservation Kit
Leaks and antiquated fixtures can account for unnecessary water use and cost. Old shower heads can use up to five gallons of water per minute. New EPA WaterSense™ shower heads use 1.5 gallons per minute or less. Updating your fixtures and regularly checking for leaks are great ways to conserve water.

Visit the Polk County Utilities Administration Building and ask for a free Indoor Conservation Kit. You must be a Polk County Utilities customer to be eligible. Each kit includes:

  • Low-flow showerhead (limited number of showerheads available)
  • Faucet aerators
  • Toilet leak detector tabs
  • Plumbing tape
  • Directions

Water Conservation Kit

Outdoor Water Efficiency
The average household uses more water for irrigation than for essential indoor use. That doesn’t account for water wasted due to overwatering, watering paved surfaces or broken sprinkler heads. Improving your irrigation system’s accuracy and efficiency will save water and money. Check out the programs below to improve your outdoor water efficiency.

Free Landscape and Irrigation Evaluation Program
The program is available to our high-volume water users (single and multi-family homes and commercial businesses) who average more than 14,000 gallons per month. Each free evaluation includes:

  • Irrigation system evaluation with site-specific recommendations
  • Assistance with proper irrigation timer settings
  • Rain sensor and installation, if needed
  • Smart timer installation and a rebate offer, if requested
  • Water conservation kit

Must be a Polk County Utilities customer to be eligible and already have an operating irrigation system.

Save water and money by submitting your Landscape and Irrigation Evaluation Request below.

Are you curious on how much of an impact your irrigation has on your monthly water bill? Check out the Water Conservation Calculator from the Southwest Florida Water Management District.

Free Wireless Rain Sensor
Rain sensors—also called rain shut-off devices—are designed to interrupt the cycle of an automatic irrigation system controller when sufficient rainfall has occurred. They are small devices connected to the irrigation system controller and mounted in an open area where they are exposed to rainfall. Homeowners will be given a free wireless rain sensor to install.

Wireless Rain Sensor Application

Must be a Polk County Utilities customer to be eligible or check with your water supplier for programs.

WaterSense™ Smart Irrigation Controller Rebate
Smart irrigation controllers have built-in water saving features. Typically, smart irrigation controllers monitor weather, soil conditions, evaporation and plant water use to automatically adjust the watering schedule to actual conditions of the site.

The program is available to our high-volume water users (single and multi-family homes and commercial businesses) who average more than 14,000 gallons per month.

To take advantage of the rebate, the homeowner is responsible for 25 percent of the total cost of the controller. Those who meet all the qualifications for rebate will receive up to a maximum of $200. Must be a Polk County Utilities customer to be eligible and already have an operating irrigation system.

Smart Irrigation Controller Rebate Application

Florida Water Star™ $1,000 Irrigation Offset Rebates

  • The home must be Florida Water Star™ (FWS) certified by a FWS inspector
  • Home plans must include a permanent, inground irrigation system
  • Water source must be from within Polk County

Builder Benefits

  • Each certified home can receive $1,000 rebate, if funds are available
  • FWS-certified irrigation and landscape accredited professional contractors are available to design and install systems meeting FWS criteria
  • FWS program personnel can assist in building to specifications and referring inspectors
  • FWS brochure designs are available and customizable with your logo. Real estate sales professional training is available for assistance with selling your FWS-certified homes
  • Builders should contact Robin Grantham, Southwest Florida Water Management District, at (352) 796-7211, ext. 4779 to learn more about the FWS program and rebate opportunities

Home Buyer Benefits

  • FWS-certified homes save an estimated $530 on annual utility bills*
  • Homes that have undergone an FWS inspection have the most water-efficient features installed
  • FWS-certified homes save up to 48,000 gallons of outdoor water each year*
  • Homes provide landscape designs and irrigation systems that yield better performance and superior quality

*Annual water and monetary savings based on estimates from U.S. Energy information statistics, EPA’s national average water costs and WaterSense™ calculator, UF/IFAS research and The Appraisal Journal.

For more information on water conservation with Polk County Utilities, please call (863) 298-4236.

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