rain running of a metal roof

A Sustainable Idea that Truly Holds Water: Orange County Public Works’ Successful Stormwater Harvesting Project


When Orange County was asked to take part in a stormwater harvesting demonstration project, it readily agreed.  Stormwater harvesting involves collecting, storing and treating of stormwater, that can then be used as recycled water. The goal of the project was to demonstrate the volume reduction of potable or drinking water and water quality benefit of the stormwater system.

Having stormwater of sufficient quality for reuse applications is important, and from an environmental standpoint, it reduces the amount of pollutants that leave the site and eases pressure on the entire stormwater system. It also means that with just a little more treatment, the stormwater can be used for washing clothes and flushing toilets. For residents, this reduces potable or drinking water demand.

“The ultimate goal is to prevent stormwater from going to waste,” asserted Chris Bogdan, president of Environmental Conservations Solutions Florida. “There are several benefits to being able to use stormwater instead of having to use potable water, including for sewer-cleaning or spray trucks, equipment washing and tower water cooling.”

An underground stormwater harvesting and exfiltration system (Pipe-R Reservoir System) was installed at Orange County Public Works. Stormwater runoff was collected from the building roof and stored in a reservoir to use in the County’s spray trucks instead of potable water. A real-time, cloud-based intelligent setup was used to actively monitor and manage the system for approximately 12 months.

After approximately a year of monitoring, the team realized positive results. Specifically, the system was able to prevent nearly all stormwater runoff (150,000 gallons) from leaving the site, significantly increase groundwater recharge (130,000 gallons), and off-set potable water usage for the County (7,000 gallons).

Additionally, the team collected water quality samples from three locations within the system, and the overall water quality was good and of acceptable quality to be used for the intended harvesting application.

“As engineers, we want to do the right thing for the environment and demonstrate we have tools at our disposal that can really benefit communities,” said Mike Hardin, Geosyntec senior engineer, who will present the results of the project at conferences and conduct tours at Public Works. “Orange County had the foresight to get involved in this project and provide the space to build and monitor the system, and we’re truly appreciative of that.”

Water is a vital resource and Orange County is working to implement consistent and innovative strategies to drive conservation of potable water and water reuse programs across its facilities and infrastructure.

“We wanted to collect Florida-specific data and get people familiar with these ideas and cutting-edge technologies,” said Hardin.  “When we can show the benefits of successful stormwater harvesting, other counties, as well as private businesses, will want to get involved.”

Total funding for the stormwater project was approximately $70,000 in the form of labor and materials. The project was a collaborative effort between the County, Geosyntec Consultants, Inc. as part of their internal research and development funding program, Environmental Conservations Solutions, Inc. who donated the PIPE-R stormwater harvesting system, and OptiRTC, who donated Real-Time Control equipment and service.

Learn more about Orange County’s Sustainable Operations and Resilience Action Plan, in which water use and quality is one of the key focus areas.

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