Clearwater groundwater replenishment project in Florida gets $1 million public relations effort
CLEARWATER — It's one of the city's most innovative projects, but it could take seven figures to break through the stigma and skepticism around it.Clearwater is the first city in Florida and one of only a handful in the United States to launch a groundwater replenishment facility that will purify wastewater to drinking standards and inject it back underground into the aquifer.
Now in the design stage after seven years of study, the roughly $32 million plant could be running at the Northeast Water Reclamation Facility off McMullen-Booth Road by 2020.
But with the novelty comes unfamiliarity, and other communities that have pioneered the technology have had to battle the "toilet to tap" misnomer and environmental fears groundwater injection poses.
"It's not a glamorous, glitzy item, it's not covered in the news a lot, there's no dramatic TV show about water treatment, so there's not a lot of awareness about what we're doing," engineering manager Rob Fahey said.
To educate the community about this little known technology, the city has launched a $1 million outreach campaign that will continue well after the facility is built. The city will spend about $500,000 on brochures, community meetings, online videos, utility bill stuffers and other public relations on the front end and the rest on site tours for the public and school outreach once the facility is running.
The Southwest Florida Water Management District will pay for half of the construction costs and will also split the $1 million outreach budget.