Water Reuse & Reclamation

Reusing water increases efficiency and reduces waste. Examples of water reuse include:

  • The use of condensation for cooling tower makeup
  • Using a closed-loop recycling system where process wastewater is repeatedly recycled back through the process in which the water was generated.

"Reclaimed water" is a sub-set of water reuse: highly treated wastewater from a municipal wastewater treatment system that is utilized for a suitable and beneficial purpose. The use of reclaimed water in its simplest form, involves taking highly treated wastewater and distributing it, offsetting the demand for potable (drinking) water. “Purple pipes” are used to distribute reclaimed water. Reclaimed water requires extensive treatment and disinfection before distribution in order to ensure public health and environmental quality protection.

North Carolina’s water reuse policy and rule making statute, §143 355.5 requires the Environmental Management Commission to “encourage and promote safe and beneficial reuse of treated wastewater as an alternative to surface water discharge.” The resulting rules are Title 15A of the North Carolina Administration Code Subchapter 2T.0900.

Facilities producing reclaimed water must posses a permit distributed by the N.C. Division of Water Quality Aquifer Protection Section, Land Application Unit. Permitted reclaimed water systems can provide water for many beneficial purposes.

Under North Carolina rules, reclaimed water can be used for non-potable purposes including, but not limited to, the following:

  • Irrigation of public and private landscapes and turf
  • Soil compaction
  • Dust control
  • Non-potable processes such as concrete production and cooling water
  • Industrial and commercial toilet flush and fire prevention systems where there are separate, non-potable plumbing lines
  • Bulk fill stations
  • Decorative ponds and fountains
  • Street sweeping (not street cleaning)
  • Sewer cleaning (not washing)
  • Vehicle washing

Potential users of reclaimed water should contact their local public works department to see if the local Publicly Owned Treatment Works in their area has been approved to distribute reclaimed water. Wastewater treatment plants, industrial and business managers should contact The Division of Water Resources for site specific guidance on the regulatory aspects of reclaimed water infrastructure.

Additional Resources:

Guidelines for Water Reuse

Water Efficiency Manual for Commercial, Industrial, and Institutional Users, Reclaimed Water Section