Council proposes additional policies for wastewater reuse

Date: Friday, February 9, 2018

The Metropolitan Council is considering new policies related to wastewater reuse, as an outgrowth of a community-based customer task force.

Wastewater reuse—treating and reusing wastewater—is a potential strategy to benefit the regional wastewater system, sustain the region’s groundwater supplies and support economic growth in the seven-county region. The Council’s regional vision, Thrive MSP 2040, encourages wastewater reuse where economically feasible to promote sustainable water resources.

In January, the Council authorized a public hearing to receive comments on three proposed policy alternatives, one of which could become an amendment to the 2040 Water Resources Policy Plan.

Members of the Wastewater Reuse Task Force in a discussion.“Additional policies would help us respond to opportunities to reuse wastewater that would sustain our water resources and support economic growth,” said Council Member Sandy Rummel, who chaired the Wastewater Reuse Policy Task Force. “We are committed to working with communities on wastewater reuse, not competing with them as water suppliers. Solutions that include wastewater and stormwater reuse, water conservation, and low-impact development practices will help achieve our shared goal of sustaining this region’s water resources for generations to come.”

The Council will hold two workshops about the proposed policies on Feb. 27 and Mar. 1, and hold a public hearing on Mar. 13.

All three policy alternatives share these features:

  • The Council would charge each wastewater reuse project based on the cost of the service provided, rather than assigning a fixed rate for all projects.

  • The Council would respond to proposed projects in cooperation and partnership with local communities.

  • Projects would have to be consistent with the host community’s comprehensive plan.

  • The Council would pursue non-Council sources of funding (for example, Clean Water Legacy funds) to help pay for the cost of Council infrastructure related to wastewater reuse.

  • The Council may enter into a joint powers or other agreement with the host community for the reclaimed water service.

  • The Council shall enter into a long-term reclaimed water service agreement with each user.

Two alternatives include a regional cost share

Where the policy alternatives differ is whether regional cost-sharing would be implemented and on what basis. Regional cost-sharing means a small portion of the municipal wastewater charge could be allocated to cover part or all the cost of Council infrastructure to support a wastewater reuse project.  

  • Alternative 1 would not include a regional cost share for a proposed wastewater reuse project.

  • Alternative 2 would include a regional cost share based on regional environmental and economic benefits.

  • Alternative 3 would include a regional cost share based on regional wastewater system benefit only.

Any cost-sharing would apply only to the Council-owned portion of infrastructure related to a wastewater reuse project. It would not be used to fund privately owned pipes or other facilities. The cumulative regional cost-share of all reuse projects would be capped at maximum 0.75% of total annual municipal wastewater charges, approximately $1.65 million per year or $1 per residential equivalent per year.

Evaluating environmental and economic benefits of a wastewater reuse project

At the Council’s East Bethel Water Reclamation Facility, wastewater is treated to a high enough standard that it can be reused to recharge shallow groundwater.Under Alternative 2, the Council would evaluate, for any proposed project, the regional environmental and economic benefits based on whether it:

  • Increases the region’s wastewater reuse capability,

  • Fosters regional environmental sustainability, and

  • Fosters economic growth for a prosperous region (creates jobs and/or adds uniquely to the region’s industrial/business portfolio) that would not happen without reclaimed water.

In addition, the Council would hold a public hearing to obtain public input prior to a final determination on regional benefit and regional cost share.

Evaluating benefits to the regional wastewater system of a wastewater reuse project

Under Alternative 3, a regional cost share would be evaluated only for whether a reuse project would benefit the regional wastewater system. For example:

  1. The regional system is built to serve long-term growth in a sub-regional service area, and the Department of Natural Resources has stated that issuance of a water appropriation permit would involve a complex and protracted process due to concerns about the area’s long-term water supply, and/or

  2. The project reduces the Council’s surface water discharge, delaying capital improvements to meet more stringent regulatory requirements.

As in Alternative 2, the Council would hold a public hearing to obtain public input prior to a final determination on regional benefit and regional cost share.

Alternative Wastewater Reuse Alternative Policy Amendments (pdf)

2017 Wastewater Reuse Policy Task Force Report

Current wastewater reuse policies

In addition to the broad encouragement of wastewater reuse in Thrive MSP 2040, the current 2040 Water Resources Policy Plan also addresses wastewater reuse. The plan encourages investments “when justified by the benefits for supplementing groundwater and surface water as sources of nonpotable water to support regional growth and maintain water quality.”

Posted In: Wastewater & Water

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