2018 Excellence in Environmental Engineering and Science™ Awards Competition Winner

E3S Honor Award

Honor Award - Design

Central Pasco County Beneficial Water Reuse Project: 4G Wetlands

Entrant: CH2M, now Jacobs
Engineer in Charge: Rafael Vazquez-Burney, P.E.
Location: Land O Lakes, Florida
Media Contact: Jamie Jackson


Entrant Profile


The 4G Wetlands, the largest man-made groundwater recharge wetland in the world, is a multifunctional project addressing decades-long concerns regarding groundwater drawdowns in areas affected by public water supply wellfields.

Since 2010, CH2M, now Jacobs, alongside Pasco County Utilities and the Southwest Florida Water Management District, has provided a full-range of design, permitting, and services during construction for the 4G Wetlands. This innovative, reclaimed water project consists of a 176-acre groundwater recharge wetland system, sized to receive 5 mgd of advanced secondary reclaimed water to passively recharge the surficial and Floridan Aquifer Systems, the regions drinking water supply for 2.5 million people, while protecting its water quality.

Additionally, the project will restore the ecological functions of the historically degraded onsite lakes and wetlands, and create new wildlife habitat within the 15 constructed wetland cells. The project's life-cycle costs to Pasco County are approximately half of what conventional systems, such as rapid infiltration basins or sprayfields that require constant maintenance, would have cost, making it an excellent example of sustainable water management. The project also successfully demonstrates how organizations can utilize public-private partnerships as an efficient way of managing risk.

The award winning 4G Wetlands is intended to become a model for future facilities as a multifunctional system that addresses many regional needs associated with managing regional water resources.

Project Description

Beneficial Water Reuse Project an Environmentally Integrated Project

Pasco County Utilities, in collaboration with the Southwest Florida Water Management District (SWFWMD) recently completed the multi-award winning Central Pasco County Beneficial Water Reuse Project, known as the 4G Wetlands. The project consists of a 176-acre groundwater recharge wetland system, constructed on upland pastures and designed to work in unison with a newly constructed, 500-million-gallon reclaimed water reservoir to balance wet-weather supply and dry-weather demands and help support the operation of Pasco County's state-of-the-art water reuse system. The system is sized to receive 5-million-gallons-per-day of advanced secondary reclaimed water to passively recharge the Surficial and Floridian Aquifer Systems (the region's drinking water supply), while protecting its water quality. In addition to the benefits to the aquifer and the regional water resources, the project restores the ecological functions of the historically degraded onsite lakes and wetlands, and creates 176 acres of new wildlife habitat within the 15 constructed wetland cells. Other environmental benefits include:

  • Ability to recharge regional groundwater
  • Increasing wet-weather capacity, helping optimize reclaimed water management
  • Enhancing hydroperiods of onsite lakes and wetlands by estimating how much water will be available for recharge of the surficial aquifer system adjacent to 4G Wetlands
  • Creating new and diverse wetland habitats
  • Protects aquifer water quality naturally
E3S Photos

This Groundwater Recharge Wetland removes nitrogen passively.

Quality

The 4G Ranch Wetlands is the first project of its kind undertaken by the SWFWMD or Pasco County. The natural wetlands in the area are expected to significantly benefit from the additional recharge with no discharge from the facility to surface wasters. The natural design of the wetland cells blend in with the natural environment, creating biological diversity and providing significant additional acreage of wildlife habitat. The wetland cells also naturally provide water quality improvement, including the removal of nitrate-nitrogen inherent in the reclaimed water, to protect groundwater and adjacent surface water quality, ensuring nearly 2.5 million people have clean water supplies. Water quality improvements occur through biological processes of wetland surface treatment and soil treatment as water infiltrates through the wetland subsoils protecting aquifer water quality.

Social and Economic Advancement

The 4G Wetlands provides a more sustainable water supply for nearly 2.5 million people of the Tampa Bay Region and serves as an example of how to better manage all freshwater supplies. The benefit of the wetland creation, enhancement of hundreds of acres of natural lakes and wetlands in the vicinity, removal of nutrient load from a magnitude springshed and the contribution of millions of gallons of additional freshwater to a potable water source, moved the needle of reclaimed water management. Additionally, this project helps stabilize water supplies for ranchers in the area, providing a new source of water in an area that was prone to drought and ecological degradation.

In addition to improving the natural environment of the area and stabilizing water supplies, the project's life-cycle costs to Pasco County are approximately half of what a conventional system would have cost, making it an example of sustainable water management. The cost benefit considers cost-sharing opportunities and compares life-cycle costs to conventional infiltration systems, such as rapid infiltration basins and sprayfields that require constant maintenance. The construction cost for the 4G Wetlands project was approximately $14 million, shared between Pasco County and SWFWMD.

Innovation-Utilizing Public, Private Partnership to Complete Project

The project, completed as a public-private collaborative effort between Pasco County, SWFWMD and the Philips Family, is a great example of how other organizations can utilize public-private partnerships to minimize risk, while maximizing the benefits of water reuse. This was the first public-private partnership completed in the region for environmental restoration. Additionally, this innovative reclaimed water project facilitates a more holistic watershed management approach by helping improve an area that has seen severe ecological degradation.

Complexity/Summary

The 4G Wetlands were the first project-of-its kind and the largest man-made groundwater recharge wetland in the world, making it a complex undertaking for Pasco County. The challenge in designing groundwater recharge wetlands lies in the ability to balance wetland inflow with infiltration, precipitation and evaporation to maximize groundwater recharge without a wetland outflow, all while creating healthy and vibrant wetland communities. Additionally, new design principles were created and applied to achieve the multi-functions and multi-benefits needed from this project.

Furthermore, the 4G Wetlands are an important addition to the Pasco County Master Reuse System and add a beneficial capability to an already very flexible reuse system. The project has been a successful example of public-private partnership. The natural wetlands in the area are expected to significantly benefit from the additional recharge with no discharge from the facility to surface waters. No natural wetlands on or surrounding the facility were impacted for construction or ongoing operation. The natural design of the wetland cells blend in with the natural environment, creating biological diversity and providing significant additional wildlife habitat. The wetland cells also will naturally provide water quality improvement, including the removal of nitrates, to protect groundwater and adjacent surface waters. This project is intended to become a model for future facilities as a multifunctional system that addresses many regional needs associated with managing the regional water resources.


Click images to enlarge in separate window.

E3S Photos

Aerial photo of the Pasco County's Beneficial Water Reuse Project, known as the 4G Wetlands.

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4G Ranch Donkey

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Aerial of Valve Manifold

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Broadleaf Arrowhead Wetland Plant

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Cell 1 Snag Trees within Pickerelweed Plants

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Cell 3 Inlet Zone and Wetland Plants - Walkway in Distance

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Cell 5 Aerial shortly after Wetland Planting - June 2017

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Cell 7 Aerial - June 2017

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Cell 8 Open water area

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Cell 10 Oak tree among young wetland plants

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Cell 12 Excavation for Wetland Berms

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Cell 12 Row of Oaks within Pickerelweed Plants

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Great Egret at the edge of wetland waterline

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Juvenile Donkey on 4G Ranch

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Pine trees within Cell 5 Open Water Area

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Program Manager Rafael Vazquez-Burney holding softshell turtle

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Roseate Spoonbill on a Wetland Cell Berm

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Sandhill Cranes taking flight above Cell 2

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Sandhill Cranes walking on a Wetland Cell Berm

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Slash Pine Tree struck by lightning

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Whistling Ducks navigating young wetland plants


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