Mall to use reclaimed water on landscape

LAWRENCEVILLE - Next summer, officials with the Mall of Georgia won't have to worry about the drought spoiling the landscaping.

The mall will soon become the latest customer to use treated wastewater to irrigate its grass, officials said.

Commissioners approved a contract Tuesday to extend a reuse water line to the mall. The project will cost $1.17 million, but Gwinnett Water Resources Director Frank Stephens said the cost is worth it for the environmental benefits.

"If you are using reclaimed water and if that use replaces demand on Lake Lanier, then that's good for everybody," Stephens said. "For us, this is a precious resource. We are looking for ways to diminish drinking water demand. It keeps the water in Lake Lanier."

Mall officials did not return phone calls seeking comment Tuesday.

In 2001, the county began a program to allow customers that use a lot of water for irrigation to use treated wastewater instead of drinking water.

So far, two golf courses and two parks have become part of the program, as well as the Gwinnett Environmental and Heritage Center, which is near the Buford mall.

The museum, which was the county's first green building, uses treated wastewater in toilets and to air condition the building.

In the summer, an average of 1.5 million to 2 million gallons of reclaimed water is used by the five facilities, and Stephens said he expects the mall to use another 500,000 gallons a day during the hot months.

The water, which was treated at the F. Wayne Hill Water Resources Center, would otherwise be sent to the Chattahoochee River, Stephens said. So the county would actually gain money through the charge of 75 cents per 1,000 gallons, which is a considerable reduction from the $3.47 per 1,000 gallons for drinking water.

The customers also get a break from drought restrictions that now keep potable water customers from watering their lawns in the day time.

The use of treated wastewater for irrigation is a key part of the state's water plan, Stephens added.