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Domestic Wastewater to Wetlands Program
Orlando Easterly Wetlands


Photo of Orlando Easterly Wetland by Adam Comerford, Nov. 11, 2000The Orlando Easterly Wetlands is an effort by the City of Orlando, Florida to reuse highly treated reclaimed water from its 40-million-gallon-per-day (mgd) Iron Bridge Regional Water Reclamation Facility for environmental enhancement. The project began in the mid-1980s when the city, faced with the need to increase its permitted treatment capacity, was unable to increase its wasteload allocation into sensitive area waterways due to concentrations of nitrogen and phosphorus in the Iron Bridge facility’s effluent. Nitrogen and phosphorus - products commonly used in fertilizers - can promote algae blooms that deplete oxygen in a water body and result in fish kills and other undesirable conditions.

Recognizing that aquatic ecosystems can be used to naturally remove nitrogen and phosphorus, the city created a large-scale wetland treatment system on an active cattle pasture that had been a wetland many years ago. Earthen berms were constructed throughout the site, and 2.1 million aquatic macrophytes were planted to create 17 cells that further "polish" the reclaimed water piped in from the Iron Bridge facility and discharge it with no adverse impact into the environmentally sensitive St. Johns River system.

After more than a decade of demonstrated performance, the Orlando Easterly Wetlands reclamation project has proven to the world that large-scale, created wetlands can be used on a long-term basis - and with resounding success - for both the advanced treatment of wastewater and beneficial reuse.

Orlando Easterly Wetlands Influent Structure (Photos by Shanin Speas and Adam Comerford - Nov 11, 2000)How It Works

Reclaimed water from the Iron Bridge Regional Water Reclamation Facility enters the wetlands by pipeline, is split into thirds at a control structure, and then routed through three separate flow pathways within the wetland system. The system includes three vegetative communities. A 410-acre deep marsh, comprised primarily of cattail and bulrush, accomplishes nutrient removal. A 380-acre mixed marsh of more than 60 submergent and emergent herbaceous species provides additional nutrient removal and wildlife habitat. A 400-acre area that includes hardwood swamp species serves primarily as wildlife habitat. After passing through the wetlands, water is conveyed in a ditch along the north property boundary to the St. Johns River. Control structures allow the water to flow directly through the outfall creek to the St. Johns River or across natural marshes.

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Last updated: November 18, 2016

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