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Domestic Wastewater to Wetlands Program
Orlando Easterly Wetlands - Measuring Success 

 

Deep Marsh Zone (Photos by Shanin Speas - Nov 11, 2000)The first flow - 8 million gallons per day (mgd) of reclaimed water - entered the wetlands in July 1987. In 1988, flows were increased to approximately 13 mgd. Annual average flows remained slightly under 13 mgd until 1994. Since 1995, flows have been approaching the 20-mgd permitted capacity. Today the city anticipates increasing the permitted capacity to 35 mgd.

With more than a decade of operational data as evidence, the Orlando Easterly Wetlands has demonstrated that reclaimed water can successfully be used to restore wetlands and recreate wildlife habitat. For this reason, the State of Florida considers it to be a beneficial reuse system in the Florida Department of Environmental Protectionís Reuse Inventory. Average concentration of total nitrogen (TN) and total phosphorus (TP) as reclaimed water has remained consistently below permit limits of 2.31 mg/L TN and 0.20 River, and a considerable improvement over the quality of agricultural runoff from the site prior to its transformation into a wetland. Samples are collected in the river upstream and downstream of the Orlando Easterly Wetlands.

With a wetland system in place and outstanding water quality established, the city has concentrated on enhancing the wildlife habitat aspects of its wetlands project. Nearly two-thirds of the Orlando Easterly Wetlands project was designed to encourage and maximize wildlife usage. The mixed marsh area is managed to maintain open water areas and to prevent encroachment of nuisance vegetation. A 90-acre lake located in the area planted with hardwood swamp species also enhances wildlife habitat.

Nearly 200 bird and animal species, including numerous threatened and endangered ones, now make their home in the Orlando Easterly Wetlands. Prior to the wetlands project, the site had hosted less than two dozen animal species.

As testimony to the success of the wetlands as wildlife habitat, the Orlando Easterly Wetlands has been documented as the northernmost nesting area of the Everglades snail kite. This endangered species previously had only been observed as far north as Kissimmee, following its decline in the mid-1900s. The Everglades snail kite feeds on apple snails, a species that typically resides in high quality waters, which are provided at the Orlando Easterly Wetlands.

All areas of the project are actively managed to provide floral habitats that are conducive to nutrient uptake. In addition to these management activities, special attention and care are given to the threatened, endangered, or otherwise listed floral and faunal species occurring on site. Seventeen state-listed plants have been identified at the Orlando Easterly Wetlands.


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Last updated: September 21, 2011

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