The Loxahatchee River District (LRD) has been honored with the prestigious WateReuse Association's Transformational Innovation Award for its innovative practice of integrating green infrastructure into their wastewater recycling system. After over a decade of research and implementation, LRD's novel approach outperforms traditional advanced wastewater recycling systems in cost savings, energy efficiency, and environmental protection.

 Wastewater Treatment Plant


LRD's award-winning water recycling process blends conventional wastewater treatment with green infrastructure*. Wastewater flows from homes to LRD’s traditional wastewater treatment plant, where the water is treated using standard equipment and processes. Then, instead of layering on additional energy-consuming treatment steps that rely on concrete and pumps, the water flows through a series of reclaimed water storage lakes where natural physical and biological processes take place, resulting in significant reductions in nutrient concentrations. 

This innovative combination of man-made and nature-based water treatment achieves similar water quality results as advanced treatment facilities. Thus, LRD’s reclaimed water is processed to very high quality in a manner that consumes substantially less energy, emits fewer greenhouse gasses, and costs less than traditional advanced wastewater treatment systems. 

 The environmental benefits of this innovative approach are significant. By distributing recycled water to meet daily landscape irrigation demands, freshwater in the watershed, which is in increasing short supply, was protected. First, natural freshwater was not consumed to meet irrigation needs. Second, the effective treatment achieved by the LRD’s system protected natural systems from excessive nutrients, which often lead to harmful algal blooms. 


Lead scientist and Executive Director of the Loxahatchee River District, Albrey Arrington, acknowledged the importance of this work. “The state of Florida, and the nation, recognizes that recycling wastewater is imperative to meeting our long-term water needs,” he said.  “This research shows that our water recycling approach led to cost-savings for our ratepayers while we safeguarded the ecological health of our local waters. I am proud of our efforts to achieve this win-win solution!”

*What Is Green Infrastructure? Green infrastructure and nature-based systems use natural habitats or ecosystems to achieve an environmental benefit. The most notable green infrastructure within Abacoa is the large wet and dry stormwater retention areas that are clearly visible throughout our community (e.g., adjacent to Central Blvd), and they also include the numerous water features within our community. Even the swales in our front yards are green infrastructure, and they function to capture, retain, and treat stormwater rather than sending it immediately as runoff.

Thus, green infrastructure typically refers to natural systems that were engineered to fit within a developed, urban or sub-urban community with a specific goal of improving environmental quality (very commonly improving water quality).

Onsite reclaimed water lake.

Green infrastructure elements can be woven into a community at several scales. Examples at the urban scale could include a rain barrel up against a house, a row of trees along a major city street, or greening an alleyway. Neighborhood scale green infrastructure could include acres of open park space outside a city center, planting rain gardens or constructing a wetland near a residential housing complex. At the landscape or watershed scale, examples could include protecting large open natural spaces, riparian areas, wetlands or greening steep hillsides. When green infrastructure systems are installed throughout a community, city or across a regional watershed, they can provide cleaner air and water as well as significant value for the community with flood protection, diverse habitat, and beautiful green spaces.