Rockland County Uses a Circular Solution to Replenish Its Sole-Source Aquifer

June 19, 2017
Tim Shea Veolia
VP of Operations, Veolia North America

Resource reuse makes such a big impression today because our natural resources are becoming noticeably scarce. But we now have the technology to sustain them. Water is a great example, and a lush county in New York State is using circular thinking to solve potential climate issues.  

The Challenge

The Ramapo River Watershed is critical to the water needs of Rockland County, New York, as well as several communities in northern New Jersey. Changes in flow in the Ramapo River after various weather events are monitored by Rockland County Sewer District No. 1 to ensure groundwater stays at healthy levels. Certain months of the year have become especially dry, however, and the river’s sole-source aquifer shares its water with a local well system.

The aquifer has struggled to provide water to the 1 million regional residents who depend on it in the tristate area. It needs support to continue being a reliable delivery system while meeting sustainable levels required by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The Initiative

Rockland County engaged a thorough procurement process in search of a solution, but not just to keep the Ramapo River clean. The county had to configure its utility system in a way that addressed Ramapo and Hillburn, New York’s dependence on an often-unpredictable flow of groundwater.

Rockland County ultimately selected Veolia Water Technologies, a solutions provider of Veolia North America, to design, build, and operate the Western Ramapo Advanced Wastewater Treatment Facility, a new 1.5M-gallon-per-day wastewater plant.

Implementation

Equipped with sequencing batch reactors, the plant extended the typical water aeration process and championed a unique type of microfiltration. This allows the county to treat effluent that normally wouldn’t return to drinking water standards set by the EPA.

The best part is that this effluent then replenishes the Ramapo Valley’s groundwater aquifer. By denitrifying this wastewater and feeding it back into the river, the aquifer can rehydrate itself and provide for residents despite seasons that make it difficult.

By incorporating new technologies in an otherwise conventional utility, Rockland County puts a natural resource into a closed loop—addressing a visible effect of climate change with a circular solution.

How Far They’ve Come

Communities shouldn’t have to compete for clean water, and with this new reclamation plant, they don’t have to. Water is meant to be reused, but proper guidance is required to do this effectively. The Ramapo River aquifer can now reliably deliver clean water to a million residents in Rockland County and 280,000 across the state line in New Jersey. It’s a real measure for how creative solutions at the local level can improve the distribution of public resources regionally and contribute to the circular economy at the same time.

The circular economy isn’t exclusive to clean-energy entrepreneurs or an “alternative” movement for conventional public works. On the contrary, it invites all utility systems to think differently about their role in addressing the challenges facing their community.