Destin Forward explores Destin Water Users facility as part of Environmental Day

Heather Pike
The Destin Forward class recently had the chance to explore the facilities at Destin Water Users as part of their “Environmental Day” in Destin.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Heather Pike, marketing coordinator at Destin Commons,  is a member of this year’s Destin Forward class. She will be filing stories monthly chronicling her experiences in the Chamber of Commerce’s leadership program.

One of the perks we enjoy as residents who live, work and/or play in Destin is that we are surrounded by some of the most diverse and simply breathtaking environments in the country. To the south of us, we enjoy the pristine, emerald waters of the Gulf and to the north we have the bay and the variety of rivers, streams and bayous and their foliage that make up a different, but nonetheless beautiful environment of its own. Our area’s culture, and for the most part, our economic stability are intimately woven into our physical environment and we were in for a surprise as we delved further into that on Environmental Day.

We arrived at Destin Water Users, Inc. (DWU) anxious to see what Environmental Day had in store for us. We were met by Lockwood Wernet and Monica Autrey and given a brief history of how DWU came to be in 1963. Judd Mooso was introduced to explain the ins and outs of water procurement and distribution. 

The water utilized in the Destin area, comes from The Floridan Aquifer which lies about 750-feet below ground surface — think two and a half Statue of Liberties! This Aquifer supply is accessed by both coastal and remote inland wells. It is purified through about 300-feet of limestone before hitting the well pipes and brought into a facility for purification. 

After a tour of the well and purification facilities, we quickly realized that the water coming out of our faucets was more pure than what we drink out of the high priced, waste creating bottles we all gravitate to. Logan Law then arrived on scene to show us the reclaimed water process. We started by standing next to a pool holding what was referred to as the “chocolate river,” thank goodness for the strategically placed Rosemary bushes. Air is introduced into this “river” as it flows into another pair of pools that contain live bacteria that begin the treatment process. 

After tumbling through a few other sets of holding cells where chlorine gas is introduced to the slightly clearer water, it is sent through a compression process that squeezes all of the treated solids out of the water and viola — water about as clear as it was when it came from the ground and ready to be used to water lawns, golf courses, wash cars and so on.

Next up was Jim Trifilio, coastal management coordinator with the Okaloosa County Tourist Development Department. We went on a trip into the past looking at the issues of the pass, dredging and beach restoration and talked about the elusive Bed Tax dollars that are meant to assist with these types of things.

The exciting part was learning about all of the upcoming plans for a beautiful new boardwalk on the bayside of Okaloosa Island that will stretch from the Emerald Coast Convention Center, east. A program with the military is also being implemented to utilize their cement debris from the ranges, as well as old tankers and automobiles to build a military themed snorkel reef. 

These will add some new exciting attractions to our area that will continue to set us apart from our competition.  Thanks to some outstanding local partnerships in the works and some newly found dollars from a certain oil company we shall not name, it looks as though we have the potential to really beef up the access and education about our unique environments and really enhance our involvement with them all while taking steps to preserve our natural resources. 

Up last was Lynn Yort from Waste Management. We all know we have the standard big plastic green garbage cans that we fill up and take to the end of our driveway on service day, they are emptied and we fill them up again.

There’s a never-ending fight about recycling and its cost effectiveness as well as what we can do to lessen the egregious 4.3-pounds of waste we produce each day. As a community we should take personal responsibility and truly look to change our lifestyles. 

Despite added costs to their operation, Waste Management has implemented programs that are utilizing the waste we generate to help run their system and lessen their footprint. Things like their landfill-gas-to-energy programs that power homes and fuel their natural gas trucks and the fact that many of their sites are certified wildlife habitats really bring attention to the fact that we can all do a better job.

So next time you are loading up your 24-pack of bottled water onto your shopping cart, take a moment to think about the waste one single bottle can create, and think about what you can do, like Destin Water Users and Waste Management, to change that habit and keep Destin beautiful.