Sprinklers have been working hard during this unusually hot and dry November weather, which also serves as a reminder our water supply is not endless.

"In Florida, water is becoming more and more scarce," said Altamonte Springs City Manager Frank Martz.

When heavy rain falls on I-4 through Altamonte Springs, so much water drains off into nearby Cranes Roost Park, enough to fill several Olympic-size swimming pools.

All of that water was draining off and going directly into the Little Wekiva River. City officials said that was polluting the river with nitrogen and phosphorus.

Now, the stormwater goes to a city treatment plant that filters and treats the stormwater runoff.

Martz said that will save the city about $800,000 a year.

"We save water, we remove nutrients from the water, and we're actually saving a great deal of money for our residents," said Martz.

"If they're saving money, it should reduce our taxes, or at least not increase our taxes," said homeowner David Bruce.

The new water treatment plan is called "A-FIRST," which stands for Altamonte Springs–FDOT Integrated Reuse and Stormwater Treatment.

City officials said the plan creates a new supply of 4.5 million gallons of reclaimed water a day, eliminates the need for a new retention pond, and saves the state $15 million in construction costs for the I-4 Ultimate project.

The city also built a six-mile pipeline to Apopka that will send some of its new reclaimed water to help the city deal with its growing need for water.

City officials said they hope the one-of-a-kind treatment system will become a blueprint for other cities and agencies across Florida — and around the nation — that are looking to increase their water supply.

Altamonte Springs city leaders planned to officially unveil the new water treatment system Friday at the new treatment plant at the San Sebastian Trailhead. The event starts at 10 a.m.

Infographic: How A-FIRST Works

Source: City of Altamonte Springs

A-FIRST Fact Sheet

Source: City of Altamonte Springs

  • A-FIRST stands for Altamonte-FDOT Integrated Reuse and Stormwater Treatment project, an innovative stormwater management initiative aimed at increasing alternative water supplies for Altamonte Springs and the neighboring City of Apopka, while significantly reducing pollutant loads to the Little Wekiva River.
  • A-FIRST is extremely innovative from an engineering standpoint. A-FIRST is the first project of its kind in the United States and can serve as a model for future projects in Florida. But the most significant aspect of A-FIRST are the partnerships, creating a new model for multi-agency coordination and accomplishment. A-FIRST is the result of multiple governments and agencies working together to come up with innovative, bold new ways to solve problems, as opposed to the same old "cookie cutter" approach.
  • A-FIRST is just the latest initiative by the City of Altamonte Springs to conserve water. The city's Project APRICOT, implemented in the 1980s, made it possible to deliver reclaimed water to almost every property in the city for lawn, landscape and other non-drinking purposes. It was the first of its kind in the country and continues today. Many cities struggle to deliver reclaimed water to new communities; Project APRICOT focused on retrofitting existing neighborhoods and developments with reclaimed water and has been doing it for more than 25 years.
  • The A-FIRST project is the result of Altamonte Springs creating a new business model that requires support and participation with Florida's departments of Transportation, Environmental Protection, the St. Johns Water Management District and the City of Apopka as well as from State Sen. David Simmons. Altamonte Springs conceived this innovative project and will continue to manage construction and operations. Such partnerships historically do not occur.
  • Here's how the A-FIRST project works:
    • A-FIRST eliminated the need for another massive retention pond that would have been necessary as part of the I-4 Ultimate construction project, and will utilize the increased runoff that the project will generate.
    • Stormwater from the section of I-4 within Altamonte Springs is captured, flowing into Cranes Roost. This avoids the expense of building and maintaining a large retention pond.
    • The stormwater from I-4 is then pumped to a recommissioned water treatment plant, which creates additional savings by repurposing one of the City's water plants.
    • The I-4 stormwater is cleaned, filtered, chlorinated, recovered and used as irrigation, instead of being lost to a retention pond. By recovering and using the stormwater, Altamonte Springs has created 1.6 billion gallons of Alternative Water Supply every year.
    • When there is excess recovered water, Altamonte Springs sends the additional cleaned water to the City of Apopka through a pipe the City of Altamonte Springs constructed to help meet Apopka's growing demand for water.
    • With A-FIRST, instead of losing that excess water – approximately 1.6 billion gallons per year, on average – is saved. It is then pumped to Apopka, who has a significant need for alternative water supply for their future development and growth.
    • Before A-FIRST, excess water was pumped from both Cranes Roost and the Altamonte Springs Regional Water Reclamation Facility into the Little Wekiva River. With this project, the City of Altamonte Springs eliminates the discharge of 31 tons of nitrogen and 14 tons of phosphorus from the Little Wekiva River every year!
  • A-FIRST is an award-winning project, having won the Excellence Award given by the Florida Stormwater Association. The award recognizes stormwater projects for their commitment to innovation and benefit to the environment and citizens.