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Glossary

Activated Sludge: The biological process that removes organic matter from wastewater using microscopic plants and animals (organisms). The activated sludge process imitates the natural process that a river, lake or stream uses to clean itself.

Alafia River: River in Tampa Bay that is 25 miles long and has a watershed of 335 square miles. The watershed contains ten named lakes and ponds and 29 named rivers, streams and canals. During the rainy season, excess water is pumped to the new C.W. Bill Young Regional Reservoir, which opened in 2005.

Algae: Simple, plantlike organisms, one-celled or many-celled, containing chlorophyll, found in water or damp places.

Algae Blooms: An overgrowth of algae.

Aquifer: Water-bearing layer of the earth's crust; an underground layer of unconsolidated rock or soil that is saturated with (usable) water.

Arsenic: Classified as a semi-metallic element, Arsenic is probably best known as a poison. While highly toxic, this grey, semi-metallic element is used in lasers, insecticides, and in some fireworks.

Bacteria: Living organisms, microscopic in size, which usually consist of a single cell. Most bacteria use organic matter for their food and produce waste products as a result of their life processes.

Barium: is a soft, silvery chemical element classified as an alkaline earth metal. Given its reactivity with air, it is never found in its pure form in nature.

Biological Processes: A natural cycle that a living organism goes through that involves several chemical reactions and results in a transformation within the organism. 

Chlorination: The process of adding the element chlorine to water as a method of water purification to make it fit for human consumption as drinking water

Chlorine: A chemical substance used by municipal water treatment facilities to eliminate bacteria from the water supply

Clean Water Act: The federal law that requires states to conduct programs to protect water quality.

Closing the Water Loops: The concept of efficiently using the water we have over and over and over again.

Contaminant: Any physical, chemical, biological, or radiological substance or matter that has an adverse effect on air, water, or soil.

Department of Agriculture: The federal department created in 1862 that administers programs that provide services to farmers (including research and soil conservation and efforts to stabilize the farming economy).

Desalination: The application of a process that separates salt and other impurities from water leaving fresh water for use.

Direct Potable: Use of recycled water for drinking purposes directly after treatment.

Disinfection: The process designed to treat microorganisms in wastewater, including essentially pathogenic (disease-causing) bacteria.

Domestic Water Use: Water used for household purposes, such as drinking, food preparation, bathing, washing clothes, dishes, and dogs, flushing toilets, and watering lawns and gardens. About 85 percent of domestic water is delivered to homes by a public-supply facility, such as a county water department. About 15 percent of U.S. residents supply their own water, mainly from wells.

Drinking Water Standards: Standards set by the Federal Environmental Protection Agency under the authority of the Safe Drinking Water Act.

Ecosystem: The study of all aspects of how organisms interact with each other and/or their environment

Effluent: Water that flows from a sewage treatment plant after it has been treated.

Electromagnetic Radiation (ultraviolet light): This process disinfects water by exposing it to ultraviolet (UV) light, which breaks down microorganisms.

Erosion: The process in which a material is worn away by a stream of liquid (water) or air, often due to the presence of abrasive particles in the stream.

Estuary: A bay or inlet, often at the mouth of a river, in which large quantities of freshwater and seawater mix together. These unique habitats are necessary nursery grounds for many marine fishes and shellfishes.

Fertilizers: Natural and synthetic materials, including manure and nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium compounds, spread on or worked into soil to increase its capacity to support plant growth.

Flocculation: Part of a water-cleaning process in which small sticky particles clump together to make larger and heavier particles (floc). The larger particles eventually sink to the bottom of a containment area and can then be removed

Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP): Lead agency in state government for environmental management and stewardship and is one of the more diverse agencies in state government, protecting our air, water, and land. The Department is divided into three primary areas: Regulatory Programs, Land and Recreation and Planning and Management

Floridan Aquifer: Portion of the principal artesian aquifer that extends into Florida and is composed of carbonate rock and located beneath the coastal regions of the Southeastern United States and is one of the world's most productive aquifers.

Ground Water: The supply of freshwater found beneath the Earth's surface, usually in aquifers, which is often used to supply wells and springs.

Heavy Metals: Metals such as lead, mercury, cadmium, etc., having more than five times the weight of water. When concentrated in the environment, can pose a significant health risk to humans.

Hillsborough River: River located in the state of Florida. It arises in the Green Swamp near the juncture of Hillsborough, Pasco and Polk Counties and flows 54 miles through Pasco and Hillsborough counties to an outlet in the city of Tampa.

Hydrogen Sulfide: Type of gas with a rotten egg odor. This gas is produced under anaerobic conditions. Hydrogen sulfide is particularly dangerous because it dulls your sense of smell so that you don't notice it after you have been around it for a while and because the odor is not noticeable in high concentrations. The gas is very poisonous to your respiratory system, explosive, flammable, and colorless. 

Indirect Potable: Projects that discharge recycled water to a water body before reuse.

Industrial Water Use: Water used for industrial purposes in such industries as steel, chemical, paper, and petroleum refining. Nationally, water for industrial uses comes mainly (80 percent) from self-supplied sources, such as a local well or withdrawal points in a river, but some water comes from public-supplied sources, such as the county/city water department.

Infiltration: The movement of water from the land surface into the soil.

Inorganic Contaminants: Mineral-based compounds such as metals, nitrates, and asbestos. These contaminants are naturally-occurring in some water, but can also get into water through farming, chemical manufacturing, and other human activities. EPA has set legal limits on 15 inorganic contaminants

Landfill: Land waste disposal site in which waste is generally spread in thin layers, compacted, and covered with a fresh layer of soil each day.

Leaching: The process by which soluble materials in the soil, such as salts, nutrients, pesticide chemicals or contaminants, are washed into a lower layer of soil or are dissolved and carried away by water.

Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL): The highest level of a contaminant that EPA allows in drinking water. MCLs ensure that drinking water does not pose either a short-term or long-term health risk. EPA sets MCLs at levels that are economically and technologically feasible. Some states set MCLs, which are more strict than EPA's.

Maximum Contaminant Level Goal (MCLG): The level of a contaminant at which there would be no risk to human health. This goal is not always economically or technologically feasible, and the goal is not legally enforceable.

Microorganisms: Tiny living organisms that can be seen only with the aid of a microscope. Some microorganisms can cause acute health problems when consumed in drinking water. Also known as microbes.

Nickel: It is a silvery-white lustrous metal with a slight golden tinge. It is one of the four ferromagnetic elements at about room temperature

Nitrates: A salt or ester of nitric acid, such as potassium nitrate or sodium nitrate, both used as fertilizers, and which show up in water supplies as pollution.

Non-Point Source Pollutants: Pollution from numerous widespread locations or sources that have no well-defined points of origin and may originate from land use activities and/or from the atmosphere. Examples include leaching of excess fertilizer from fields and acid rain.

Nutrients: Compounds of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium that promote plant growth.

Numerical Nutrient Criteria: Standards proposed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to better protect and monitor Florida’s lakes and streams. The standards place limits on the amount of nitrogen and phosphorus allowed in Florida’s waters in order to reduce excess nutrients, which damage ecosystems.

Organic Contaminants: Carbon-based chemicals, such as solvents and pesticides, which can get into water through runoff from cropland or discharge from factories. EPA has set legal limits on 56 organic contaminants.

Oxidation: Combining elemental compounds with oxygen to form a new compound. A part of the metabolic reaction.

Pathogens: Microorganisms (e.g., bacteria, viruses, or parasites) that can cause disease in humans, animals and plants.

Pesticides: Chemicals used to kill off unwanted animals

Phosphates: Natural minerals containing phosphorus and are important to the maintenance of all life. They are used in laundry and dishwasher detergents and fertilizers. Their residues can cause growth of algal bloom in freshwater lakes and streams

Physical Processes (filtration, sedimentation, reverse osmosis): Separates the stuff in the water from the water. This removes the harmful material and leaves the clean water behind.

Point Source Pollutants: Water pollution sources that may be traced to a specific source, such as a sewer line or a discharge pipe of an industrial facility.

Pollutants: Materials can include, but are not limited to, trash, paper, plastics, cleaning chemicals, animal waste, yard wastes, used oil, fertilizers, pesticides, sediment, metals, fuels, solvents, detergents and fecal coliform.

Pollution: A human or naturally caused change in physical, chemical, or biological conditions that results in an undesirable effect on the environment.

Potable Water: Water that does not contain objectionable pollution, contamination, minerals, or infective agents and is considered satisfactory for drinking.

Primary Treatment: The first process in the wastewater treatment process where some of the suspended solids and organic matter are removed through sedimentation. Common usage of this term also includes preliminary treatment to remove wastewater constituents that may cause maintenance or operational problems in the system (i.e., grit removal, screening for trash and debris, oil and grease removal, etc.).

Recharge: Water added to an aquifer. For instance, rainfall that seeps into the ground.

Reclaimed Water: Treated wastewater that can be used for beneficial purposes, such as irrigating certain plants.

Recycled Water: Water that is used more than one time before it passes back into the natural hydrologic system.

Reservoir: A pond, lake, or basin, either natural or artificial, for the storage, regulation, and control of water.

Reverse Osmosis: Water passes through a fine membrane that the salts are unable to pass through, while the salt waste (brine) is removed and disposed.

Runoff Pollution: Water from rain (also called stormwater, urban runoff, and storm drain pollution), irrigation, garden hoses or other activities that pick up pollutants (cigarette butts, trash, automotive fluids, used oil, paint, fertilizers and pesticides, lawn and garden clippings and pet waste) from streets, parking lots, driveways and yards and carries them through the storm drain system and straight to the ocean.

Secondary Treatment: A type of wastewater treatment used to convert dissolved and suspended pollutants into a form that can be removed, producing a relatively highly treated effluent. Secondary treatment normally utilizes biological treatment processes followed by settling tanks and will remove approximately 85% of the Biological Oxygen Demand (BOD) and total suspended solids (TSS) in wastewater

Septic System: A self-contained sewage treatment system that holds wastewater in an underground storage area and relies on bacterial action to decompose solid waste matter.

Sewage: The waste and wastewater produced by residential, commercial and industrial sources that is discharged into sewers.

Sewer System: The drainage conveyance that takes wastewater from home plumbing systems (toilets, showers, sinks, washers, etc) and takes it to a sanitary sewer plant

Sodium: One of the alkali metal family. Sodium is a light, metallic element. It is very reactive and almost explodes if put in water.

Solvents: A solvent is a liquid that is capable of dissolving another substance to make a new solution. Solvents are used to dissolve paint solids to make paint and as cleaning solutions because they dissolve grease and oils

Source Water: Water in its natural state, prior to any treatment for drinking.

Storm Drain System: A network of conveyance systems, which includes catch basins, grates, gutters, underground pipes, creeks or open channels designed to transport rain from developed areas and discharged to a receiving body of water. Storm drains can carry a variety of pollutants such as sediments, fecal waste, metals, bacteria, oil, and antifreeze that enter the system through runoff, deliberate dumping, or spills

Stream: Small natural waterway originating from underground springs, snow melt, runoff or other natural sources which drains to lakes, rivers, channels or the ocean.

Surface Water: Water collecting on the ground or in a stream, river, lake, wetland, or ocean.

Tampa Bay: Large natural harbor and estuary along the Gulf of Mexico on the west central coast of Florida.

Tampa Bay Water: Regional water supply authority that provides wholesale water to three cities and three counties in the Tampa Bay region.

Tertiary Treatment: In general, it is any treatment process used after secondary to increase the quality of the finished water.  Such treatment may include but are not limited to nutrient removal, sand filtration, micro-filtration, reverse osmosis, carbon filtration, advanced oxidation and disinfection.  It usually always includes full disinfection of the effluent. Methods of disinfection may include chlorination, ultraviolet radiation or ozonation. Tertiary treatment can produce drinkable water and is required for discharge into fresh water bodies.

U.S. EPA: Agency of the federal government of the United States charged to protect human health and the environment, by writing and enforcing regulations based on laws passed by Congress

Utilities: Monitor the quality of our water, treat it and provide it to us. Utilities are regulated to ensure water safety.

Variance: State or EPA permission not to meet a certain drinking water standard. The water system must prove that: (1) it cannot meet a MCL, even while using the best available treatment method, because of the characteristics of the raw water, and (2) the variance will not create an unreasonable risk to public health. The State or EPA must review and allow public comment on a variance every three years. States can also grant variances to water systems that serve small populations and which prove that they are unable to afford the required treatment, an alternative water source, or otherwise comply with the standard.

Wastewater: The spent or used water from a home, community, farm, or industry that contains dissolved or suspended matter.

Water Management Districts: Regulate water resources based on laws set by the FDEP so that the need for water is balanced with the maintenance and well being of our natural systems.

Water Reuse: The concept of using, then treating and using water again for different purposes.

Water System: A facility that provides a source of water

Water Table: The level below which the soil or rock is saturated with water, sometimes referred to as the upper surface of the saturated zone.

Water Treatment: a process of improving the quality of water.

Water Utilities: Organization that maintains the infrastructure for a public service, in this case, water.

Watershed: Geographic area of land from which all runoff drains into a single waterway or the total land area from which rain water drains into a particular stream, drain, or body of water

Watershed: The land area from which water drains into a stream, river, or reservoir.

Yuck Factor: Term often associated with the concept of turning wastewater into drinking water.