Fort Meade Saves Resources, Energy, and Money by Reusing Water

February 1, 2002

Pulsating Sprinkler at Golf Course

Nonpotable treated effluent is used to irrigate the golf courses at Fort Meade.

For more than 15 years, Fort George G. Meade has been saving at least 133,000 gallons of potable water per day by using safe effluent from its wastewater treatment plant to irrigate two golf courses on the base.

Fort Meade, located in Maryland between Baltimore and Washington, D.C., employs approximately 10,000 military personnel and more than 25,000 civilians. All four service branches and several Federal agencies, including the National Security Agency, are tenants. The wastewater treatment plant, which is owned and operated by the base, treats all its domestic, commercial, and industrial wastewater. The average effluent flow is 4.6 million gallons per day. The nonpotable treated effluent is clear, colorless, odorless, and free of pollutants, so it is satisfactory for many reuse purposes.

Two 18-hole golf courses, Applewood and Floyd L. Parks, comprise the 120-acre Fort Meade Golf Course Complex. The operators of the complex have been using nonpotable treated effluent from the wastewater treatment plant for irrigation since 1984. Using this effluent to supply irrigation water reduces the demand on potable water supplies and the nutrient load on the receiving bodies of water, such as lakes and rivers. In addition, aquifers and groundwater supplies are not depleted as rapidly, and millions of gallons of potable water can be saved each year.

This well-established technology may be the most economical way to provide irrigation water to a golf course. The Fort pays only for pumping costs associated with bringing the treated effluent to the golf course, saving money that would be needed to treat the water to make it potable. There have been no complaints of odor, mosquitoes, or any other problems as a result of using treated effluent rather than potable water for irrigation. Since the effluent is pH-balanced, there is no need to add lime to irrigated areas, but some fertilizer may still be required. Five monitoring wells are located throughout the golf courses; the wells are sampled and tested about five times a year to ensure that there is no contamination to degrade the quality of the groundwater.

This type of irrigation also helps to avoid eutrophication (oversupply of minerals and organic nutrients) of bays, lakes, streams, and other bodies of water. Grasses and plants on the golf courses can effectively absorb some of the nutrients that would otherwise be discharged directly into tributaries and receiving bodies of water. Nitrogen and phosphorus are necessary for aquatic ecosystems because they support the bottom of the food chain. However, excess nutrients like these create large blooms of phytoplankton, or algae, which cut off light to underwater grasses. These grasses are very important to aquatic systems because they provide habitat for aquatic life and help to filter water. When the algae die and begin to decompose, the decomposition process removes dissolved oxygen from the water, which fish and plants need for survival.

Using safe, nonpotable effluent for irrigation benefits the base in many ways. In addition to saving money and other resources needed to make the water potable, reusing the effluent with minimal treatment helps to preserve the ecosystems of area rivers, lakes, and streams.

For more information, please contact Stephanie Tanner of NREL at 202-646-5218 or, or see the water conservation pages on FEMP's Web site at