Stakeholder Spotlight: Crystal Gardens Wetlands in Avondale

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This Stakeholder Spotlight is a collaboration between CAP and the City of Avondale

Crystal Garden Wetlands is a surface water treatment plant for the city of Avondale that is comprised of 21 lakes spanning 72 acres. It’s a uniquely constructed ecosystem that provides a critical service — contaminant removal. 

The City of Avondale uses the lake system to accomplish water treatment without having to build a physical water treatment plant, providing a unique green space and habitat in the process.

“This shows the ingenuity and the forward thinking of our management to allow us to build an aquaculture facility here, which is very unique for a city to do,” said Reid Birrell, Avondale’s Aquaculture and Wetlands Coordinator. 

CAP water is an important part of Avondale’s water portfolio that helps the city with aquifer recharge. Although Crystal Gardens treats surface water, and not the Colorado River water CAP delivers, it is another example of the City’s aquifer recharge efforts.

Crystal Gardens is home to numerous fish, wildlife, and aquatic plants that work together in a symbiotic relationship to remove nitrates from the lake system and produce clean water that is then recharged into the aquifers. 

Nitrates are harmful to humans, and at high concentrations can be especially unsafe for young children. Therefore, it’s imperative for the City of Avondale to remove those contaminants. The Crystal Gardens Wetlands has been highly effective at treating the water. Final nitrates levels have been extremely low when comparing the water coming into the system to the treated water coming out of the lakes. 

The lakes harbor many species of fish, including carp, koi and tilapia, which the city grows in an aquarium, saving money and time compared to buying the fish elsewhere. The tilapia perform much of the surface algae control for Crystal Gardens. By eating the algae, the fish perform a critical service to the lakes and allow the city to avoid using chemical treatment. Since Avondale started the program, it has not had to use any kind of fungicide in the lake system.

“I think the city of Avondale is always striving to do better at everything we can do in sustainability and to lower our carbon footprint in general,” Birrell said. “This just happened to be a very good idea and we were able to utilize the lake system to accomplish that without having to build an actual water treatment plant itself.”

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