By this time next year, Waconia is likely to be using stormwater instead of drinking water to sprinkle its major complex of softball and baseball fields.

The city recently learned it will receive a $400,000 grant from the Metropolitan Council for the innovative water reuse project, the first of its kind in Carver County.

The regional planning agency also awarded a $350,000 grant to the Vermillion River Watershed Joint Powers Organization to address local flooding and surface water runoff problems at the Minnesota Zoo in Apple Valley.

The grants are part of the Met Council's initiative to find solutions to reduce stormwater runoff and improve surface water quality throughout the metro area.

"Both of these projects have great potential for success, and we hope will encourage other communities to try similar approaches and build on the experience of these projects," said Judy Sventek, manager of water resources assessment at the Met Council.

In Waconia, the grant will cover slightly less than half the cost of a project to capture untreated stormwater and reuse it to irrigate the nine ball fields within Brook Peterson Community Park. The county will contribute $50,000, while the rest will be paid by the city, which is overseeing work on the project.

The project will allow water to be drawn from two local ponds and conveyed to an existing irrigation system to service 252 acres, including the more than 80 acres of ball fields. Reusing the stormwater will save about 22,000 gallons of potable water per day during the summer.

The project not only will conserve drinking water that would otherwise be used on the fields, but will create a local stormwater reuse utility network that will allow neighboring private landowners to tap into the reuse system.

Work on the project is expected to begin this fall and be completed by next summer in coordination with improvements along Hwy. 5 through Waconia, said Craig Eldred, the city's public services director.

Eldred said the city will see if it can replicate similar stormwater reuse projects elsewhere in Waconia.

At the zoo, one project being considered would collect water from the roof of the Tropical Building to water plant exhibits inside the building while reducing stormwater flowing to a pond near the building.

As in Waconia, a key element of the zoo project will be its public visibility in a high-traffic area, serving the Met Council's goal of improving public education on stormwater issues.