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City Plans to Sell Wastewater for Irrigation

A plan by the city of Modesto, California to sell its purified wastewater for farm irrigation has cleared several hurdles and is awaiting federal approval, according to local media reports

The federal Bureau of Reclamation will review the plan drawn up by the Del Puerto Water District, before the district board takes a final vote on the project as early as this spring, the Patterson Irrigator reported.

The project, called the North Valley Recycled Water Project, would see the district treating effluent produced at Modesto’s Jennings Road sewer plant and then sell it to irrigate thousands of acres of parched farmland on the west side of the county. The city of Modesto has been discharging millions of gallons of treated water from its secondary sewage treatment facility into the San Joaquin River, and onto ranch land it owns.

Bill Harrison, the general manager of the water district, said the plant will use a process called tertiary treatment. This will remove toxins such as ammonia, and make the water safe for all purposes except drinking, he said.

“Essentially, what we’re trying to do through this plan is address a water shortage, or rather a lack of reliability,” he said. “Up until now, we’ve been very dependent on the (Sacramento-San Joaquin) Delta for meeting our demand.

“While it’s hard to imagine this water would be as cheap as that supply, the reliability to make more advantageous business decisions in, say, planning for planting season ahead of time may outweigh the additional costs for some.”

The project could produce 25,000 acre-feet of water by 2015 and an additional 33,000 acre-feet by 2025. An acre-foot of water is about the amount that the average suburban household uses in a year.

A feasibility study for the project was completed last month, but costs are yet to be determined, the Irrigator said.

Water deliveries in the district have been limited on some occasions to as little as ten percent of farmers’ normal water allotments, because of a lack of rain and snow.

Picture credit: MovieBrats Filmproduktion

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