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Novack: Recycled water pumps to ag users

Shawn Novack

The water district, in collaboration with the City of Hollister, has developed a recycled water program. The program is designed to shift part of our future water supplies to more locally-controlled and reliable sources of water. Nothing is more reliable and sustainable for the planet than recycled water.
The city’s produces recycled water by using wastewater that has been filtered and disinfected for irrigation use.
We hear a lot about the importance of recycling to preserve the environment. For years, we have been recycling cans, plastic, glass and just about everything else. After all, it’s the right thing to do. But for some reason, people have a hard time accepting the concept of recycling water. Which is odd, because the truth of the matter is, we have been drinking recycled water, and only recycled water, since the dawn of time. We just let nature do all the recycling. Now, we have learned how to do it ourselves–and do it faster.
“All the water that is on Earth today is the same amount which was there yesterday and the same amount which will be there in the future.”
The hydrologic cycle, or “the water cycle” as it is more commonly known, is very efficient at purifying water. It just takes time. Rain falls (precipitation) to the earth where the water vaporizes and rises into the sky (evaporation) to form clouds (condensation). When the clouds become heavy with moisture, it rains again, and the cycle repeats itself. Even rainwater, though, has never been absolutely pure. When it fell, it brought with it everything else that was in the sky: smoke, dust, bacteria, acid, etc. Most of the water consumed by animals and humans had been filtered first in streams and rivers by sedimentary action, solids settling out as water flowed downstream.
When that water was not sufficient, we sunk wells to acquire water from under the ground. This water has been absorbed into the ground. It had percolated through the layers of soil and sand to natural underground pockets called aquifers. Over years, water passed through these various layers, was filtered naturally and became clean enough for us to drink. All well water is the result of this process.
Why Recycled Water?
Although 75% of Earth is covered by water, only 1% of that is freshwater available for serving the water needs of more than 6.6 billion people in the world today. Because of drought and pollution, that 1% is dwindling. To make matters worse, the world population continues to grow, further increasing the demand for water. Now, to bring it closer to home … more than 30% of our water supply is imported from outside the region.
During the next 15 years, California must reduce its imported water supply by nearly one million acre-feet (one acre-foot equals 326,000 gallons), but our population continues to rise. As the available water supply is decreasing, the demand for water is increasing. To ensure that we have enough water to meet our present and future needs, we need to conserve water and expand the use of recycled water.
In essence, by expanding the use of recycled water, we are actually helping to conserve our drinking water supplies. Better quality drinking water delivered to Hollister Urban Area homes will create a better quality wastewater leaving these homes. This water will be treated and used again for agricultural accounts. Using water more than once is an efficient use of water!
There are many examples of communities that have safely used recycled water for many years. Los Angeles County’s sanitation districts have provided treated wastewater for landscape irrigation in parks and golf courses since 1929. The first reclaimed water facility in California was built at San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park in 1932. The Irvine Ranch Water District (IRWD) was the first water district in California to receive an unrestricted use permit from the state for its recycled water; such a permit means that water can be used for any purpose except drinking. IRWD maintains one of the largest recycled water systems in the nation with more than 400 miles serving more than 4,500 metered connections.
Our local recycled water project will produce approximately 1,100 acre-feet of water in the next year increasing to about 1,400 acre-feet in subsequent years (1 acre-foot= 352,851 gallons). This amount of water equates to about 10% of the average amount of agricultural water delivered by the Bureau through the San Felipe Project. The recycled water line or “purple pipe” will run along Wright Road towards the airport.
Shawn Novack is water conservation program manager for the Water Resources Association of San Benito County.