Can Wastewater Save California’s Parched Farmland?
According to California’s Department of Water Resources, the state may face a fourth year of serious drought in 2010.
Below average precipitation and runoff began in the fall of 2006, and while snowpack, and reservoir storage help officials control and distribute the current water supply, a severe lack of funding has left some skeptical of California’s ability to respond to impending water shortages.
Although three years of drought have led to below average reservoir levels and had harsh consequences for more than 25 million Californians and the farms that produce half the nation’s fruits and vegetables, a new saltwater conversion technology may hold the answer for the state’s parched farmland.
Westlands Water District and Ag-Water New Sky, LLC, (AGNS) announced last week that they will develop an integrated drainage water treatment facility in California’s Central Valley. The $3.2 million project will design and build a demonstration water treatment facility that converts high salinity wastewater into fresh water for irrigation and financially valuable CO2-negative products derived from the waste salts.
The District serves approximately 600 family-owned farms that average 900 acres in size, delivering water through the Central Valley Project and a network of 1,034 miles of underground pipe.
When fully deployed, the plant will desalinate approximately 240,000 gallons of drainage water per day and convert approximately five tons of waste brine salts into carbon-neutral and carbon-negative chemicals such as acid, caustic soda and solid carbonates like limestone and soda ash. The project will also capture approximately 2.8 tons of CO2 daily, according to a press release.
Although this is one of the world’s first large-scale desalination projects, its not the only U.S. attempt to process a necessary resource in a way that also produces a valuable by-product.
In Hopewell, Va., algae is being used to clean nitrogen from wastewater in the town instead of conventionally engineered solutions, while also producing bio fuel and green coal residue. Likewise the U.S. Navy is investigating a method for transforming ocean water into jet fuel as a way to maintain U.S. military superiority even in the face of dwindling global oil supplies.
Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons - Rodney Burton