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


Fiona T.
Past Member 6 years ago

There must be ways to do

Robin T.
R T7 years ago

It is essential that we start recycling water and this would be a great way.

This does not reduce the need for us to develop more efficient and economical ways to use water. eg. We have modified our cisterns to allow us to control the amount of water used to flush. You have to hold the handle down as long as is needed to do the job. It switches off as soon as you release the handle. All taps and showers have been fitted with water saving devices. Result, big savings.

Make a difference, plant a tree.

Jewels S.
Jewels S8 years ago

I think caution is needed. As a California resident I am not sure drought is the real reason for our water shortage. Mis management is another part of the equation. Also, whether this is safe is a valid question. Jumping into this idea without the proper research is not a good idea. Independent research not by those that are going to benefit from this process financially.

Steven Gregory Davis

Thanks Beth, this is GRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRREAT news...AND about time...they ought to do the same for Nevada, especially LOST VEGAS!!

Steven Gregory Davis

I fail to understand the poll question...Why should the water recycling plan not be safe??...Furthermore, I was amazed that not even 60% of those taking the poll answered with a resounding YEAH!!!

Quanta Kiran
Quanta Kiran8 years ago

this is very interesting. if we made do by recycling our wastes, we'll stop destroying our planet!

murray m.
Past Member 8 years ago

Many people have thankfully commented in regards to conserving versus taking from elsewhere. Taking water from the oceans will have a drastic long term effect on the climate of the earth. Where are Al Gore types on this? What about conserving, using old and new technology to reduce, reuse and recycle. Waste water is a good place to start, not fresh ocean water.
One cannot rob the earth to pay for wealth. One cannot rob Peter to pay Paul for very long. The simple things, like vegan diets, sparing use of precious water, keeping a positive attitude towards a simpler, more conscious lifestyle, caring for one self so one can care for others, moving away from having babies for selfish reasons, adopting foster children, voting for independents, giving up special interest support on highly controversial issues, and moving one self towards a plan and goal for daily living the will be sustainable for the earth and all of its living inhabitants.
Each individual must take the responsibility for this, no one can do it for you. And, yes, even one person makes a difference over time, with commitment.
The California attitude of take, take, take is doomed to failure for everyone on this planet earth. It can observed that even their elected officials in Congress are robbing, taking, and, above all leading in the blatant deceit of the American people.
Every individual has the ability to change for the betterment of the earth, not change leading to power, for wealt

Julie G.
Julie G8 years ago

Thank you for the information. I too am uncertain if this is good for farm land, but hope that it proves to be a partial solution to the drought. I'd like to see fewer lawns in CA and more sensible planting. People move to a desert state & want it to look like a water state.

Linda Little
Linda Little8 years ago

Unfortunately, if I remember rightly, desalination does not rid water of all salts and therefore is not a viable long-term alternative to fresh water. Indeed, I believe I am right in saying it could have a detrimental long term effect on fertility. However, I would be pleased to hear that I am, in fact, wrong on this point, as certainly something must be done.

Pauline C.
Pauline C8 years ago

So California has a water shortage problem. I have been trying to research this issue of drought after visiting a website. After seeing local women walking to the only source of drinking water- a well full of murky water, I became concerned and interested in the plight of the impoverished in Africa. Seems ironic to me that's the case since Ethiopia is a coastal country. Hey, California is a coastal state. We tend to forget, those of us who live in places with abundant resources like water, that other parts of the country have severe needs.
I asked the question on Wikianswers and am still waiting a reply to my question:
Does tree planting help affect weather conditions and therefore affect rainfall?
I heard it somewhere, and I am trying to verify that information. I've been unsuccessful in finding information onthat particular and very specific issue so far.
I came across an article on the web. I forgot to bookmark it. I have not been able since to relocate it. It described what they are doing in China to help affect their weather conditions and therefore, rainfall.
It would be interesting to see what experiments are being conducting and are going to be conducted to generate favorable conditions for rainfall. I would like to see this problem of drought taken care of so people can access to safe drinking and safe farming water. Forget about recycling crap. Let that sit and rot for millions of years like the dinosaurs until it pays off lucratively l