With normal federal reservoir supply cutoff to much of the Central Valley, farmers in the water-starved Del Puerto Water District are being forced to find new water supply sources. As a result, the district is turning to reclaimed wastewater produced by neighboring towns to fuel the local agricultural economy. In a new project dubbed the North Valley Recycled Water Program (NVRWP), farmers may have access to a new source of water, but the cost will have a huge impact on the local economy.
According to an interview between NPR.org and Anthea Hansen, assistant manager at Del Puerto Water District, the area has been in “survival and crisis mode” for nearly two years – grasping onto any source of water the area can find. Anticipated to begin construction in 2016, the NVRWP is a six-mile pipeline project that will carry reclaimed water from the City of Modesto to the Central Valley. The program is expected to meet nearly one-third of the minimum water demand in the Del Puerto Water District.
Between upgrades to the Modesto Wastewater Treatment plant and construction of the pipeline, the total project cost is estimated at $250 million. The extensive cost is expected to produce reclaimed water rates that are nearly five times the cost of the potable water rates. With no other option, farmers will either pay elevated rates or potentially go belly-up.
It would be understated to say that the high cost of water is causing concern amongst local farmers. During an interview with NPR.org, Jim Jasper, a local farmer, said “I like to be optimistic, but without something like this, the future for my son and grandson and family – we’re into this third generation – I don’t know if we can keep our business going.”
Despite the high cost associated with the project, many advocates like Heather Cooley, co-director of the Pacific Institute’s Water Program, are promoting more extensive use of reclaimed water in agricultural production. “There’s absolutely more potential for recycled water use in California,” states Cooley as she mentioned California’s potential to use up to three times more recycled water.
- Drought-Stricken California Farmers Look To Tap Urban Wastewater
- North Valley Regional Recycled Water Program
 Sommer, Lauren. NPR.org. “Drought-Stricken California Farmers Look To Tap Urban Wastewater.”