By Jeff Quackenbush, North Bay Business Journal, 5/16/14
NAPA — While many of the aquifers in Napa Valley have been found to be adequately supplied with moisture, a region east of Napa found known to be groundwater-poor may be closer to getting a 325 million-gallon-a-year lifeline with $1.5 million in new federal funds announced Friday toward the planned Milliken-Sarco-Tulocay recycled-water pipeline.
The North Bay Water Reuse Program received the funds to expand Napa Sanitation District’s treatment of wastewater and build a larger pipeline that can carry 1,000 acre-feet of highly treated water annually to grapegrowers and large-scale landscaping in the area. An acre-foot is 325,851 gallons, or enough for the annual water use of up to four residents.
“This is another critical step in helping us deliver much-needed water for vineyard and landscape irrigation in the Coombsville/MST area,” said Napa Mayor Jill Techel in a statement.
The money comes in a grant from the U.S. Department of Interior’s Bureau of Reclamatioin WaterSMART program, which funded nine California water-reuse projects with $20 million this year. The North Bay project has received funds from that program for the past four years.
The 25 percent federal cost share has provided the incentive for many property owners to participate, according to Napa County Supervisor Keith Caldwell, a past chairman and member of the North Bay Water Reuse Authority (707-235-8965, nbwra.org), a 10-utility agency that oversees the program.
“It is the 25 percent federal share that made this project attractive to the landowners so that they were willing to put up the additional 75 percent,” he said in a statement. “That has been key in making this project work.”
Groundwater in the Milliken-Sarco-Tulocay, or MST, area, which includes the relatively new winegrowing region of Coombsville, was deemed have been severely overdrawn in a 1999 county study. Development in the area was curtailed by county ordinance in 2004.
It “suffers from severe overdraft, and we have no idea what this drought is going to do to that,” Supervisor Caldwell said. “But everyone would agree that it can’t be good. It’s not going to help it recover.”
The expanded MST pipeline, filters and pump stations are expected to be ready to deliver the water next irrigation season, according to Tim Healy, general manager of Napa Sanitation District.
“Making recycled water available in MST won’t stop the overdraft, but it will slow it down,” he said. “The funding also allows the district to expand its treatment and delivery of recycled water to more customers.”
A 1,000-acre-foot-a-year pipeline is estimated to cost at least $14 million. A 2,000 acre-foot pipeline option was estimated to cost $17 million. Initial construction bids were circulated late last year.
A funding district for the pipeline was created in December 2012. Residential properties with less than an acre of vines could join the district and be assessed less than $2,000 an acre a year.
Purchasing reclaimed water from Napa Sanitation District currently costs 96 cents per 1,000 gallons but is expected to jump to $1.57 in January 2016, though contract deals for purchases of more than 150 acre-feet are available.
Phase 1 of the North Bay recycled water program currently has six water-distribution projects under construction, according to the reuse authority. When complete, they are designed to provide 3,757 acre-feet annually for irrigation in the north San Pablo Bay region, including the groundwater-challenged Los Carneros winegrowing region between southern Napa and Sonoma counties.
In addition to irrigation, the Napa-Sonoma Salt Marsh project is set to receive up to 1,700 acre-feet a year for habitat restoration.