BARRY EBERLING, Napa Valley Register, April 17, 2015
CARNEROS — Amid drought, Carneros farmers are anticipating the addition of a new irrigation water source that will be virtually drought-proof.
The Los Carneros Water District and Napa Sanitation District held a groundbreaking ceremony on Thursday for a $20 million recycled water line project. By next year, recycled water will travel in a 9-mile pipeline through this south county grape-growing region.
“This is going to be a new concept for me,” said Jim Lincoln, vineyard manager for Beckstoffer Vineyards. “I’ve never had an absolutely reliable water source.”
Steve Moore of the state Water Resources Control Board said he’s asked what the state is doing to deal with the four-year drought. As he attended the groundbreaking on a hill at Acacia Vineyard overlooking a distant San Pablo Bay, he had an answer.
“We’re doing things like this,” he said.
The water will have its origins in the city of Napa, traveling through the sewer system to the Napa Sanitation District plant south of Highway 29 and the Butler Bridge. After the city’s sewage is cleaned up, the resulting highly treated water can be used for irrigation, but not for drinking.
A decade ago, Napa Sanitation District had trouble getting rid of recycled water. Now, its recycled water is in great demand.
The district is building a pipeline to bring irrigation water to the rural Coombsville area east of the city of Napa. When that project and the Carneros project are finished, the district will have increased its recycled pipe network from 11 miles to 25 miles and doubled its recycled water sales, officials said.
“We’re holistic in Napa County,” said Napa Mayor Jill Techel, who is chairwoman of the Napa Sanitation District Board of Directors. “We don’t say, ‘This water comes from the city of Napa, let’s use it in the city of Napa.’”
Rather, the sanitation district also uses its recycled water to help out in rural farm areas.
The Carneros recycled water project is a long time coming. John Stewart of the Los Carneros Water District said the idea dates to the late 1970s, when the area had cow pastures and orchards instead of vineyards.
“It’s taken a couple of generations to get this thing together,” he said.
More than 100 Los Carneros properties will pay an assessment to help cover the pipeline costs. The figure of $150 per acre per year was mentioned at the groundbreaking ceremony, but Stewart said the precise cost is being settled. District officials talked last summer about a $200-per-acre annual bill.
Grants are helping to lessen the amount that must be borrowed for the project. For example, the project received a $1 million federal grant last summer and $2 million state grant earlier this year.
Lincoln said that the 125 acres of Beckstoffer vineyards in the Carneros area use water from small reservoirs. Every winter, he has to worry about whether the reservoirs will fill. They did this winter.
Having a reliable water source from the recycled water pipeline will translate to a reliable grape supply for vintners and stability for vineyard workers, Lincoln said.
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