Barry Eberling/Napa Valley Register, 12/29/15
Napa Sanitation District has new, multi-million dollar plans to slake the county’s growing thirst for recycled water.
The district has almost completed $20 million in projects to double its recycled water output. It’s also working on a $14 million Milliken-Sarco-Tulocay pipeline and a $20 million Carneros line to deliver this increased output to more rural homes and vineyards.
Once all of this is done, the district each year will be turning out 3,600 acre feet of recycled water good enough to irrigate vineyards, landscaping, parks and golf courses, though not to drink. An acre-foot is enough water to cover one acre a foot deep.
As an encore, the district will try to increase this amount to 4,500 acre feet over the coming decade. A $33.2 million package of proposed projects to help meet that goal should soon be under the microscope of an environmental impact report.
“There’s more demand for recycled water in Napa than we can provide,” district Chief Financial Officer Jeff Tucker said.
Napa Sanitation District cleans up sewage from the city of Napa at its plant along the Napa River near the county airport. This world of cement towers and massive ponds can be seen by Highway 29 drivers who glance to the south when atop the Butler Bridge.
Some of the 10,000 acre feet of wastewater handled by the plant annually is treated to a standard that allows it to be poured into the Napa River. Some is treated to a still-higher standard to create recycled water for irrigation.
One key to increasing the amount of recycled water available is increasing storage. The district needs to be able to store water during the winter months for use during the summer months when irrigation demand is high.
Another key is adding more pipes to take recycled water from the treatment plant to targeted locations.
The district Board of Directors recently approved studying the $33.2 million recycled water-expanding package. It proposes to increase filter and storage capacity at the wastewater treatment plant, build a 600-acre-foot storage pond in Jameson Canyon and further extend the Milliken-Sarco-Tulocay pipeline.
Napa Sanitation District has turned to the North Bay Water Reuse Authority to help make its recycling goals a reality. This is a group of 10 water and sanitation agencies in Napa, Sonoma and Marin counties.
The North Bay Water Reuse Authority will do an environmental impact report for $80 million worth of proposed recycled water projects in its three-county region. It has access to $20 million in federal money to help pay for a portion of the projects.
The authority agreed in December to include the $33.2 million package of proposed Napa Sanitation District projects in the environmental impact report. A draft report could be finished in about a year and a half.
Building some of the proposed projects could involve raising recycled water rates. For example, building the $17.3 million Jameson Canyon storage pond could add 36 cents to the rate of $1.57 per thousand gallons, a district report said. Even then, half of the cost would have to come from grants and other sources.
An extended Milliken-Sarco-Tulocay line could be built for $10.8 million with no rate increase, but the project would hinge on finding enough new rural customers willing to pay an annual assessment.
Gov. Jerry Brown wants to explore taking recycled water use in California beyond irrigation. In October 2013, he signed a law requiring the Department of Public Health and Water Resources Control Board to by September 2016 develop standards for turning wastewater into drinking water.
“California needs more high quality water, and recycling is the key to getting there,” Brown wrote to the state Senate.
The Metropolitan Water District is looking at turning wastewater into drinking water for the Los Angeles area. San Diego, which saw a 1990s effort scuttled amid “toilet-to-tap” and “yuck” factor protests, has a new initiative underway called Pure Water San Diego. Orange County uses recycled water to recharge its aquifers.
In water-challenged California, creating a drinking water supply independent of snowfall or reservoirs amounts to modern-day alchemy.
The Napa Sanitation District isn’t ready to up its treatment processes still further and create recycled drinking water. Tucker noted the state is still working on potable recycled water criteria.
In addition, Napa Sanitation District still has that thirst for recycled irrigation water to slake.