Benefits of Agricultural Reuse
Agriculture accounts for a significant portion of our nation’s water consumption. The benefits of using recycled water to meet this critical demand include:
Water recycling provides a reliable supply of freshwater that does not depend on environmental factors or conservation.
Agricultural reuse creates a local water supply to offset the use of imported water in areas that depend on water transported from other regions.
Agricultural reuse saves water resources for environmental benefits such as aquatic habitat, reduces pollution to sensitive water bodies, and reduces energy use associated with pumping water long distances.
High Water Quality
State and federal regulations establish stringent standards for recycled water quality that protect public health.
Examples of Water Reuse for Agriculture
Agricultural water reuse has a long history as a multi-benefit solution to address water supply challenges, water quality issues, environmental stresses, and food security risks. Here are a few examples:
Hydroponic Greenhouse | John Day, Oregon
The City of John Day replaced its aging wastewater treatment plant with a facility that uses hydroponic technology for beneficial reuse. The design includes a purple-pipe extension to a city-owned greenhouse where vegetables are grown in nutrient-fortified recycled water instead of in soil. The city hosts a weekly farmers market to sell the produce to the general public and generate revenue for its operations. The production goals include over 4,000 pounds of fresh produce monthly, remediating a rural food desert and jump starting a recovering economy.
Water Conserv II | Orange County, Florida
For over 30 years, a coalition that includes the City of Orlando, Orange County, and the region’s agricultural community have worked cooperatively to irrigate up to 2,737 acres of citrus annually with recycled water. Water Conserv II is the largest water reuse project of its kind, combining agricultural irrigation with aquifer recharge. Initially developed to eliminate wastewater discharges to surface waters, the program now provides a dependable long-term source of water for citrus growers and accelerates recharge of the Floridan aquifer.
Alfalfa and Poplar | Hayden, Idaho
The Hayden Area Regional Sewer Board treats about 1.2 million gallons of wastewater each day, recycling as much as 100% of it to irrigate alfalfa and poplar trees on city-owned farmland. Although water is abundant in the region, the City of Hayden began implementing agricultural reuse to avoid releasing treated wastewater into sensitive waterways. The program keeps nitrogen out of the Spokane River and away from groundwater, while producing beneficial crops.
Regional Water Recycling | Monterey, California
Increased agricultural production in northern Monterey County, a region known as the “salad bowl of the nation,” led to significant water quality challenges as seawater intruded into over-pumped groundwater aquifers. In 1998, the Castroville Seawater Intrusion Project began supplying recycled water to area growers to supplement the water supply and decrease groundwater pumping. Today, recycled water is used to irrigate more than 12,000 acres of conventional and organic food crops. The local utility, Monterey One Water, treats and recycles wastewater, stormwater, food industry processing water, and impaired surface waters.
Piccadilly Farm | Kent County, Maryland
After years of inconsistent crop yields due to periodic drought, Piccadilly Farm partnered with the Kent County Department of Water and Wastewater to develop a public-private partnership that now provides recycled water to irrigate 75 acres of corn and soybean crops. Membrane filtration and ultraviolet light are used to transform effluent from the Worton-Butlertown Wastewater Treatment Plant into reliable, cost-effective and highly regulated water, dramatically increasing crop yields.
Agricultural Reuse Stories
- CoCo San Sustainable Farms Showcases Ag Reuse and Community Giving (Martinez, CA)
- Is farming with reclaimed water the solution to a drier future? In California, several farms are demonstrating the benefits of growing food with post-treatment water supplies (Salon)
- Castroville Seawater Intrusion Project (Monterey, California)
- Harvest Water: Recycled Water for Crop Irrigation, Groundwater Restoration, Habitat Protection, and Regional Sustainability (Sacramento, California)
- Local Agriculture is Critical to Eastern Municipal Water District’s Nationally Recognized Recycled Water Program (Perris, California)
- California Farm Water Success Stories (Pacific Institute)
Fresno Recycled Water
Tapped Out: The EGAP Story
Sustainable Water Reuse in Agriculture
Regulations and Resources
- Letter to Department of Drinking Water on Agricultural Reuse Engineering Reports – November 4, 2021
- California Title 22 Recycled Water Uses in Agriculture – Fit for Purpose
- California Recycled Water Milestones in Agriculture
Agricultural Reuse Research
- Using Disinfected Tertiary Recycled Water for Non-Dairy Livestock Watering: A Human and Animal Health Evaluation for the State of California (2018, NWRI/California Water Board)
- Reports in Support of Tulare Irrigation district and City of Visalia Proposed Water Supplies Project (2017, California Water Institute)
- Agricultural Use of Recycled Water: Impediments and Incentives (2016, Water Research Foundation)
- Groundwater Replenishment with Recycled Water on Agricultural Lands in California (2016, Water Research Foundation)
- Reclaimed Water Use for Edible Crop Production in Florida (2015, University of Florida)
- Reclaimed Water as an Alternative Water Source for Crop Irrigation (2010, HortScience)
- Monterey Wastewater Reclamation Study (1987, Monterey One Water)