Neighbors United wants Manteca to stop wasting water by releasing treated wastewater into the San Joaquin River.
Instead the community activist group based in rural South Manteca wants the city to add an additional treatment step to the municipal plant so that the water can be sold to area farmers to grow food crops.
Neighbors United President Elect Kerry Harris asked the Manteca City Council Tuesday to consider accessing a government loan fund for drought-related projects that carries 1 percent interest rate to finance the additional treatment and pipeline needs to deliver water to farmers.
At design build-out the plant would treat 20,000 acre feet of water a year or enough to supply 36 inches of annual irrigation water to cover 6,500 acres of farmland. The South San Joaquin Irrigation District is limiting farmers to 36 inches per acre this year.
The plant currently has a treatment level good enough to use recycled wastewater on crops such as corn and alfalfa that are used to feed cattle. Recycled wastewater has been used in such a manner for more than 20 years on city land at the treatment plant that is leased to a farmer.
Modesto is pursing such a use for its treated wastewater. The buyer will be the Del Puerto Water District near Patterson. The $100 million project includes a 15-mile PVC pipeline to deliver the water from the treatment plant to the water district.
The district has agreed to pay $200 per acre foot for the water and will ultimately take about 30,000 acre feet of treated wastewater a year to generate $6 million for the city to pay off the loan and use for other wastewater plant operations.
Water sales — when they can be made — are fetching much higher amounts today. Last year to save his almond orchard, a Westside farmer paid $1,450 per acre foot of water. Los Angeles’ Metropolitan Water District currently is scrambling to find additional water to meet urban needs by encouraging rice growers in the Sacramento Valley to fallow land and sell water to them at $400 per acre foot.
The Monterrey Regional Wastewater Treatment Facility has taken a different tact by using gaseous chlorine to allow direct application of treated wastewater to crops such as artichokes, strawberries, and lettuce.
The city of Healdsburg uses membrane bioreactor technology to sell their treated wastewater to grape growers.