Sacramento’s South County Ag Program using recycled water moves forward

A joint venture (JV) of Brown and Caldwell and Carollo Engineers has been selected by the Sacramento Regional County Sanitation District (Regional San) to provide capital program management services for the $375 million South Sacramento County Agriculture & Habitat Lands Recycled Water (South County Ag) Program.

The South County Ag Program was established to meet Regional San’s long-term goal of increasing its use of recycled water by using highly treated tertiary effluent as irrigation water in lieu of groundwater — representing a strong commitment to environmental stewardship. The Program represents one of the largest agricultural reuse projects in the United States, providing up to 50,000 acre-feet per year of Title 22 tertiary-treated recycled water to irrigate up to 16,000 acres of permanent agriculture and habitat conservation lands near the Cosumnes River and Stone Lakes Wildlife Refuge in Sacramento County.

The recycled water — pure enough for unrestricted agricultural and municipal landscape uses — will be conveyed from Regional San’s Sacramento Regional Wastewater Treatment Plant (SRWTP) to agricultural lands in southern Sacramento County via new transmission and delivery pipeline infrastructure. Concurrently, major upgrades at the SRWTP are underway via the EchoWater Project which will increase the production capacity of tertiary treated wastewater at the SRWTP from 3 million gallons per day (mgd) to 217 mgd; of this amount up to 114 mgd will be available for recycled water use.

Groundwater in the southern portion of Sacramento County is in a state of overdraft. The Program will reduce the need to pump groundwater for agricultural use in that area and result in the recovery of groundwater levels (in-lieu recharge). Using recycled water will enhance and expand riparian habitats and wetlands by elevating groundwater levels, while also improving in-stream flows in the lower Cosumnes River. Additionally, the Program proposes to implement wintertime application of recycled water to help improve roosting and foraging habitat for Sandhill cranes and other wildlife.

“In 2007, Regional San identified the South County Ag Program as an opportunity to significantly increase and expand the use of recycled water in the Sacramento region. We have been involved in the planning and permitting efforts ever since. We’ve cleared a number of significant hurdles to get to this point of actually being able to make it a reality,” said Regional San Program Manager Mike Crooks. “Restoring groundwater levels while ensuring the long-term sustainability of regional agriculture and providing ecological benefits is important to the entire community, and the use of recycled water produced by Regional San is a reliable, safe, and efficient means of accomplishing these goals.”

Proper management of water deliveries will involve extensive monitoring of environmental conditions – climate, soil moisture, and metering of on-farm deliveries, coupled with advanced delivery scheduling and predictive modeling – to maximize the benefit of the recycled water resource.

As a member of the capital program team, the Brown and Caldwell/Carollo JV will provide technical, financial, and project management oversight to help Regional San achieve its recycled water delivery goals by 2023. The team will advance planning efforts and deliver a basis of design that lays the foundation for cost and schedule-efficient design and construction of the new recycled water delivery system, consisting of a 95-mgd pump station and 65 miles of transmission and distribution pipelines. Additionally, the JV will support a public communications and outreach program to engage and involve community stakeholders throughout construction.

“The JV is honored to assist Regional San with this important program that will contribute to a sustainable environment for future generations,” said Carollo Engineers’ Project Manager Scott Parker. “Having worked side-by-side on the EchoWater Project for many years, coupled with our team’s experience in delivering highly technical water recycling projects throughout California, puts us in an excellent position to assist Regional San in making the Program a success.”

The Program’s next steps include continuing planning efforts with local farmers and beginning the preliminary design of the new recycled water pump station, transmission main, and distribution system pipelines. The first phase of the recycled water delivery system is expected to be operational by late 2023.

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