What is a feasibility study?
A feasibility study is an analysis of a proposed project to consider whether it is viable and practical, and if it will be effective. Such an analysis evaluates numerous criteria which are used to determine if the project can be successfully implemented. Criteria include engineering, hydrogeology, water quality, and cost-benefit assessments. And, in this case, the feasibility study will be accompanied by community outreach and educational activities, to promote public awareness and understanding of the project.
What is the project being evaluated?
The Palomino Farms Sustainable Water Resource Feasibility Study will explore the coordinated use of surface water, groundwater, and recycled water to enhance the community’s water resources. Currently, groundwater pumped from the Palomino Valley aquifer is used to irrigate farmland. The proposed project would bring recycled water to the area for use in farmland irrigation, to significantly reduce reliance on groundwater.
As an additional part of the project, potable water would be brought in through a separate pipeline and then pumped underground to replenish the Palomino Valley aquifer in the winter when water is more plentiful. The potable water imported to the area would be strictly for groundwater basin replenishment – not to connect domestic wells or otherwise be used as a municipal water source.
Both of these enhancements would improve local groundwater levels, and help preserve farmland and open space, which would assist in maintaining the rural lifestyle and character of the area.
Why is this project being evaluated, and what are its benefits?
The groundwater basin in the Palomino Valley area has historically been over-used, with water levels dropping over 100 feet in some areas over the past 50 years, threatening its long-term viability. Using imported recycled water for agricultural irrigation would reduce pumping from the groundwater basin, allowing the aquifer to “rest.”
There are naturally-occurring water quality issues with the groundwater, such as arsenic and fluoride. Replenishing the groundwater basin with potable water will help restore higher water levels and could improve overall water quality. The aquifer has the potential to store large quantities of water when it is plentiful, some of which could be withdrawn in the future during dry or high-demand periods. All of our water resources are and would continue to be carefully managed in a manner that promotes long-term sustainability
Who benefits from this project?
We all do. Palomino Valley will remain an agricultural area preserving a rural lifestyle. Domestic well owners could benefit from improved groundwater levels, groundwater quality may be improved, and recycled water will be used beneficially. Water resources will be brought into balance and sustainably managed, thereby improving the overall regional water supply, both in the near future and in the long-term.
What is recycled water and is it safe?
Recycled water is highly treated wastewater that has been cleaned, filtered, and disinfected to remove impurities, and has been safely used for farmland irrigation for over 50 years in the United States. Its use is quite common throughout the country, on play fields for children, golf courses, landscape irrigation, industrial cooling towers, and various other uses in addition to farmland irrigation. Best management practices are used to apply appropriate amounts of water based on the type of soil and the crop being irrigated.
Where else is recycled water used to irrigate farmland?
There are numerous places around the country where recycled water is used for farmland irrigation. Recycled water is used in Washington, Texas, Arizona, Florida, and many other states for irrigating a variety of edible food crops, as well as silage and alfalfa. One of the most well-known is Monterey County, California where over 12,000 acres of edible crops such as strawberries, blueberries, lettuce, and artichokes are irrigated with recycled water. This area is known as the salad bowl of the nation for its production of many, high-quality food crops. In northern California, recycled water is used to irrigate a variety of grapes in vineyards of some of the nation’s top wineries.
Who is involved and how will the study be paid for?
The Feasibility Study will be funded by Truckee Meadows Water Authority (TMWA) in collaboration with Reno, Sparks, and Washoe County. This combined group, working together under the umbrella OneWater Nevada initiative, intends to perform all work required to complete the Feasibility Study pursuant to an Interlocal Agreement outlining each group’s respective obligations and responsibilities regarding the Study. There will also be involvement from the University of Nevada, Reno to research and evaluate some aspects of the use of recycled water as proposed in the Feasibility Study.
How can I stay informed about the study and future project?
Fill out this online form to receive email updates about the status of the Feasibility Study and any future related activities. The TMWA Board will be considering approval of the Feasibility Study at their May 20, 2021 meeting. You can see their agenda and staff report here.