Commentary on Water Issues from Families Protecting The Valley

Unintended Consequences

By Families Protecting The Valley

As Californians endured the drought, they did an excellent job conserving water—maybe too good.  As the article below from Families Protecting The Valley explains, all the low flow toilets, all the 1-minute showers meant less water pushing waste through the sewers.  All that “resulted in corroded wastewater pipes and damaged equipment, and left sewage stagnating and neighborhoods stinking. Less wastewater, and thus more concentrated waste, also means higher costs to treat the sewage and less recycled water for such things as irrigating parks, replenishing groundwater or discharging treated flows to rivers to keep them vibrant for fish and wildlife.”

So now some water agencies are pushing for more outdoor conservation efforts rather than indoor to keep the wastewater flowing.  Adam Link, director of operations with the California Association of Sanitation Agencies asks the key question:  “At what point are you causing more harm than the benefit you are getting from saving those drops of water?”

Another major point we would point out is with the reduced VOLUME of water flows, it has created higher concentrations of pollutants per each gallon of water that gets discharged into the Bay-Delta. With low flow toilets’ rates at 1/2 or lower previous volumes and appliances using less water, all the pollutants that impact fish and people are at double or more on a per-gallon basis getting dumped into the Bay-Delta. Some permit to dump 180 million gallons of sewage water into the Bay-Delta, but the pollutant concentration is double or more.  This makes the pollution from sewage plants going to the delta that much more troubling.

Remember, in 2010, water authorities determined the Sacramento Regional Wastewater Treatment Plant “was discharging too many pollutants into the Sacramento River, threatening public health and harming aquatic life in the Sacrament-San Joaquin Delta.”  The water board found that high volumes of ammonia in the water were disrupting the food chain and endangering fish such as salmon and Delta smelt. Single-celled organisms posed health risks to people who came in contact with the river water.

Wastewater authorities were given until 2021 to remove the ammonia, giardia, and cryptosporidium which endanger fish and humans.  In the meantime, the pollutants keep coming and the policy of cutting off water for farmers is still the favored solution.

This is why farmers are so frustrated.  They see the wastewater situation as the real threat to endangered fish, but water the bureaucrats sole solution to Delta health problems is withholding water from farmers.

More Information at Familiesprotectingthevalley.com

VIDEO: Other Stressors, Not Pumps, Leading to Delta Smelt Decline

VIDEO: Wasted Freshwater in Failed Attempt to Save Delta Smelt and Salmon

By Laurie Greene, Editor

Other Stressors, Not Pumps, Leading to Delta Smelt Decline,” a video produced by Western Growers, explains why the communities, business, and farmland in the Central Valley and southward still experience regulatory water cutbacks that are extreme in some cases, while 3 billion gallons of extra freshwater flow out to sea in the failing effort to save the Delta Smelt from extinction.Western Growers logo

The VIDEO addresses this loss of freshwater unused by California residents and businesses still suffering from both drought conditions and environmental water cutbacks and that could have gone into water storage.

Decline in California Fish Population and Delta Smelt, Salmon

Western Growers accuses government agencies in charge of managing California’s water of restricting the Delta pumps far beyond what is required by the law. “As a result,” the association said, “billions of gallons of El Niño water have been flushed out to sea. Shutting down the pumps has not helped the Delta smelt and salmon recover, and government regulators are ignoring other stressors such as predation, invasive species and wastewater discharges.”

Delta Smelt Troll 2016
Delta Smelt Troll, Survey 6, 2016: “There were no Delta Smelt collected.”

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Western Growers, founded in 1926, is a trade association of California, Arizona and Colorado farmers who grow, pack and ship almost 50% of our nation’s produce. Their mission is to enhance members’ competitiveness and profitability by providing products and services with agriculture in mind. Services include Affordable Care Act (ACA) compliant health benefits for farmworkers, cost-saving and environmentally-focused logistics, food safety initiatives and advocacy for members. 

They ask, “If you enjoy fruits, vegetables and nuts, support our members and the produce industry.”

Featured Photo: Delta smelt by metric ruler (Source: USFWS)

Water Wisdom From A Lemon Grower

Water Wisdom: All Water is Recyled; We Are Not Losing It

By Brian German, Associate Editor

Keith Frietas, a lemon grower along the Kings River on the East Side of Fresno County, recently reflected on the value of water with California Ag Today, “I think that people are losing their perspective on the value of the resource. Our concept of the value of water is we’ve had it at our beck-and-call for all of our lives, especially our generation; never had to think about it; never had to worry about it. But there are people in the world who get up before the sun comes in the morning, put on a backpack full of empty containers, walk eight to nine miles, and put their lives at risk to get their daily supply of fresh water.”

Freitas does everything he can to use water as efficiently as possible, and passionately described his water management practices. “Because we live in Fresno and care about our little percentage of water, our take of that resource has to be commensurate with the share we give back to the world by using that water. So, our concept as water users takes the form of being stewards of that limited resource. I want the rest of the public and the world around me to understand that and trust that I have the skills to be a good water steward .”

Addressing the cycle of water, agricultural water in particular, Freitas said, “No fresh water leaves the earth. It all gets recycled. So farmers take that water, put it on the ground, grow 25 pounds of tomatoes and give all that water back–98 percent of it in tomatoes–plus the nutrients from that tomato we need to sustain a healthy life.”

Freitas noted how the water cycle could become even more efficient with increasing technological advances. “They’ve got five different stages of filtering wastewater now. Once we start implementing those five filtration stages, people will be able to eat that tomato, and within a week, the water from that tomato will be recycled back into use, back into the community where the tomato was consumed.”

Despite current statewide water restrictions and financial penalties for offenders, water is still being wasted. Freitas believes we must shift how our culture thinks about water to accomplish real change in water stewardship, “When you can’t change the dynamic of that mindset, you can’t force change by billing your way out of a drought.”

Earthworms Help Cleanse Dairy Wastewater

Source: ; ABC 30

Fresno State has turned to a group of very efficient workers to help clean up wastewater on the campus dairy.

Red earthworms now play a big role in the effort to solve water quality challenges. They squirm when you interrupt their meal. 

The worms dig in and feast on wood shavings soaked in wastewater from cow manure.

Sanjar Taromi is the chief marketing officer for BioFiltro. He explained, “The wood shavings absorb a lot of the organic contaminants within the wastewater. The worms then eat that material depositing their castings.”

The Chilean-based company relies on worms to do their dirty work for the pilot project at Fresno State. 

Taromi said, “We’re also taking analysis of wastewater to show to reductions in key indicators like nitrates and nitrogen, phosphates.”

Taromi added the campus dairy uses over 25,000 gallons of water each day. This system filters about 15 percent of the wastewater. “Water is turned on and it comes and flushes the lanes down and carries the manure down to the solid separation basins.”

The water which came out of the cow stalls was a murky dark brown. After the bio-filtration process the water was a lighter brown color but Taroma says that was due to the wood shavings. As the worms turn they produce a cleaner, recycled product.

Taroma said, “You have irrigation water that now you can use with drip irrigation, with center pivots.”

Dairy wastewater is normally only used for flood irrigation on crops used for feed.

October Hearing Set on Proposed $3.75 Million Fine Against Slaughterhouse

The Colorado River Basin Regional Water Quality Control Board will consider assessing a proposed $3.75 million civil liability penalty against National Beef California, a former beef slaughterhouse in the city of Brawley, Imperial County, when the Regional Water Board conducts a public hearing on the matter on Oct. 27.

The hearing has been rescheduled from its original date of June 19. The exact time and place of the hearing will be announced by the Water Board’s advisory team, which acts as a neutral advisor to the Water Board in administrative civil liability cases, and will be posted on the Board’s web site.

The complaint against National Beef is the result of an investigation that started in early 2013, when the Water Board’s prosecution team filed a complaint against the city of Brawley for chronic violations of its wastewater discharge permit and violation of an earlier cease and desist order.

The order required the city to develop and implement a pretreatment program to deal with industrial discharges. The complaint against the city identified National Beef’s discharge as a significant factor in the city’s violations. In September 2013, the Water Board fined the city $1 million for the violations of its permit and the cease and desist order.

The current civil liability complaint against National Beef alleges that the company violated federal pretreatment standards and requirements in the Clean Water Act, which prohibit an industrial user from introducing into a publicly owned treatment facility any pollutant(s) which cause “pass through” or “interference” with the treatment plant.

The complaint alleges that the facility introduced pollutants into the city of Brawley wastewater treatment plant, causing and/or contributing to chronic violations of the city’s federal discharge permit. The complaint also alleges that in doing so, National Beef avoided over $13 million in compliance costs.

A copy of the complaint against National Beef, and its supporting documents can be viewed here: http://www.waterboards.ca.gov/coloradoriver/national_beef.shtml

The slaughterhouse generated about 12,800 gallons per day of discharge to groundwater through unlined ponds, and 1.62 million gallons per day of industrial wastewater to the city’s wastewater treatment plant. Effluent from the city plant is discharged into the New River.

The New River is a state priority for cleanup because it is severely polluted by sources in Mexico and the Imperial Valley. The New River is a tributary to the Salton Sea. Both the New River and the Salton Sea are “Waters of the United States” and are listed as impaired waters under the Clean Water Act.

In January of this year, National Beef announced that it would be closing the plant, which employed 1,300 people, citing “a declining supply of fed cattle available for the Brawley facility” as a key driver of the decision to close the plant. The plant was closed permanently on May 23.

On March 20, the Water Board adopted a cleanup and abatement order directing National Beef to decommission its onsite wastewater treatment facilities. Prior to that order and the corporation’s announced closure of the facility, National Beef and Water Board staff had been working cooperatively on developing a permit for onsite discharges of wastes by the slaughterhouse, but no Water Board requirements had yet been adopted or imposed. With the closure of the plant, the permit was no longer needed.

“We continue to work closely with National Beef staff to ensure the slaughterhouse’s onsite treatment facility is decommissioned properly, and its onsite ponds are closed in compliance with the Water Board’s directives,” said Jose L. Angel, the Board’s Assistant Executive Officer.

National Beef California, LP, is a wholly owned subsidiary of National Beef Packing Company, LLC, of Kansas City, Missouri, which in turn is a subsidiary of Leucadia National Corporation, Inc. Leucadia National Corporation has reported its shareholders’ equity at more than $6 billion.

The Water Board will consider the allegations, proposed penalty, and all of the relevant evidence and testimony it receives at the hearing. After the hearing, the Water Board will consider whether to affirm, reject or modify the proposed Administrative Civil Liability, including whether to assess additional liability on a $10 per gallon basis, or whether to refer the matter to the Attorney General for recovery of judicial civil liability.

For more information on the Colorado River Basin Regional Water Quality Control Board, visit: http://www.waterboards.ca.gov/coloradoriver/ 

Stopgap Efforts Aim to Ease Water Shortages

Source: Kate Campbell; Ag Alert

Farmers and water agencies throughout California are turning to the “Three Ts”—water transfers, trades and treated wastewater—as they try to fill some of the supply gaps caused by drought and resulting water shortages.

In farming communities around the state, neighbors are helping each other, for example by running pipes from more productive wells to a neighbor’s farm.

Late-season rains improved the possibility for water transfers among water districts. More regions are delving into making treated municipal wastewater available for irrigation.

“It’s definitely an ‘all-hands-on-deck’ approach to an emergency situation,” California Farm Bureau Federation Water Resources Director Danny Merkley said. “Some of these stopgap efforts may help farmers prevent orchards or vineyards from dying. We have been encouraging state regulators to remove bureaucratic barriers to short-term water supply plans, while keeping ourselves focused on the continuing need for long-term water storage projects.”

In one new initiative, the Sonoma County city of Healdsburg has moved ahead with plans to make 1 million gallons a day of treated wastewater available for vineyard irrigation and construction uses.

Efforts to make the water available began in mid-February, and the first deliveries through two 6,600-foot pipelines began last week. A new, purple hydrant outside the city treatment facility offers free water to farmers who sign up to take supplies by tank truck.

The city estimates the current supply will augment irrigation for about 25,000 acres of vineyards.

Healdsburg Mayor Jim Wood told people gathered to celebrate the treatment plant’s first transfers to tank trucks that gaining the necessary permits for the project “turned out to be a lot harder than we thought.” Wood said officials worked hard to finalize the project “in an amazingly short amount of time.”

The chair of the State Water Resources Control Board, Felicia Marcus, praised the Healdsburg project as an example of local leadership backed up by the work of the regional water board.

“To make recycled water more readily and easily available for other appropriate agricultural and outdoor uses, the state board has proposed a general permit to allow recycled water projects to opt into, or enroll, in a pre-permit program,” Marcus said, adding that the new permit program is scheduled for adoption in the first week of June.

There currently are about 250 water recycling plants operating statewide, with more planned for the future. About half of all treated wastewater produced in the state is used for irrigating crops, with additional projects in the planning stages.

“Water recycling will certainly be part of the solution for California’s long-term water problems, but farmers who use recycled water should not forfeit their existing, long-term water rights,” Farm Bureau’s Merkley said, “and the state’s water portfolio must also include a commitment to build new storage facilities, both above and below ground, to add the flexibility our current water system lacks.”

Water transfers can add short-term flexibility to the system, he added, noting that some transfers appear to be underway this spring to bring partial supplies to certain water-short farming regions.

“People are doing the best they can with the limited water supplies this year, but it won’t be enough for many farmers and rural communities that will still face crop failures, job losses and severe economic hardship,” Merkley said. “This is going to be a tough year for many people in many parts of California. We hope we can avoid such severe water shortages in the future by investing now in new storage plus recycling, desalination and other strategies to move our water system into the 21st century.”