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An upgrade to a wastewater treatment plant is helping California achieve a climate resilient future

The EchoWater Project, a $1.7 billion upgrade to an existing wastewater plant, is expected to improve the health of the delta and improve groundwater storage


California’s increasing climate volatility has been more evident in the past few years, further stressing the state's aging water infrastructure.

In an attempt to cement a more water secure future, the state is working to diversify its water portfolio. 

In just  the past week, an old piece of water infrastructure was officially given new life and a new name. The $1.7 billion EchoWater Project, located in Elk Grove, is one of the sites that will diversify that portfolio.

"We are at the EchoWater Project, which is a wastewater treatment facility that treats over 130 million gallons per day of wastewater, really alleviating a lot of the strain on our delicate Delta ecosystem, and capturing waters that would otherwise potentially harm that ecosystem and the ocean," said Yana Garcia, secretary for Environmental Protection.

The EchoWater Project is a wastewater treatment plant that has been around since the 1970s, but recent upgrades have greatly improved the quality of treated water. The plant will take in wastewater from Sacramento County, along with the city of West Sacramento, and place it back into the headwaters of the Delta.

"We've essentially upgraded the plant. It is generating a higher quality water, and that higher quality water not only protects the Delta ecosystem that we discharged to, but it's also enabled us to sort of springboard to another project that we call harvest water. And we're going to take this very high quality water, it's actually safe to irrigate food crops with and we're going to supply it, sell it to farmers just south of here, and they'll be able to irrigate their crops with it," said Christoph Dobson, general manager at Regional San.

The technology selected for the ammonia and nitrate removal is the biological nutrient removal (BNR) process, filtration will be performed using the granular media filtration technology to remove smaller particles and more pathogens, according to water-technology.net.

By utilizing wastewater and treating it, reliance on groundwater will decrease, among other benefits like increased flow of the Cosumnes River.

Many farms in the valley rely on groundwater to irrigate their crops. By utilizing highly treated wastewater, essentially recovered water, groundwater pumping can be reduced or stopped altogether on agricultural lands serviced by what’s known as harvest water. There are currently six other harvest water projects in the pipeline.

"This is a perfect example of how we can build a climate resilient future for all Californians," said Garcia.


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