For Immediate Release
Contact: Elizabeth Jonasson
Westlands Water District Receives Grant Award for Desalination and On-Farm Recycling Project
Fresno, CA — (April 20, 2023) Westlands Water District is one step closer to improving the water supply for local communities and farmers. Aligned with the Governor’s California’s Water Supply Strategy, Adapting to a Hotter, Drier Future, the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) yesterday awarded a competitive grant to support Westlands’ Desalination and On-Farm Recycling Project (Project). Grant funding was made available for projects that help produce clean, safe, and reliable water as part of the Water Quality, Supply, and Infrastructure Improvement Act of 2014.
Westlands’ pilot Project features advanced technologies and treatment processes to capture, treat, and put to beneficial use up to 1,460 acre-feet of groundwater per year, previously unsuitable due to its high salt contents. The Project will treat the shallow and upper aquifer groundwater of the Westside Subbasin to create a source of high-quality water for municipal Westside communities and irrigation use for farmers in the District.
In addition to supplying water for agricultural use, Westlands conveys water to rural communities on the west side of Fresno and Kings counties. The District is comprised of nearly 84% disadvantaged communities that during drought conditions, experience limited and expensive water supplies in addition to the economic and social repercussions of fallowed farmland. When this Project is implemented, it will enable Westlands to provide treated water to disadvantaged communities including the cities of Huron, Coalinga, and Avenal.
“Ensuring Westlands farmers and the surrounding communities we serve have access to clean, reliable and affordable water is mission critical for us and we are thrilled we can get started on this innovative project to help bring additional clean water to the District,” said Jose Gutierrez, Interim General Manager, Westlands Water District. “The Project will increase local water supply and reliability, and could improve shallow groundwater quality, all of which are critical for farmers and the communities we serve.”
Currently, technology exists utilizing reverse osmosis to treat this source of groundwater cost-effectively. However, treatment plants only purify about 75% of the volume of water that passes through them. The remaining 25% is considered mineralized or concentrated and is considered a waste product.
Using proprietary plants that are specifically engineered to uptake salts and other constituents, Westlands will irrigate and farm salt-tolerant plantings with the mineralized water to grow a crop that will remove the salts from the water and store it in the plants. Due to this uptake of salts and minerals such as boron and selenium, the crop will be rich in nutrients, making it a valuable source of bio-nutrients for livestock once harvested.
Working closely with the Regional Water Quality Control Board, the success of this program will demonstrate that the upper aquifer groundwater can be treated cost-effectively, and the mineralized water can be put to beneficial use by Westlands and the communities it serves.
Planning for the project has begun and the pilot Project is anticipated to start fall of 2023. Once permitted, it will run for two years to demonstrate proof of concept.
About Westlands Water District
Westlands Water District is recognized as a world leader in agricultural water conservation and has served the farmers and rural communities on the west side of Fresno and Kings counties for more than five decades. As stewards of one of California’s most precious natural resources, Westlands continually invests in conservation and champions farmers deploying innovative irrigation methods based on the best available technology.