Growing with Reclaimed Water

After getting past the yuk factor—though admittedly tough to do—there might be something good here, as reported by Civil Eats.

An excerpt.

“On a Saturday in late October, Carolyn Phinney stands hip-deep in a half acre of vegetables, at the nucleus of what will one day be 15 acres of productive farmland.

“You can’t even see the pathways,” she says, surrounded by the literal fruits of her labors. The patch is a wealth of herbs, tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, kale, winter squash, and zucchini. So much zucchini—fruits the size of bowling pins hidden under leaves as big as umbrellas. “Zucchini plants are supposed to be 30 inches across. Ours are 8 feet,” she says. “Everything looks like it’s on steroids.”

“Phinney, pictured above, is the farmer behind CoCo San Sustainable Farm of Martinez, California, a farm built on reclaimed land, using reclaimed water, and started with a simple mission: to get kids to eat more vegetables.

“In 2010, Phinney learned local school districts served pizza more often than salad because produce cost four times more than cheese and bread. She set out to make vegetables in her county more affordable—or free, if possible. The effort has paid off. Since May of this year, Phinney has grown and donated more than 13,000 pounds of produce to local food banks and school districts. All of it from just this half acre. Phinney is the farm’s only full-time employee, and she has worked with a team of volunteers to get the food in the ground so far.

“We could produce several hundred thousand pounds of produce [if we were] in full production,” she says, referring to the 14.5 acres of bare earth and citing a time only a few years away, when the remaining land will be irrigated and planted in vegetables.

“Phinney’s achievement is all the more remarkable considering the location. Prior to Phinney, Contra Costa County had used the 15-acre property as a dumping ground for excavated subsoil trucked in from elsewhere. The ground was so poor that even weeds struggled to grow there. However, as prospective farmland, the place had two big things going for it. It was cheap—Phinney leases the land for a dollar a year—and it came with a free and near limitless supply of water.

“The farm is located on sanitary buffer land owned by the Central Contra Costa Sanitary District (CCCSD) and is adjacent to their water treatment plant. Phinney irrigates all her crops with reclaimed wastewater, which she says is nutrient rich, safe, free, and abundant. And for Phinney, the water is the real secret to growing such healthy, high-yielding plants.

“Around the same time Phinney was trying to fix school lunch, she met Mike McGill, board president of CCCSD, and learned that the county discharged around 50 to 200 million gallons of treated wastewater per day into nearby Suisun Bay. After treatment to remove solids and sterilize microbes, the water remains high in nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, and micronutrients. Liquid fertility, according to Phinney, who felt the county was just dumping it.”

Retrieved December 17, 2020 from Is Farming with Reclaimed Water the Solution to a Drier Future? | Civil Eats

About David H Lukenbill

I am a native of Sacramento, as are my wife and daughter. I am a consultant to nonprofit organizations, and have a Bachelor of Science degree in Organizational Behavior and a Master of Public Administration degree, both from the University of San Francisco. We live along the American River with two cats and all the wild critters we can feed. I am the founding president of the American River Parkway Preservation Society and currently serve as the CFO and Senior Policy Director. I also volunteer as the President of The Lampstand Foundation, a nonprofit organization I founded in 2003.
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