Strawberry fields

Crop fields in Castroville receive recycled wastewater from the Regional Urban Water Augmentation Project.

As it turns out, wastewater comes in several "flavors," in the words of new Monterey Regional Water Pollution Control Agency (PCA) General Manager Paul Sciuto.

Under a draft agreement still slogging through the approval process, existing and future developments on the former Fort Ord would be supplied with more highly treated wastewater than originally planned. Think of it as vanilla rather than butterscotch.

PCA and Marina Coast Water District have hammered out a draft deal that would supply the Ord Community with advanced treated water from the planned Pure Water Monterey project, rather than with tertiary-treated water from the existing Regional Urban Water Augmentation Project (RUWAP).

In 2009, Marina Coast and PCA worked on agreements about RUWAP, which pumps tertiary-treated water—wastewater treated to a higher level than the primary/secondary-treated wastewater PCA discharges into Monterey Bay—to crops in Castroville. Tertiary-treated water can be used for irrigation, but not for drinking.

A few years later, when the now-scuttled desalination proposal known as the Regional Desal Project fell apart, PCA started looking at groundwater replenishment: capturing wastewater, cleaning it to an advanced level (a cleaner "flavor" than tertiary-treated), and injecting it into the Seaside Aquifer to be pumped out and used later. That project, which will produce drinkable water, is known as Pure Water Monterey.

Pure Water will involve building a pipeline from the PCA plant in north Marina to the Seaside Aquifer. That planned pipeline, Sciuto says, runs along the same path that Marina Coast needed a pipeline to deliver RUWAP water to the Ord Community.

The agreement now in the works would eliminate that redundancy by supplying Ord with Pure Water rather than RUWAP water—meaning only one pipeline would be needed instead of two.

Gallon for gallon, Sciuto says, the more highly treated Pure Water costs more than the tertiary-treated RUWAP water. But the Ord Community only needs about 1,000 acre-feet of additional water, he adds, so a pipeline built just to deliver that water would jack up the per-unit cost significantly. Factoring in the water-delivery costs, he says, it's cheaper to supply the Ord Community with Pure Water on its way to the Seaside Aquifer.

Another reason for the proposed switch: Pure Water would be better for irrigating the Bayonet and Black Horse golf courses, which are part of the Ord Community. Sciuto says the dissolved solids, such as salts, in tertiary-treated water could build up over time and hurt the turf. 

But the deal's not official yet. Sciuto says PCA still needs to negotiate some details with Marina Coast, like which entity would build, finance, own and operate the pipe.

“Politics is probably the largest thing we need to get over in terms of working out all the details," he says.

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