News Feature | September 8, 2014

California Vineyards Using Recycled Water To Irrigate Grapes

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome
@sarmje

grapereg

Vineyards in California's Napa and Sonoma Valleys are using reclaimed wastewater to irrigate their grapes. 

It's a "new normal in the wine industry," according to the Santa Rose Press Democrat.

The city of Healdsburg provides free recycled water. "Healdsburg’s plant produces tertiary treated recycled water, some of the highest quality treated wastewater in the county. After the wastewater enters the plant, [it] is treated through three processes," the Healdsburg Tribune reported.

Healdsburg's recycled water program for vineyards launched this year. Under an agreement reached in the winter, a pipeline was connected "from the treatment plant to an outlet that would then allow for farmers or ranchers to truck the recycled water back to their farms," the Healdsburg Tribune reported. Previously, the water was released back into the environment. 

Winery owners collect the reclaimed water "via either pipeline or truck. The program is expected to supply 43 million gallons of treated waste water per season to help irrigate vineyards," San Francisco Business Times reported

Tom Rued, of Rued Vineyards, drives a truck almost every day to a filling station in Healdsburg to collect recycled water. 

"The entire operation takes about five hours, including the round trip between the Alexander Valley vineyard and the plant, the time filling up the tanker, and offloading the water into a drip irrigation system to keep 19 acres of sauvignon blanc vines moist enough to make it through another harvest," the Press Democrat reported. 

The program provides "roughly a dozen vineyards like Rued’s free reclaimed water either via truck or through a pipeline where a direct connection can be tapped," the report said. 

Bob Anderson, of the United Winegrowers of Sonoma County, stressed the challenges of the drought at a meeting in February. 

“Certainly the conditions we are facing, we’ve never seen before,” he said, per the Healdsburg Tribune. “The action you are taking is appreciated.”

Nutrients in recycled water may support the health of vineyard crops.

"A Napa vineyard that applied recycled water supplied by the Napa Sanitation District was studied by a group of seven university researchers," according to Don Curlee, an agriculture consultant and columnist for the Porterville Recorder. "[They] surmised that nutrients in the recycled water may be beneficial to vineyards, though the levels of nitrogen may need to be reduced by planting cover crops in some vineyards." 

Check out Water Online's Water Reuse Solution Center

Image credit: "Vineyard in Montone," picdrops © 2004, used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

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