News Feature | March 18, 2014

City Debates Livestock Consumption Of Wastewater

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome


Should farm animals consume treated wastewater? 

That's up for debate in Petaluma, California, where new legislation would allow farmers to nourish their livestock with treated wastewater, according to the Press Democrat

"Assemblyman Marc Levine, D-San Rafael, authored AB 2071 ostensibly to provide drought relief to California ranchers as supplies of potable water dwindle from lack of rain. But Levine mainly heard doubts about his proposal at a public hearing Thursday at Petaluma City Hall," the report said. 

Organic dairy farmers are uncomfortable with the idea. “I'm not going to risk our animals or our customers to an idea that's not tested,” Albert Straus, head of Straus Family Creamery, said in the report.  

At the hearing, Straus "spoke for many farmers in attendance when he said he felt his cows would be used as guinea pigs to test whether treated wastewater is safe for consumption," the report said. 

Some farmers already use treated wastewater, the Democrat said. That includes "operations in Sonoma County. Under a 25-year-old arrangement, the city of Santa Rosa has not restricted about 70 ranchers who are linked to its water distribution system from using treated wastewater for livestock consumption, with the exception of animals producing milk," the report said.

The proposal is controversial in part because of disagreement over how to read existing regulations. The legislation has provoked "widespread confusion over whether current regulations already allow the practice," the Press Democrat reported in separate piece.  

The new legislation is intended to alleviate water needs in California during the drought. The National Drought Mitigation Center says "more than a quarter of California currently falls into the 'exceptional drought category,' which is the most severe," according to Business Insider

For more on government oversight, check out Water Online's Regulations & Legislation Solution Center.

Image credit: "Livestock Show," © 2003 Lehigh Valley, PA, used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license:

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