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Groundwater

Price of reclaimed water still too high for ag

 •  by Lois Henry
Tractors wait to get to work near Edison Highway after a rainstorm in Kern County. Credit: Lois Henry

If you’re a Central Valley farmer and haven’t yet been hit up by someone about reusing crummy water for irrigation — just wait.

Companies are springing up all over with the latest gizmo they believe will take nasty, salty water, mostly from shallow aquifers on the valley’s west side or oilfield produced water, and make clean “new” irrigation water.

It’s true, there are ways to clean even the worst water.

Reverse osmosis, pushing water through a membrane, will take care of most salts and nitrates. And there are a host of other methods, including ion exchange, evaporation, chemical-electro processes, compression, ozone, bacteriological, etc.

Each has its pros and cons, but two big questions always remain: What about the waste? What’s the energy cost?

Well, as they say, if you have to ask, you probably can’t afford it.

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