Out West student blog

A Trip to the Watsonville Recycled Water Facility

Students speak with Marcus Mendiola, water conservation and outreach specialist for the Watsonville Recycled Water Facility.

By Erik Van
Alternative Spring Break 2017

This report was produced during the 2017 Alternative Spring Break course Environmental Policy in California. During winter quarter, students learned about environmental policy in California from a variety of Stanford faculty. Subsequently, over the course of spring break, the class traveled to Monterey and Sacramento to meet with policymakers, stakeholders, and visit energy and water facilities.

Highly recognized as a wastewater treatment plant, the Watsonville Recycled Water Facility was developed as one of the ways to combat California’s growing water problem. The Pajaro Valley Management Association operates the Watsonville Recycled Water Facility and over 125 miles of pipelines. This facility uses a combination of blended ground water supplies and potable water to provide over 6.5 million gallons of water to industries, businesses, and homes.

The Watsonville Recycled Facility aids in meeting the food crop and irrigation needs of the surrounding area with the goal of ground water sustainability. The facility uses three tiers of water recycling treatment to reach this goal: primary, secondary, and tertiary. The primary step uses physical means to clean the water, the secondary uses biological means, and the tertiary uses chemical means. Through this treatment, water is recycled.

During the Alternative Spring Break trip, we spoke to Marcus Mendiola, a Water Conservation and Outreach Specialist for the Watsonville Recycled Water Facility. Mr. Mendiola spoke to us about the Basin Management Plan that is being implemented through the Recycled Water Facility. With the purpose of water conservation, the plan is broken up into two parts: developing new water supplies and optimizing existing water supplies. As part of addressing this plan, the Watsonville Recycled Water Facility is a strong believer in developing a well-rounded monitoring system. Mr. Mendiola sums it up by stating that one needs to quantify the situation before one can find an alternative solution. Therefore, the Watsonville Water Facility is careful to monitor using such tools as drip irrigation and laser leveling.

One of the reasons why the Watsonville Recycled Facility is highly recognized is its use of unique approaches to encouraging water conservation. The water facility uses many financial incentives to encourage more efficient water and land uses. One specific program is the irrigation efficiency program. The goal of this program is to ensure 50,484 acre feet of water is efficiently used. To compliment these programs, there is also much collaboration between other facilities such as the Santa Cruz Water Facility.

As part of the trip, Mr. Mendiola gave us a tour of the Recycled Water Facility. Throughout the tour, we had the opportunity to get a close look at the equipment and tools used by the facility. A current project that the facility is working on is building a 1.5-million-gallon tank for water storage.

Ultimately, it is vital that research towards water conservation is developed. The Watsonville Water Recycled Water Facility makes it possible for more than 80,000 people to have access to water in their everyday lives. With the increased intrusion of sea water in ground water and the increased need for water, water conservation and recycling is of the upmost importance. Future research needs to focus on implanting policy that will reduce water consumption and on creating a more efficient program to optimize water usage.

For the past 30 years, Alternative Breaks@Stanford have allowed undergraduates to explore complex social and cultural issues through a week-long immersive program. In 2017, the Bill Lane Center for the American West was pleased to support an Alternative Spring Break co-led by one of our Sophomore College alums, Matthew Cohen, and Elizabeth Trinh. Between winter and spring quarters, Matt and Elizabeth led a group of 12 students studying Environmental Policy in California, focused on climate change’s effects the Monterey Bay Peninsula. This series of blog posts highlights their experiences meeting with local leaders in Monterey and policymakers in Sacramento.

Read more at the Out West Student Blog »

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