Treated water will irrigate the Edmonds Sports Complex starting in September, saving enough drinkable water to supply some 322 single-family homes.
Plus, effluent grows better grass, too.
"We've been real happy with the quality of the water," said Steve Kastens, director of the Carson City Parks and Recreation Department. "We are able to reduce fertilization because the water comes with its own nutrients."
The city has used reclaimed water at the four upper softball fields at Centennial Park for about seven years. Water from the wastewater reclamation plant has kept the Eagle Valley East Golf Course green since 1976 and currently waters all Carson City golf courses.
For years, effluent was welcomed on golf courses but was generally not used on sports fields where players regularly make direct contact with the grass because of perceived health risks. Carson City, however, has had no effluent related medical claims.
"No notable complaints have been lodged on our usage of effluent on sports fields," said Tom Hoffert, the city's utilities operation manager.
Carson City Health Department Director Daren Winkelman said effluent presents no health danger if somebody doesn't come in direct contact with the water, like standing under the sprinkler.
"Nowadays the controls that are set for effluent are pretty stringent," Winkelman said. "Certain regulations are in place that don't make it a problem."
For example, effluent may not pond or pool on a playing field, he said.
Edmonds will be watered several hours before players take to the fields, practically eliminating any health risks, Kastens said.
"There are no remaining residuals that cause problems," Kastens said. "During tournaments, we don't water the night before."
The Carson City wastewater reclamation plant uses secondary treatment methods that remove any dissolved organic materials. The treated water does carry some remaining nitrogren and phosphorus, said Kelvin Ikehara, the city's sewer operations chief.
Effluent will start watering Edmonds just as three new soccer/football fields go into use and the master plan calls for four more multipurpose fields on the existing 40 acres that will have 14 fields this fall.
Another 15 acres not yet master planned could hold another four multipurpose fields or four little league fields or two Babe Ruth fields.
Once Edmonds is fully built out with up to 22 fields, water usage will soar from 193 acre-feet last year to an estimated 500 acre-feet. In most parts of the country, that's enough water to supply 500 homes.
But using reclaimed water for the sports complex will spare the city's well and surface water sources tapped for potable water.
Hoffert foresaw having to drill a new well in the next year to supply the four new fields plus residential growth in southern Carson City.
"(Using effluent at Edmonds) will equate out to one year's worth of growth," Hoffert said. "This freed up the need to drill another well next year."
Drilling a new well costs between $300,000 and $500,000. Carson City has 24 wells.
Bringing effluent to Edmonds also costs about $300,000, but the value in the investment is far greater, Hoffert said.
The city gains the 193,000 acre-feet of water that can be sold to other customers. Plus, the distribution system being set up for Edmonds also lays the groundwork to bring effluent to Governor's Field, which will likely happen in about two years.
"We would like to do Governor's Field as soon as we can," Kastens said.
Kastens has great motivation for converting to effluent to water sports fields. The parks department spends $30,000 to $40,000 a year to water Edmonds.
Effluent, however, costs the parks department nothing if less than 500 acre-feet are used. Kastens uses about 100 acre-feet of effluent at Centennial, Eagle Valley and Lone Mountain Cemetery and that will climb to 300 acre-feet once Edmonds is online.
Other effluent users at the Silver Oak and Empire Ranch golf clubs and at the Nevada State Prison farm also get a certain amount of treated water at no charge.
Hoffert does plan to start charging for effluent in 2004, but even then the cost for the Parks and Recreation Department will be far less than for potable water now used at Edmonds. Hoffert plans to charge 21 cents for 1,000 gallons of effluent compared with the lowest commercial rate of $1.05 for 1,000 gallons now paid by the parks.
The city's effluent system already in place made it only logical to add Edmonds. An effluent line runs within 400 feet of the Edmonds Sports Complex on the way to the Stewart Pond that feeds the prison farm, thus eliminating the need to lay pipes from the reclamation plant to Edmonds.
The Utilities Department had three main tasks to bring effluent to Edmonds:
1) install a 400-foot branch line from the mainline to Edmonds.
2) install a valve between Edmonds and the Stewart Pond so that effluent may be diverted to Edmonds.
3) Add a pump at the treatment plant to create enough water pressure for irrigation. That pump would also serve Governor's Field once it converts to effluent.
Work on the system is close to being finished but Hoffert, Kastens and Ikehara want to wait until summer is over to switch over to effluent. That way they can work out any kinks when irrigation is less critical.
"We don't want to do the change in the middle of summer and find we have a problem," Kastens said. "We want to wait for cooler weather."