With Carson City's population expected to top out at 80,000 around 2025, the city is gearing up for more of everything, including sewage.
During summer, filtered and disinfected wastewater is used to irrigate about 1,250 acres at 13 sites in Carson City - about 90 percent of the acreage consisting of three golf courses and the state prison farm.
The operation not only puts the once-used water to good use, officials say, it saves fresh water that is highly valued in parched Nevada.
The city's wastewater reclamation plant now treats about 5 million gallons of effluent water per day. By 2025, it will likely be treating close to 9 million gallons a day, and it will have to find another 1,200 or so acres on which to put it, said Carson City Public Works Director Tom Hoffert.
The city is preparing for the day it will irrigate more land, laying the wastewater-carrying "purple pipe" along Saliman Road, for that as-yet-unknown date when city residents produce too much waste for just golf courses and prisons.
City supervisors awarded a contract for the more than $1.3 million job last week. The pipe will someday channel treated wastewater to Mills Park and Carson High School sports fields, two of the city's most ravenous fresh-water users.
"There are several other sites we need to pursue and get the rights (of way) to do that on as well," Hoffert said.
Future candidates for wastewater irrigation, Hoffert said, are Seeliger Elementary School and Silver Saddle Ranch, a city-owned public space property on which there are 80 to 100 acres of irrigated cropland. Hoffert said Carson River water now used to irrigate the ranch would be put into the city's municipal water system once the place is served by the purple pipe.
Depending on the Nevada Division of Environmental Protection, and the effect of leaking waste water on the Carson River, the city could someday be forced to find hundreds acres more to water with treated effluent.
Outside of irrigation season, treated waste water is pumped into an unlined earth and clay reservoir in Brunswick Canyon for storage until summer. The reservoir is porous and effluent water leaking from it forms springs that trickle into the Carson River. While it is treated, the water still contains high nitrate levels which could prove fatal to aquatic life.
City and state environmental officials are monitoring the affect of the reservoir leakage on Carson River water quality.
City officials say they are confident research will show the seepage is not harmful, but if tests show otherwise, the city would have to line the pit with concrete. The city would then have to build more reservoirs to hold and find more land on which to spread the millions of gallons of treated effluent per year that now seep into the ground.
Hoffert said there is no concrete timetable for when the pipeline might be extended to other fields.
"Funding's going to be an issue. Timing's going to be an issue," he said.
-Contact reporter Cory McConnell at firstname.lastname@example.org or 881-1217.