Nearly complete wetlands project to use recycled water
The water that will eventually fill a new 20-acre wetlands project on the Silver Saddle Ranch is not safe for human consumption but will provide Carson City with an affordable way to provide a home for the birds and wildlife.
Treated effluent water from Carson’s sewer treatment plant will be piped into the wetlands in the next two years to fill a pond and marsh and also water alfalfa and other crops at the ranch, officials said Tuesday.
But with a fresh supply of water this year, birds have found it a welcome site.
“It looks beautiful out there,” said Walt Devaurs, lead wildlife biologist for the bureau in Carson City. “It’s working really well. We didn’t expect the response from birds to be this quick.”
Waterfowl, shorebirds and whiteface ibis have already been spotted picking at the dried seeds and insects after the area came to life.
The wetlands, located just east of Mexican Ditch and north of Carson River Road on a 40-acre parcel of pasture land, was filled for the first time about two weeks ago using Carson River water diverted from Mexican Ditch. City officials negotiated with landowners to lease water from the ditch for the next two years, Werner said.
About 22 acre-feet were spread over the wetlands to saturate the pond and the marsh. The water will seep into the ground and dissipate during the year until next spring. The pond was coated with clay to slow the process.
Eventually, the city will need a permanent way to supply the project with water. Officials decided to use the much less-expensive effluent water from a nearby plant nearby. Tom Hoffert, city utilities manager, said the effluent water costs the city about 21 cents per 1,000 gallons compared with 40 cents per 1,000 gallons of drinkable water.
Officials do not expect the use of recycled water to affect birds and wildlife or the fresh water supply nearby. The effluent water will be contained on site, Hoffert said, and the roots of the wetlands will absorb and convert the water.
The use of effluent water has increased over the past few years. Last year, the city supplied more than 1.8 billion gallons of the recycled water to parks and fields, including Eagle Valley, Empire Ranch and Silver Oak golf courses, Centennial Park ball fields, the cemetery and Edmonds Sports Complex. It is also converting Governor’s Field and Mills Park to use effluent water.
While the reclaimed water is acceptable for irrigation, it is not safe for people for drinking or prolonged contact.
“It can be used anywhere, but we haven’t had it anywhere people can come in contact with it,” Hoffert said. The water would have to undergo more chlorination to neutralize anything that could be harmful, he said.
“It’s cost prohibitive to increase the levels of chlorination,” Hoffert said.
The city expects to spend about $1 million to carry the water about one mile from the plant along Carson River Road to the ranch, said city engineer Larry Werner. The actual cost will be easier to estimate after designs are completed by early summer of this year. The pipeline is expected to be built by the fall of 2004.
After effluent water is available, the city will use it to supply the wetlands and crops grown by the bureau at the ranch. The river water will then be available for the city to use in its regular drinkable water supply.
The city is already using its water rights from the Carson River to supply water to 80 acres of the Silver Saddle Ranch site operated by the federal Bureau of Land Management. The bureau grows crops, including alfalfa, with the water. The city will also be able to provide the effluent water for the bureau’s land.
Bureau of Land Management Director Kathleen Clarke will visit the site Thursday during her tour of the area. The city’s success with the project has earned it a special crystal award from the bureau.
The city agreed to create the wetlands — a first for the city, according to Transportation Manager John Flansberg– as mitigation for the future freeway, as required by the state.