Healdsburg OKs immediate delivery of treated water for agriculture

Healdsburg on Friday took emergency measures to provide highly treated, recycled wastewater for use by grape growers, ranchers and others dealing with the record drought.

In a special meeting amid what was described as the driest year on record in California, the Healdsburg City Council unanimously approved the immediate delivery of the reclaimed water from the city's sewage plant.

Despite not having approval yet from North Coast state water quality regulators to use the treated, disinfected effluent, city officials said they believe Gov. Jerry Brown's drought declaration last month gives them authority to proceed right away.

"We live in an extraordinary time. I believe the time for action is now," said Mayor Jim Wood. "Our farmers here need some help."

The action means the city will start work on a pipeline to bring the effluent from the city's treatment plant on Foreman Lane to Kinley Drive, where it can be hauled away for dust control at construction sites, or tapped into by area vineyards. It will also be available immediately through a hydrant at the treatment plant.

The city is not charging for the water, although haulers will be required to apply for a simple permit.

Utilities Director Terry Crowley estimated that the water can be used on 600 acres nearby, mostly vineyards, offsetting 50 million gallons of potable water use.

Representatives for the grape industry as well as the Sonoma County Farm Bureau applauded the move.

"Thank you for taking this action and stepping up," said Bob Anderson of United Wine Growers. "The conditions we're facing, we've never seen before."

He noted that the reclaimed water is cleaner than what comes from the Santa Rosa sub-regional treatment plant, which irrigates 6,300 acres.

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