Wastewater Innovation and Investment in the Central Valley

Recently adopted changes in wastewater policy are expected to drive new market opportunities for innovation and investment in the Central Valley.


On May 31, 2018, the California Regional Water Quality Control Board, Central Valley Region, adopted Basin Plan Amendments to establish a Central Valley-wide Salt and Nitrate Control Program for the control and permitting of (a) salt discharges to surface and groundwater, and (b) nitrate discharges to groundwater. The control of salt and nitrate will impact municipal, industrial, and livestock-related wastewater treatment facilities. On less than 1 percent of the total farmland in the United States, the Central Valley produces 8 percent of the nation’s agricultural output, and portions of California’s immense Central Valley have salt or nitrate accumulations in the groundwater and soil from both historic and ongoing discharges from legal and accepted agriculture, municipal, and industrial activities. The high nitrate concentrations are impacting drinking water quality and, in some communities, water supply and/or domestic wells do not meet safe drinking water standards. The salt accumulations have resulted in 250,000 acres taken out of production and about 1.5 million acres being salinity impaired. If not addressed, the economic impacts could be staggering. For example, if salt accumulations are not managed, the resulting direct economic costs to the Central Valley could exceed $1.5-billion per year by 2030. The Central Valley’s economic future depends on addressing these adverse impacts.

Depending upon the concentrations of nitrate in the local groundwater supplies, one strategy that municipal, industrial, and livestock related wastewater treatment facilities may need to pursue is upgrading treatment technologies to reduce the concentration of nitrate in the wastewater discharge. Accordingly, there will be interest from municipal, industrial, and livestock-related wastewater treatment facilities to evaluate cost-effective alternative treatment technologies that can be implemented to reduce nitrate concentrations in wastewater discharges.