Westlands receives $1.5mil for desalination pilot program

Westlands Water District will have an opportunity to harness previously unsuitable water to help farmers.

Westlands Water District received a state grant to support desalination and on-farm recycling. 

Westlands, which serves western Fresno and Kings Counties, views the grant as strengthening its ability to improve the water supply for local communities and farmers. 


The backstory: California voters approved 2014’s Proposition 1, the Water Quality, Supply, and Infrastructure Improvement Act, which made grants available for various water projects throughout the state. 

The big picture: The grant will work with Westlands’ pilot project for the desalination of groundwater. Westlands is able to process and treat 1,460 acre-feet of groundwater per year that were previously unsuitable due to high salt contents. 

  • The project will treat the shallow and upper aquifer groundwater of the Westside Subbasin. 
  • Westlands said this project will specifically benefit Huron, Coalinga and Avenal, along with supplying water for agricultural use. 

Go deeper: While current technology utilizes reverse osmosis to treat groundwater purifies about 75 percent of the volume that passes through, the other 25 percent is normally considered a waste product because it is mineralized. 

  • Westlands uses proprietary plants that are specifically engineered to take the high salt concentrate. The district will irrigate and farm salt-tolerant plantings with the mineralized water to grow crops that will remove the salts from the water and store it in the plants. 
  • The pilot project is expected to start in the fall and will run for two years to demonstrate proof of concept. 

What they’re saying: “Ensuring Westlands farmers and the surrounding communities we serve have access to clean, reliable and affordable water is mission critical for us, and we are thrilled we can get started on this innovative project to help bring additional clean water to the District,” said Jose Gutierrez, Interim General Manager of Westlands. “The Project will increase local water supply and reliability, and could improve shallow groundwater quality, all of which are critical for farmers and the communities we serve.”

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