About 12,000 acres total are irrigated with the recycled wastewater -- though that's just a drop in the bucket in farm-rich California.
"For most people - especially those not living in arid areas of the southwestern United States - the phrase "toilet to tap" elicits unpleasant images. Even in water-strapped California, only about 500,000 acre-feet of recycled water - just 1 percent of the total - are used each year. But population growth and other factors, including climate change, are dictating that California and other dry states become more efficient in their use of water. One water-treatment facility has found a way to really get the most out of its water, perhaps charting the course for other thirsty areas of California.
"Not only were we the first, but we're the largest raw-food crop-water recycling project in the world [that] we know of," says Keith Israel, general manager of the Monterey Regional Water Pollution Control Agency. The agency's regional treatment facility, which blends into the flat agricultural terrain so completely that you might not know it existed unless you were told, intercepts 20 million gallons of sewage water from 12 communities dotting the Monterey Bay coastline every day, treating the wastewater and recycling it to 30 Castroville growers via a system of purple pipes."