In the early 1970s it became evident the quality of northern Monterey County’s groundwater supply was deteriorating due to extensive withdrawal of groundwater for agriculture. As water was extracted out of the ground for municipal and agricultural supply, it created space for the neighboring Pacific Ocean to intrude inland. This overdraft led to an increasing problem of seawater intrusion, threatening the quality of the groundwater supply.
In response, a group of community leaders began discussing the idea of recycling wastewater to a standard suitable for agricultural irrigation vs landscape irrigation. The objective was to retard the advance of seawater inland by supplying irrigation water to farmland in the northern Salinas Valley, significantly reducing the draw of water from the underground aquifers. To ensure the safety of using recycled water on crops, an extensive 11-year study began in 1976: the Monterey Wastewater Reclamation Study for Agriculture (MWRSA).
The final results of this research proved recycled water is safe for the irrigation of food crops that are consumed without cooking and today this definitive report is used as the standard in countries around the world. The Study also proved a necessary and effective resource in gaining grower acceptance of using recycled water for agriculture.
Monterey County Reclamation Projects
In 1992, M1W and the Monterey County Water Resources Agency (MCWRA) formed a partnership to build the Monterey County Reclamation Projects: the Salinas Valley Reclamation Project (SVRP) recycled water plant and the Castroville Seawater Intrusion Project (CSIP) distribution system. By 1995, construction of the SVRP facility—located at the RTP—and the CSIP system were underway to bring a new water supply to the agriculture industry in Northern Monterey County. On April 16, 1998, the first drops of recycled water were produced and distributed to the CSIP system.
The Monterey County Reclamation Projects have proven to be successful as a safe and reliable water supply for the 21st Century. In addition to retarding seawater intrusion and protecting our drinking water supplies, water recycling also reduces wastewater discharge into the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary.