Study planned for water-treatment options in Warm Springs area

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Carla O’Day, This is Reno 6/10/21

The Reno City Council on Wednesday approved an interlocal agreement for reimbursement of costs to conduct a feasibility study to evaluate the use of recycled water for irrigation in Warm Springs Valley.

The agreement with Truckee Meadows Water Authority, Sparks and Washoe County involves Palomino Farms and LW Land Co. The $1.6 million study includes Reno’s share not to exceed $400,000 from its sewer fund.

The Palomino Farms Sustainable Water Resource Feasibility Study will evaluate lower-cost water-treatment options at the Truckee Meadows Water Reclamation Facility, which city officials say are necessary to accommodate anticipated population growth in the next 20 years.

Potential benefits of this project include a potable water pipeline running between Sparks and the 1,500-acre Palomino Farms site. The line would provide TMWA greater flexibility and resilience in improving water supply and potentially water quality in the coming years, according to OneWater Nevada.

Reno public works director John Flansberg said the Palomino Farms project would offer an alternative place, other than the Truckee River, to take water. TMWA could also use the area to bank water and effluent could be disposed of in an agricultural, useful way, he said. The farm site has been used agriculturally for alfalfa and potatoes for decades.

“The tricky thing we have with the Truckee River is that we have to have replacement water for the water we don’t put back in,” Flansberg said. “If we’re taking surface water that comes from the Truckee River and we’re running that through our system and that gets to our treatment plant, we need to return that portion back to the river. If we do not take that portion back to the river, then we have to have make-up water in the river for the downstream users.”

Government entities within Washoe County own the water reclamation facility, which treats the majority of wastewater in the Truckee Meadows. The Nevada Department of Environmental Protection regulates the reclamation facility by permit, with TMWA being the main supplier of water in the area.

Long-term planning for population growth and needs for water and wastewater treatment will require significant investment in the treatment process at the reclamation facility to continue to meet state permit requirements, city officials say.

Flansberg said the reclamation facility currently handles 29 million gallons daily. Once it gets to about 35 million, additional “inside the fence” treatment would be necessary.

Councilwoman Naomi Duerr, a TMWA board member, said land and water rights to the Palomino Farms property would be an estimated $27 million.

“Sometimes when you inch into things and it’s only $400,000, you go, ‘Well, that’s not too much, we’ll do our study,’” Duerr said. “But we’re always beginning on a path and we’re always going somewhere. You have to build pipelines out there, which is some distance from the plant. We’d have to build pipelines back from there to some other places to deliver the water.”

John Enloe, TMWA director of natural resources, confirmed the amount stated by Duerr. If the deal went through, he said TMWA would receive groundwater rights to be able to use for future water supply, along with rights for perpetual use of effluent disposal and storage of water underground.

“Where else are you going to find 1,500 acres of flat, irrigatable land with 50,000 square feet of groundwater storage capacity available today for this purpose?” Enloe asked.

Wastewater treatment consists of cleaning the waste stream by removing solids, reducing organic matter and pollutants, and restoring oxygen.  After treatment, the byproducts of the waste stream are solids and water.  Solids are hauled to a landfill for disposal and the water currently flows to Steamboat Creek upstream of the Truckee River.  Treated water contains residual nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorus, and salt compounds that are measured and reported to NDEP.  Oxygen levels of water are also measured to ensure aquatic species won’t be harmed.

For more information on the project, visit