A water-reuse project by the city of Hermiston and West Extension Irrigation District that is the first of its kind in the state is being recognized for its innovation.
The Oregon Water Resources Department gave the project, which uses recycled water from the city for irrigation, the Tyler Hansell Agricultural Efficiency Award.
The water being used comes from the city’s recycled water treatment plant, which churns out a final product that plant manager William Schmittle calls “virtually indistinguishable from drinking water.”
It is clean enough to be piped into the Umatilla River, but not always cool enough during summer months (rivers that get too warm are unhealthy for fish that swim upstream to spawn). A year ago the city started sending it into the West Extension Irrigation District’s main canal instead during warm months.
Bev Bridgewater, manager of the irrigation district, said every additional bit of water helps the district.
“It’s been consistent, reliable and we’ve been able to put it to good use,” she said.
Bridgewater said the project’s uniqueness is probably what contributed to the award. When the district and the city got the needed permits to start using the water in August 2016, it was the first time anyone in the state had done so.
“We had a city willing to step up and get the work done,” she said.
Hermiston city manager Byron Smith said if the city hadn’t been able to send the water to the irrigation district, it would have had to install some sort of cooling equipment instead. The process to get the needed permits was long and complicated, but he said it was worth it in order to make sure the water was able to be reused in a way that helps contribute to the area’s economy.
“That was a driver for us,” he said.
He said from the city’s standpoint the arrangement has been working well, and they are pleased to have been able to partner with the irrigation district to make it happen.
The Tyler Hansell Agricultural Efficiency Award is given each year to “a recipient that has demonstrated leadership in the area of agricultural water management, increasing the efficiency of water use, while continuing to support agriculture as a vital part of Oregon’s economy,” according to the Oregon Water Resources Department website.
Contact Jade McDowell at firstname.lastname@example.org or 541-564-4536.