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Umatilla to reuse data center water for agriculture

A reuse project by the city of Hermiston inspired a new Umatilla water project.
Jade McDowell

East Oregonian

Published on January 23, 2018 12:01AM

Last changed on January 23, 2018 10:02PM

This 2016 file photo show an irrigation pump station used to pump recycled water to the West End Irrigation District from the Hermiston Waste Water Treatment facility in Hermiston.

EO file photo

This 2016 file photo show an irrigation pump station used to pump recycled water to the West End Irrigation District from the Hermiston Waste Water Treatment facility in Hermiston.

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A water reuse project by the city of Hermiston has inspired Umatilla to imagine new ways to use water coming out of the region’s data centers.

Umatilla city manager Russ Pelleberg shared details of the project, which the city hopes to begin construction on later this year, at the Oregon Water Coalition’s annual membership meeting in Hermiston on Tuesday morning.

The $3 million project would separate Umatilla’s commercial wastewater from its domestic flows, allowing the city to send water from current Amazon data centers at the Port of Umatilla, a planned data center off Lind Road and any future data centers to irrigation canals for agricultural use. Future phases would include an industrial wastewater treatment plant at the port and storage ponds for keeping reuse water during the winter when it is not needed for irrigation.

Pelleberg said data centers use “a ton of hydraulic capacity” for cooling purposes, but the water coming out the other end and into the city’s sewer system is still “very, very clean.”

“It didn’t make sense to treat clean water,” he said.

As the city looked for better solutions, Hermiston was pioneering a reuse program with West Irrigation District. Water coming from Hermiston’s recycled water treatment plant built in 2014 was well within the state’s standards for cleanliness, but was too warm to put in the Umatilla River in the summer. So the city worked out a deal with West Irrigation District to pipe the water into their canal during the growing season instead, allowing the district to save money by pumping less water from the Columbia River.

“We’re really excited about the project because it was the first time it was done in the state,” Hermiston city manager Byron Smith said.

After getting approval for the project from a laundry list of state agencies, Smith said he and West Irrigation District manager Bev Bridgewater are now sitting on a state committee working to write a set of regulations for other communities that want to follow suit.

Pelleberg said Umatilla wants to do something similar by diverting water coming out of data centers to West Irrigation District.

“We really like what Hermiston is doing with reuse,” he said.

Bridgewater said like the Hermiston water, the Umatilla water would likely be used to replace Columbia River water instead of expanding the district’s acreage. But Pelleberg said he is looking with city engineers at property that could hold massive open-air ponds to hold recycled Class A water created during the winter for use during the summer, and Bridgewater said that project could possibly lead to expanding the district’s acreage. The city needs to secure funding first, however.

The discussion was one of several presentations at the Oregon Water Coalition meeting, which was combined with the Greater Hermiston Area Chamber of Commerce’s Business to Business breakfast at Hermiston Agricultural Research and Extension Center.

Miff Devlin, water quality supervisor at the Port of Morrow, also spoke about a three-phase recharge project to dilute nitrogen from the groundwater around the port. JR Cook of Northeast Oregon Water Association spoke about an economic impact study being developed for the Mid-Columbia Basin and goals for future water projects in the area. The meeting was wrapped up by a “water rights bootcamp” by attorney Laura Schroeder of Schroeder Law Offices.


Contact Jade McDowell at jmcdowell@eastoregonian.com or 541-564-4536.


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