A large nursery in southern California installed an irrigation runoff capturing system to reduce water expenses and the production quality if the water supply was interrupted. They use a large amount of water, about 1,000 ac-ft/yr at a cost of $944 per ac-ft, so it is also a large expense. In two years, the nursery reused 1,022 ac-ft or about 50% of total water used for irrigation. For those two years, recycling irrigation runoff water saved $809,000. Even though the cost of the project was $900,000, it was recovered in the first year by grants, rebates, and water savings.
A national team of scientists is working to encourage use of alternative water resources by the nation’s billion-dollar nursery and floriculture industry has been awarded funds for the first year of an $8.7 million, five year US Department of Agriculture – National Institute of Food and Agriculture –Specialty Crop Research Initiative competitive grant.
The team will develop and apply systems-based solutions to assist grower decision making by providing science-based information to increase use of recycled water. This award from the NIFA’s Specialty Crop Research Initiative is managed by Project Director Sarah White of Clemson University. She leads a group of 21 scientists from nine U.S. institutions.
Entitled “Clean WateR3 - Reduce, Remediate, Recycle – Enhancing Alternative Water Resources Availability and Use to Increase Profitability in Specialty Crops”, the Clean WateR3 team will assist the grower decision-making process by providing science-based information on nutrient, pathogen, and pesticide fate in recycled water both before and after treatment, average cost and return-on investment of technologies examined, and model-derived, site specific recommendations for water management. The trans-disciplinary Clean WateR3 team will develop these systems-based solutions by integrating sociological, economic, modeling, and biological data into a user-friendly decision-support system intended to inform and direct our stakeholders’ water management decision-making process.
The Clean WateR3 grant team is working with a stakeholder group of greenhouse and nursery growers throughout the United States.
For example, at the University of Florida graduate student George Grant is collecting data on removal of paclobutrazol, a highly persistent plant growth regulator chemical, from recirculated water using granular activated carbon (GAC) filters. This is being done in both research greenhouses and in a commercial site. The GAC filters can remove more than 90% of chemical residues, and are proving to be a cost-effective treatment method.