Wastewater to Wine

Reuse is one solution to water scarcity in Baja California

Laura_Sanchez_Blog

Baja California’s Valle de Guadalupe is a landscape of contrasts. Vibrant green vineyard rows are bordered by arid desert. Water is scarce in this winegrowing region known for its crisp whites and complex red blends. Therefore, it has begun turning wastewater into wine.

Just north of the Valle de Guadalupe, Camillo Magoni cultivates 800 vines using reclaimed water at La Morita treatment plant in Tijuana. “It tastes like a Cabernet Sauvignon,” Magoni told Reuters of the wines. “There’s absolutely no difference. The water we’re using is very clean; it’s practically crystalline.”

Rainfall in the area has decreased while water consumption has increased due to population growth and a surge in wine production. Some feel that Magoni’s efforts to irrigate vines with treated wastewater could provide a partial solution to the region’s water shortages. “We’re going to continue and see in the future if there’s interest . . . from the industry players,” he said. If his experiment proves successful, sending treated wastewater to the Valle de Guadalupe to irrigate vineyards could support a flourishing industry.

Vidal Perez, winemaker and professor of enology at the Universidad Autónoma de Baja California, Ensenada, believes that the reused water could provide winegrowers with supplemental resources and lower prices. “As long as the water is treated to the point of causing no harm to the environment and humans, it can be very beneficial,” he explained. Perez adds that high groundwater salinity is an issue in the Valle de Guadalupe, and one that vines are particularly sensitive to.

Geophysicist Dr. Rogelio Vazquez Gonzalez explained to Roads & Kingdoms recently that the valley’s soil, once an ocean bed, contains high concentrations of residual salts. As groundwater is extracted, the salt remains, increasing the salinity of the water within the aquifers. Vazquez believes that using recycled water could offset some of that extraction.

As competition rises worldwide for an increasingly scarce resource, it appears that more areas, including Mexico’s Baja California peninsula, have discovered that wastewater can be a valuable asset. What are your thoughts about the agricultural use of recycled water?  WE_bug_web

Comments
  • I like this idea of using recycled water for irrigation. In a recent study I read many persons disliked the idea of water reuse but how can one dislike the idea when you’re growing healthy produce, with no harm to persons or the environment.

    Reply
  • Jerry Maloney.

    As a practicing wastewater treatment engineer I had some exposure to the pressurized main that sent raw wastewater south towards Ensenada. I assume they use a new secure line now. Their complaint, at that time, was the farmers breaking into the raw water fpr irrigation purposes. There is no mention of the tertiary treatment technique now in use. Hope it includes some for of distillation/evaporation not just RO.

    Reply
  • rosemary sutherland.

    I used to live in Central Australia in a remote desert town and all the gardens and trees were watered with sewerage water. There was no produce as even back then there was the unknown factor of what may be feeding back through the food chain. However Asian countries have been doing it for centuries and they don’t seem to be any worse for it. The effect of all our medicines and chemicals that go into sewerage may be a modern day concern and we may just be contaminating otherwise good soil.

    Reply

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