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Plan To Irrigate Farms Using Treated Waste Water Gets Funding

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) - State officials on Tuesday approved funding a multi-million dollar project in Sacramento that will help farmers struggling to find water. Now they don't have to look farther than the bathroom.

California farmers were hit hard during years of drought.

"We were looking at every possible way we could to bring in more water," said Lindsey Leiberg with the Sacramento County Farm Bureau.

Now some will be getting relief, with the help of treated sewage.

"It's a very sustainable dependable water source," said Chrisoph Dobson with Regional Sanitation.

Sacramento's sewer district was just awarded $280 million in state bond money to launch a new program using treated wastewater to irrigate farms.

The water is sanitized but it's still not considered safe enough to drink, so it's dumped back into the river. This new plan calls for building a pipeline from the regional sanitation plant in Elk Grove to supply farms in the south county.

"They have a need to disperse that water. We have a need to use that water and so we foresee a great working relationship," said Leiberg.

"Regulations in California are very conservative already on recycled water and this water is approved for use on any type of food crop," said Dobson.

Farmers say most customers will never know they're eating food grown with wastewater.

"They will not see any decreased benefit as far as quality or quantity," said Leiberg.

The project also allows farmers to rely less on pumping water from underground wells.

"That allows the groundwater levels to rise and provides a lot of environmental benefits," said Dobson.

Supporters say using flushed water is a source that will never run dry.

"We often use the term "drought proof." It's certainly a ready source of water for a long time," said Dobson.

The total project is expected to cost $370 million and officials are hoping to have it up and running by 2023.

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