As one of the most densely populated member state of the US, California's demand for water resources is very high. With an estimated population of more than 39 million citizens, the state's need for water resources is incomparable to few other regions (Mount, & Hanak, 2016). Water is essential in many aspects of life. The large and ever-increasing population implies that the demand for water for household use is significantly high too. The state of California also boasts a robust agricultural sector that yields a considerable annual output. This also puts a demand on the water resources, to meet agricultural and environmental needs of the state (Water World, 2015). Industrial and recreational needs for water have also impacted the amount and use of water resources. California's economy is based on diverse industries. The state is widely known as the heart of tech and entertainment ventures. This, the area needs a lot of water to meet the needs of these firms. The climate of California is unfavorable as droughts often plague the state. These climatic changes negatively affect water availability and supply to the industries and homes, thus affecting the economy of the region. This paper will discuss the economic effects realized from water recycling in California and its impact on the economy.
Water Recycling Measures
In order to understand the economic effects that water recycling has had on the state of California, it is prudent to explore the attempts made at recycling briefly. The region has invested in numerous industrial processes that facilitate the treatment of wastewater. Wastewater treatment entails removal of contaminants from water (California State Water Quality Control Board, 2018). California's water treatment plants identify the ways treated wastewater can be used. The process involves identification of impurities to be removed from wastewater, such as suspended solids, oil, and grease, hydrocarbons, and organics among others. The steps involved in the wastewater treatment processes mostly depend on the intended use of the recycled water. More rigorous measures are required if the recycled water is for human and domestic use. For uses such as non-potable functions, steps in industrial wastewater treatment are up to standards, though not more comprehensive compared to the treatment of water for human consumption. The treatment and recycling process is aimed at reducing the consumption rate of water from the already strained water resources in the state.
Economic Effects of Water Recycling
Agriculture and Irrigation
The usage of recycled water for agricultural purposes in California has had a positive impact on the state's economy. Many agrarian water recycling projects were established to provide alternatives for wastewater disposal ("Benefits of Water Recycling"). Standards set by the US environmental agency required states to minimize water pollution rates through treatment of wastewater. As a result, the water obtained from the recycling process has been diverted to agricultural use. Millions of acres in California are under irrigation. Recycled water has helped to continuously irrigate the larger California farms regardless of the harsh drought seasons (Schulte, n.d). Farming is one of the productive sectors that contribute to the economy of the state. Through irrigation measures, the effects of the periodic droughts experienced in California have been mitigated.
The constant supply of water to the farms has facilitated food production and security in the state. Recycled water finds its way to the farms by gravity, laser leveling, as well as pumping and delivery systems. Crops that yield high outputs and revenue such as nuts, grapes, and other fruits, have benefited from the irrigation projects (Schulte, n.d). The economic effect of recycled water use in agriculture, through irrigation, has been positive. It has led to increased revenues accrued from the sale of the crops grown on irrigation schemes. Irrigation, having facilitated food security, has enabled the government to reduce the cost of meeting the food needs of the sizeable Californian population. Other economic effects realized from the use of recycled water in irrigation and farming includes regular crop production (US EPA, 2017). This means that farmers can schedule their planting and harvesting seasons without fear of interruptions. This means steady and reliable income for the farmers and state. Recycled water use in irrigation has also impacted the state economically. It has ensured a considerable reduction in the number of costs incurred by growers and the state in water costs to facilitate farming. This implies that expenses initially spent due to high water costs can be diverted to serve other sectors.
The use of recycled water in California for large-scale cooling purposes has positively impacted the economy, by cutting down the expenses incurred by the state, firms, and industries for cooling. The cost of using fresh water is higher than the value of using recycled water (Water World, 2015). Plants that require large volumes of water for cooling such as the Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station save millions of funds, by utilizing recycled water. Other industries that have embraced this strategy for their evaporative cooling systems include utility power plants, refineries, chemical plants, general manufacturing firms, as well as air conditioning industries. The cost for the reclaimed water is at almost half the price compared to that of municipal's fresh water costs (Cooley, Gleick, & Wilkinson, 2014). Consequently, this enables the firms to save on expenses, while retaining productivity. The state also benefits economically from the sale of municipal reclaimed water to the firms. Thus, it is a source of revenue for the state government.
The Construction Industry
In 2015, October, the Western Municipal Water District of California took a bold step. The municipal decided to switch to the use of recycled water for its construction purposes ("Urban Water Management Plan"). Many construction sites adopted the use of recycled water over fresh water. This had a positive economic effect on the state of California. This bold action meant that less project funding would go into the cost of water acquisition. Adoption of the use of recycled water for construction also indicated that the industry freed up thousands of gallons of water for human and domestic use (Water World, 2015). This implied that the state had saved in costs for availing fresh water to its large population. Recycled water in the construction industry is used for activities such as soil conditioning as well as for dust control. The recycled water can also be used for concrete mixing. The volumes of water used in mixing sand, gravel, and water to form concrete for construction are high, and use of recycled water can make a big difference in cost. Such activities do not necessarily require fresh water. Reduced costs in water expenses for the building industry have also facilitated the growth of real estate in the area (Mount & Hanak, 2016). This is because the sector has become attractive, with the prospects of a reduction in capital required for initial building processes. The state has benefited from the levies charged on the construction sector.
The Revitalization of the Ecosystem: Saves Long-Term Costs
The state of California uses recycled water to revitalize its ecosystem, by injecting recycled water into the ground. This is done to boost surface water basins with recycled water. It is also done to rejuvenate groundwater aquifers (California Association of Sanitation Agencies, 2018). The economic effect of these processes is realized in the long term. By incorporating these measures to revitalize the ecosystem, the state of California aims to prevent saltwater intrusion (US EPA, 2017). The towns that border the coastal front are prone to this intrusion. In the absence of recycled water to play this role, the state of California would need to set aside millions of government funds for desalination. Desalination is an expensive process, and thus, through mitigation, by injecting recycled water into the system, the state has saved cost. For instance, since 1976, the Water Factory 21 found in Orange County has been undertaking an injection project. This positively impacts the economy, as the state may never have to incur the expensive desalination costs if the recycled water augments the groundwater supply (California Association of Sanitation Agencies, 2018). This revitalization of the ecosystem also ensures a sufficient flow of water to the habitats of plants, wildlife, and marine animals. The ecosystem, when well nurtured, provides a balanced and healthy environment that also supports the productivity of its inhabitants.
Reduced Fertilizer Costs
The use of recycled water for landscaping in California has also contributed to the economic benefits that the state enjoys. This is because reports have confirmed that nutrients survive the reclamation and treatment process. As such, recycled water contains nutrients absent in fresh water. The use of recycled water in the landscaping of golf courses, public parks, and local government facilities has reduced the costs (US EPA, 2017). This is because the amounts of fertilizer needed for the landscaping have been reduced by use of recycled water in the process. The irrigation and watering of these grounds save up a lot of revenue for the government and businesses. This is a definite economic implication associated with utilization of recycled water.
The Incentive to Businesses: Dependable and Affordable Water for Non-Potable Uses
Recycled water has had a positive economic effect in California. This is because the government has been able to offer incentives to local businesses, industries, and high rise building owners ("Benefits of Water Recycling"). The incentives are in the form of supply of reliable and affordable water resources. The recycled water, availed at cheaper rates compared to freshwater, has enabled the state to retain businesses and industries, in spite of the droughts that hit the area. The recycled water incentivized to these businesses is mainly used for non-potable purposes, such as toilet and urinal flushing (Mount & Hanak, 2016). By being able to retain business activities within the state with a constant supply of recycled water, California has benefited economically. The benefits are realized in the form of taxes and levies imposed by the California businesses laws. Another economic effect of the use of recycled water with this regard is that the state government has been able to create a positive business climate. Consequently, this has encouraged an influx of investors and entrepreneurs into the region, since the availability of water is one of the major influencing factors in investment decision-making.
Reduced Costs Incurred in Importing of Water
With a huge population and subsequent huge demand for water resources, the state of California had to import water from other states to meet the needs of its citizenry. The costs incurred in the importation of freshwater were extremely high. This was not an economically efficient approach to the water problem in the state since pumping water over the mountains into the Los Angeles basin was costly too. Generally, importation required a comprehensive water delivery system that was expensive to maintain, since the process involved numerous pumps, subways, and aqueducts to supply imported water (Brick, 2010). Quality control measures were also part of the delivery system to ensure high water standards. Thus, it was not economically feasible, with the rising costs and environmental pollution restrictions. The advancement of water treat...
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