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Tapped-Out Farmers Applaud Escondido Decision To Recycle Wastewater

San Diego avocado growers have lost thousands of acres to rising water costs....

Photo by Savor San Diego

Above: San Diego avocado growers have lost thousands of acres to rising water costs. Savor San Diego talks with an avocado grower at Stehly Farms in Valley Center here.

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Escondido is moving forward with a wastewater recycling program that could provide relief for farmers struggling with rising water costs.

The city of Escondido has approved a plan to spend $285 million to recycle its wastewater. It will allow the city to build infrastructure over the next 15 years that will purify the wastewater and take it from sewage pipes to avocado and citrus groves.

San Diego Farm Bureau Executive Director Eric Larson said the plan could help local farmers regain the thousands of acres they've lost to rising water costs.

"The farmers would receive the recycled water from the city of Escondido at a substantially discounted price and it may give those farmers, not only the ability to stay in business, but could potentially give them the capacity to expand their business and plant more acreage," said Larson, who joined a coalition of farmers in lobbying for the recycling program.

Escondido farmers currently buy the same potable water piped into homes from the State Water Project and Colorado River.

Larson said the quality of the recycled water won't be a problem for avocado and citrus consumers, because it will be highly treated and won't be sprayed directly onto the fruit. And Escondido utilities Director Chris McKinney said the city hopes to have its system certified for potable reuse, meaning it would supply drinking water for residents.

McKinney said securing the city's water supply will stabilize rates for households, too.

"It's a win-win," Larson said. "It's good for the farmers and it's good for the city."

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