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Agriculture Water Reuse Specialty Conference

NIFA, USDA's Agricultural Research Service, Washington State University, and the WateReuse Association sponsored a conference on Opportunities and Challenges in Agricultural Water Reuse in Santa Rosa, CA, on October 29-31, 2006.

A pre-conference field tour of agricultural sites that apply recycled water provided a first-hand look at the economic advantages and production capabilities of irrigating flowers and vegetables, turfgrass, livestock forage and grain, and wine-producing vineyards. The tour also showed the advantages of using recycled water to maintain dairy system hygiene. Partnerships among municipal water providers and agricultural water users have created economic benefits to both while emphasizing the importance of finding diverse uses for recycled water to balance supply and demand.

The 2-day conference began with a plenary keynote address from a Representative of the USDA Research, Education, and Economics Mission Area, calling for continued research and education on the use of recycled water in agriculture to inform decisionmakers about this aspect of water management.

Additional conference sessions addressed public perception and proof of performance; emerging issues, including understanding and management of risks associated with use of recycled water; the economics of water reuse in agriculture; and the adequacy of technologies for use of recycled water.

Participants suggested challenges and opportunities that exist in water reuse research, education, and outreach.  Four concurrent breakout sessions addressed the following:

  • which crop for which place with what water?;
  • reducing human exposure during production and understanding exposure risks for consumption;
  • improving public perception and acceptance; and  
  • management actions to improve irrigation with recycled water.

The conference concluded with a panel discussion featuring members from a municipal utility, regional water pollution control agency, water consultancy, and university extension food safety faculty.  The panel provided input to USDA about next steps to expand its efforts in water reuse.  A final conference report is being prepared. 


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