The land-grant mission in action
One of the great engineering and public policy achievements of the 20th century was the development of municipal systems for capturing domestic and industrial wastewater. Municipal systems treat wastewater to remove toxins and to degrade and eliminate organic wastes, and return it to streams and lakes clean enough to sustain aquatic organisms and to allow for safe contact by people whether in swimming, fishing or boating.
Historically, we avoided reusing wastewater, in part, because we were so accustomed to it being dangerous to use in any way. However, the improvements made in response to the Clean Water Act of 1972, and prior federal legislation on wastewater treatment, have created an opportunity for us to reevaluate ways in which we can reuse treated wastewater. And one of the prime opportunities for reusing treated wastewater is in irrigation of agronomic crops.
Last Friday (April 24), I had the pleasure of traveling to Chickasha for the OSU Grady County Wheat Field Day at the South Central Research Station. As part of the festivities, we broke ground on a new water reuse and irrigation system.
This state-of-the-art irrigation system will use water recycled and repurposed from the City of Chickasha’s treated effluent currently discharged into the Washita River. With water being such a precious commodity in Oklahoma and across the nation, this is a great opportunity for us to demonstrate being good stewards of our land and natural resources while conducting research on a topic of increasing importance.
Once construction of the system is completed and the water reuse project gets underway, it will give our researchers a better understanding of how use of treated municipal effluent may affect soil quality, crop productivity and water quality of runoff from irrigated fields. It also will allow scientists to evaluate alternative approaches between two different irrigation systems: one will be linear and the other will be a center-pivot structure.
In addition, we are learning about issues that municipalities must consider if they receive requests for using treated effluent for irrigation and we can help city leaders and farm operators learn how to work together to achieve these efficiencies in reuse systems. Ultimately, we need to explore a number of pathways for enhancing agricultural production here and abroad using water resources we have previously considered unavailable or unusable.
Overall, this project is a great example of ongoing research across DASNR that has significant potential to have a far-reaching impact on the lives of Oklahomans as well as individuals and families across the world.
This is the land-grant mission in action at OSU and I couldn’t be prouder or more excited to be a part of it all.