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EBMUD Recycled Water Can Save Alameda Wetlands

East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD) supplies Alameda’s drinking water, but is now planning to also supply recycled water for irrigation. The City must communicate to EBMUD the necessity of prioritizing the recycled water distribution system out to Alameda Point. Without the supply system in place in the near future, important seasonal wetlands will likely be destroyed.

Alameda Post - a photo of wetlands at Alameda Point with text labeling Site 1, Site 32, two wetland areas threatened with destruction, another linear wetland that will remain, and a mound of soil for covering Site 32
The wetlands at Alameda Point are in danger. Photo Richard Bangert.

EBMUD is planning to extend its East Bayshore Recycled Water Project line under the Estuary to Alameda’s shoreline in 2027. Meanwhile, the Navy is currently moving closer to deciding whether to cover 10 acres of seasonal wetlands on the old airfield at cleanup Site 32, rather than redesigning and expanding them to 15 acres as originally envisioned, due to a lack of reliable water.

Alameda Post - a great egret in lush vegetation
Wetlands provide resources for all sorts of creatures including this great egret. Photo Richard Bangert.

A short distance from the wetlands that might be destroyed is another wetland the Navy created six years ago. But that new wetland did not meet its mandatory vegetation and wildlife goals due to drought. As a last resort, in late 2022 the Navy installed a temporary irrigation system hooked up to a fire hydrant in the vicinity.



Using drinking water to maintain wetlands and landscapes is not a long-term solution. Using recycled water is.

Alameda Post - dry grass on Alameda Point with the text, "Dry, poor quality grassland located a few yards away from irrigated wetland at Alameda Point, as seen on July 2, 2023. "
Recycled water is a great option for the wetlands. Photo Richard Bangert.

The Navy informed the Restoration Advisory Board at its recent June 15 meeting that it is going to conduct a second wetland feasibility study to determine whether the wetland project is still financially feasible, after a long delay by regulatory agencies. The impetus for the study is based on its experience at the newly created wetland referenced above. But now there is a feasible solution to the rainfall uncertainty—recycled water. “Drought” is no longer a justification for destroying Alameda Point wetlands.

A recycled water supply would allow for creation of a botanical showcase on the old airfield beyond the wetlands. In the developed area, it would mean supplying recycled water to all of the landscape irrigation lines currently being installed with new street infrastructure. Until EBMUD installs its delivery network, the current recycled water pipes will be carrying drinking water.

Alameda Post - thriving and diverse vegetation at Bohol Circle Immigrant Park
Bohol Circle Immigrant Park’s landscaping. Photo Richard Bangert.

To appreciate just how biologically transformative a recycled water supply could be on the airfield, visit Bohol Circle Immigrant Park next to Alameda Landing. The lush, diverse landscaping is breathtaking. It looks like what you would expect in a botanical garden. Eventually, when the recycled water line reaches Alameda and the distribution system is in place, this park’s landscaping will be irrigated with recycled water.

In April, EBMUD completed the new potable water pipeline under the Estuary from Oakland to Alameda, and crews are now working to connect it to the existing drinking water pipes.  “We are working to repurpose the old pipeline to use to supply recycled water to Alameda,” said Rischa S. Cole, Secretary of the District. “This would involve putting a new pipe in the old pipeline which will not only save money, but also reduce disruption to the estuary habitat and the environment.”

Alameda Post - a photo of a hydrant pipe next to tall grass
A hydrant irrigation pipe for the wetland. Photo Richard Bangert.

The estuary crossing portion of the recycled water project is only the beginning. After the plastic pipe is fed through the old metal pipeline, EBMUD will take the next steps to design and build the distribution pipes in Alameda, as illustrated in its project fact sheet. “EBMUD will be responsible for the planning, funding and installation of that pipeline in close coordination with the City of Alameda,” said Christopher Tritto, Public Information Representative for EBMUD. “We have not started designing that stage of the project, and the funding and timeline are yet to be determined.”

Alameda Post - a map of Alameda and Oakland with the words "East Bayshore Recycled Water Project" and lines indicating where the estuary crossing pipeline is, where the existing recycled pipeline is, and where the planned recycled pipeline is.
The East Bayshore Recycled Water Project could bring invaluable recycled water to the wetlands at Alameda Point. Image adapted from EBMUD.

A February 2023 map supplied by EBMUD envisions a recycled water line extending out onto the airfield, past the area used by Alameda’s Antiques Faire, and ending where the wetlands are located.

Time is of the essence. Send an email to City Manager Jennifer Ott and urge the City to work with EBMUD to accelerate design and funding for the distribution system so that it is in place in 2027 when the recycled water line arrives. Uncertainty and delay over delivering recycled water could unwittingly lead the Navy to unnecessarily destroy wetlands if EBMUD and our city fail to appreciate what’s at stake and collaborate on saving the wetlands while the Navy is making its decision.

Alameda Post - an aerial photo of Alameda Point wetlands with the text "Site 1 wetland with temporary irrigation lines in basin. As seen on June 4, 2023, as vegetation began growing. Navy to re-seed bare shoulder of the weland in the fall."
The wetlands play a crucial role in the local ecosystem. Photo Richard Bangert.

The EBMUD line will supply up to 500,000 gallons of recycled water per day! That’s a lot of water to grow plants and expand wetlands. It will also reduce the amount of pre-treated water that EBMUD releases into the Bay, which can contribute to toxic algae blooms as happened in 2022 killing thousands of fish.

EBMUD has not yet started the engineering drawings for the distribution pipes to carry the water out to Alameda Point, and no funding currently exists to install the distribution network. Now is the time to prioritize the recycled water distribution system in Alameda.

Contributing writer Richard Bangert posts stories and photos about environmental issues on his blog Alameda Point Environmental Report, https://alamedapointenviro.com/. His writing is collected at AlamedaPost.com/Richard-Bangert.

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