Sacramento Regional County Sanitation District Member Spotlight

South Sacramento County Agriculture & Habitat Lands Recycled Water Program (South County Ag Program)

The Sacramento region’s water supply comes from two primary sources: snowpack runoff and groundwater. As a metropolitan area and agricultural hub, the Sacramento Valley’s water needs are significant. However, in the coming years the region is expected to experience increasingly variable precipitation as a result of climate change. This will pose a threat to the region’s water supply. Increasingly variable precipitation is expected to lead to diminished snowpack and more frequent droughts increasing the region’s reliance on groundwater pumping (Sacramento Valley Region Report). California and the Central Valley in particular rely on groundwater when snowpack is insufficient for agriculture as well as growing residential, commercial, and industrial water needs.

In the Sacramento region, the Sacramento Regional County Sanitation District (Regional San) owns and operates the regional wastewater conveyance system and the Sacramento Regional Wastewater Treatment Plant located near Elk Grove. Regional San provides wastewater conveyance and treatment service to about 1.4 million residential, commercial, and industrial customers throughout the region. Since 2003, Regional San has worked to provide an environmentally responsible and safe supply of water for non-potable uses through its Water Recycling Program. Under the Water Recycling Program, Regional San carries out a number of water recycling programs and efforts, including the South Sacramento County Agriculture and Habitat Lands Recycled Water Program (South County Ag Program).

The South County Ag Program is one of the most recent additions to Regional San’s Water Recycling Program. Once completed, the Program will proactively restore and manage groundwater with tertiary-treated recycled water. The following CRC Member Spotlight features Regional San’s South County Ag Program.

South County Ag Program

The South County Ag Program (Program) is currently in the stages of planning and design. Once completed, the Program will work to restore groundwater levels and decrease reliance on groundwater pumping by using tertiary-treated recycled water from Regional San’s wastewater treatment plant on agricultural lands and habitat mitigation lands. The Program is forecasted to deliver up to 50,000 acre-feet per year (AFY) of drought-resistant recycled water to irrigate more than 16,000 acres of permanent agriculture and habitat conservation lands near the Cosumnes River and Stone Lakes Wildlife Refuge. Recycled water would be used in-lieu of pumping groundwater. Additionally, the Program proposes to provide further groundwater recharge by implementing wintertime irrigation and wildlife-friendly recharge basins in the project area where the soils are suitable. By restoring groundwater levels, the South County Ag Program is expected to provide a multitude of benefits to the agriculture and conservation lands in the area.

Program benefits

The South County Ag Program is an exceptional opportunity to proactively restore and manage groundwater, improve stream flows in the lower Cosumnes River, enhance riparian habitats and wetlands, sustain prime agricultural lands, and improve regional water supply reliability. The Program will offer multiple benefits, including providing a safe and reliable supply of tertiary-treated water for agricultural uses, reducing groundwater pumping, supporting habitat restoration efforts, and providing near-term benefits to the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.

The South County Ag Program offers numerous benefits:

  • Increases regional and state water supply reliability through groundwater storage and conjunctive use.
  • Provides up to 50,000 acre feet per year of recycled water to irrigate up to 16,000 acres of agricultural lands.
  • Improves water quality by restoring groundwater levels and increasing in-stream flows in the Cosumnes River.
  • Restores depleted groundwater levels up to 35 feet within 15 years and helps achieve compliance with the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA).
  • Increases groundwater storage capacity by approximately 245,000 acre-feet within 10 years, and approximately 450,000 acre-feet in 40 years.
  • Supports and increases riparian and wetland conditions on over 5,000 acres.
  • Supports a variety of threatened species, such as Swainson’s Hawk, Sandhill Cranes, and Giant Garter Snake.
  • Increases frequency of Cosumnes River in-stream flows to support fall-run Chinook Salmon.
  • Supports the State and U.S. Bureau of Reclamation goals for increased use of recycled water
  • Provides reliable agricultural water supplies, enhanced groundwater storage opportunities, and drought resiliency

Regional San has worked extensively with local environmental, agricultural, and water supply partners. The Environmental Defense Fund, The Nature Conservancy, the Sierra Club, the Sacramento County Farm Bureau, Sacramento County (CRC Member), and the Sacramento Central Groundwater Authority are just a few of the Program’s supporters.


Development of the South County Ag Recycling Program is primarily funded by Proposition 1, the Water Quality, Supply, and Infrastructure Improvement Act of 2014. Proposition 1 dedicates $2.7 billion to California’s Water Storage Investment Program (WSIP). Funds allocated under Proposition 1 must be used to achieve five public benefits: ecosystem improvements, water quality improvements, flood control, emergency response, and recreation. The California Water Commission dictates how the $2.7 billion will be allocated. Among the fund allocations, Regional San will receive $280.5 million—the maximum requested funding amount—in Proposition 1 grant funding to help make the South County Ag Program a reality for the Sacramento region. Proposition 1 funds will pay for the majority of the Program, the total Project Capital Costs of which are estimated to be approximately $300 million (in 2015 dollars).


Next steps include continuing planning efforts with local farmers and beginning preliminary designs for transmission and distribution systems to convey recycled water from the Sacramento Regional Wastewater Treatment Plant near Elk Grove.