Existing irrigation practices around the city of Ontario, Malheur County, Oregon while in compliance with all current regulations may have a potential issue with future water quality and testing rules as a part of FDA’s Food Safety Modernization Act. The proposed FDA regulations could impact practices of onion growers.

The new rules would limit the E.coli to 126 CFU (E.coli is used as an indicator species for foodborne pathogens) which are similar to the regulations for use in recreational waters. Some of the preliminary testing indicated that the loads could vary from 1 -1000 CFU. Most of the samples have a range of 100-500CFUs. Last three years of testing has indicated no E. coli 157 and Salmonella sp. presence.

Farmers in Columbia basin, Colorado and central valley of California would be impacted in a similar way with the proposed regulations as they also use surface waters for irrigation in similar conditions. Given this wide range of variations in the bacterial loads from the fields, the proposed FDA regulations and its importance to agriculture in many states, the solutions to this problem can be classified into two broad categories as indicated below. The project options will focus on decentralized treatments options exclusively.

Some of the challenges are:

  1. Wide spatio-temporal variation in bacterial loads.
  2. Complexity of the current irrigation system.
  3. Sunk costs into existing farming practices.
  4. Many regulatory issues involving multiple Govt. agencies.
  5. Multiple stake holders.

The overall goal of this project is to design, develop and evaluate different options to meet the proposed regulations while minimizing the economic costs and environmental impacts of the proposed design. The proposed design must strive to minimize the impact on existing agricultural practices.

At a minimum your design must include the following elements:

  1. Meet the regulatory aspects.
  2. Meet functionality constraints in terms of water usage patterns and existing agricultural practices.
  3. Measures to conserve water, harvest water, improve water reuse/recycle and reduce discharge.
  4. Measures to conserve energy and improve energy efficiency.
  5. Consider climatic factors in your design.
  6. Economic considerations in all designs (Capital versus operating costs, comparison to current state of affairs).
  7. Regulatory aspects (ex. is the implementation of the project plan permitted by law?)
  8. Scalability to accommodate different funding scenarios.

Provide your design, evaluate the net present value of the design and life-cycle analysis.