New ‘plant’ at Descanso will transform sewage into recovered irrigation water

Guiding a 165-acre greenhouse through the hazards of a statewide dry spell and record-high temperatures that, in the relatively recent past, scorched a large number of plant species has Descanso Gardens considering water use in the years ahead.

In this way, when the site’s biggest septic framework started failing in 2017, authorities searched for more than an insignificant fix and arrived on a minimized sewage treatment plant that would transform sewage into recycled water suitable for irrigation.

The membrane bioreactor (MBR) being installed for the current week will join biological wastewater treatment with ultrafine membrane filtration. Equipped for processing up to 40,000 gallons for every day, the framework ought to be fully operational by January.

“When our sewer system started to fail, we saw it as an opportunity to do something better,” said Descanso Executive Director Juliann Rooke. “The new MBR will take water that was not being used and put it right back into the gardens.”

At the point when operational, the framework will assist drip to irrigate a 1.5-acre front entrance garden along Descanso Drive being replanted after triple-digit heat a year ago killed a few prominent redwoods.

“They just couldn’t handle the heat,” said Descanso horticulturalist David Bare. “They were never going to be able to recover from that. We got to the point where we thought they were a fire hazard.”

The trees were expelled a month ago, their lumber given to different gardens and school groups that utilization reused redwood. New oaks and other native species will be planted in their place.

Bare’s team plans to experiment with “hügelkultur,” a practice where dead and decaying wood is set into raised beds to make nutrient-rich soil for new plantings. The expectation is the upgraded space will better reflect the horticulture seen inside the gardens.

“This landscape didn’t seem like a Descanso landscape,” Bare said. “What we want to do is put in a garden that’s more representational of what’s inside.”

The front entrance should use around 17,000 gallons of recycled water every day for irrigation, far below the new framework’s complete capacity.

Rooke and Bare said the treatment plant can carry a load of other septic frameworks on-site as they fall into disrepair and allow the irrigation of new green spaces being drawn into Descanso’s up and coming master strategy.

“When Manchester Boddy founded his ranch [which later became Descanso Gardens] in the 1930s, he secured water rights in Hall Beckley Canyon, about 3 miles away. We’ve had concerns over that water source and the pipes that bring the water to us,” Rooke said. “[Now] up to 40,000 gallons of water that were currently not usable will be treated and used to water the front-drive and, eventually, parking lot gardens.”

Bare applauded the new expansion for noting Descanso’s septic needs as well as illuminating a few different issues at the La Cañada office.

“This is a problem we’ve turned into an asset,” he said.