The Evolution of Wastewater Treatment in the Coachella Valley Sanitary District

By Roni Gehlke, Clean Water Magazine, editor, Members in the News

The Valley Sanitary District (VSD) and the Coachella Valley History Museum (CVHM) in Indio have collaborated to create an exhibit showcasing a series of models that demonstrate a range of wastewater treatment processes. The exhibit, named “The Evolution of Wastewater Treatment in the Coachella Valley,” illustrates the history of wastewater treatment, from outhouses and septic tanks to current treatment processes, as well as future types of advanced wastewater treatment for indirect and direct potable reuse.

“VSD was incorporated as a Special District in 1925, which is two years older than the City of Indio, the first incorporated City in the Coachella Valley,” said Dave N. Commons, Chief Operating Officer. “As we started preparing for this event, we realized that the community we have been serving for nearly a century knew very little about who we are, what we do, or where we are located.”

Commons said that partnering with CVHM has been the perfect opportunity for VSD to finally reach the community it has been serving for many years. The exhibit, which is now part of the museum’s docent-led tours, will now be seen by all who visit the museum.

“This outreach opportunity provides VSD with a chance to educate the community on the services we provide, as well as our planned development and growth for the future,” he said.

VSD staff not only collaborated with CVHM to provide an exhibit layout that would fit with the museum’s tours but also had the opportunity to develop the student and adult scripts for the Museum’s docents to use during their tours.

“Even just helping with the training of volunteer docents has enabled us to promote awareness and educate them,” Commons said.

The exhibit highlights the crucial role of wastewater treatment, starting from VSD’s customer’s homes and ending at the VDS’s treatment plant. It explains in detail how almost all of the water used in the Coachella Valley is sourced from the drinking water aquifer, which is mainly recharged by imported surface water from the Colorado River and other reliable sources.

“Even during droughts, this source of water remains dependable, which reinforces the significance of wastewater treatment for future growth and obtaining a reliable and constant supply of indirect and potentially direct potable water reuse,” Commons said.