California's Soda Springs Steps Up To Snowmaking Using Recycled Wastewater
Yes, it’s finally a bonanza snow season in the Sierra with double-digit storms all over, but the managers of Soda Springs Mountain Resort don’t regret their decision to become the first California resort to use recycled water for snowmaking.
Located near Donner Pass, the day-trip area has relied upon natural snowfall for decades, but a four-year drought in California forced managers to “look outside the box.”
“Not only did we need a snowmaking system,” says Soda Springs’ Amy Ohran, “but we needed to find an inventive way to find a sustainable water resource.”
That source came from the Donner Summit Public Utility District in the form of recycled wastewater. After a treatment plant overhaul and infrastructure installation this summer, Soda Springs Mountain has become the first California mountain to put recycled water into its snowmaking pumps and pipes.
Mountain managers have assured skiers and riders who come to Soda Springs that there is no health hazard with recycled-water snow. To be sure, they’ve posted signs around the area warning people not to eat any snow, whether manmade or not.
In a opportune synergy, exactly how much water will be available will depend upon the number of skiers and snowboarders who come up to the Donner Summit area, which is also home to Boreal Mountain, Sugar Bowl and Tahoe Donner winter resorts?
If there’s a consistent snow cover on the ground keeps, the ski areas stay open, there are more people are on the hill – creating more effluent.
Soda Springs joins Arizona Snowbowl as the two winter resorts in the West that use recycled water to make snow. In 2012, the northern Arizona mountain and U.S. Forest Service had to go to court to gain approval for use water from the Flagstaff treatment plant. Opposition came from Native American tribes who consider the San Francisco Mountains – where Arizona Snowbowl is located – to be sacred lands.
Photos: Top -- Snowmaking finally comes to Soda Springs using recycled water (Soda Springs/Facebook); Below -- But, for now, there's plenty of natural pow on the mountain (Soda Springs/Facebook)