Irrigating crops with treated wastewater is widely considered a promising but underused way to help relieve drought impacts in Oregon and across the West.

Given that consensus, it would seem self-imposed bureaucratic obstacles that hinder water recycling could be revised or scrapped with minimal fuss. But that assumption fails to account for the difficulty in changing entrenched state government processes — even when nobody disputes an overhaul is warranted.

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Todd Miller, environmental services supervisor for the City of Springfield, Ore., explains the functioning of the Metropolitan Wastewater Management Commission’s Biocycle Farm, which irrigates 400 acres of poplars with treated wastewater from Eugene and Springfield.

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Thomas Gray, public information and education analyst with the City of Springfield, examines treated wastewater from a Metropolitan Wastewater Management Commission facility in Lane County, Ore. Some of the treated wastewater irrigates about 400 acres of poplar trees.

Susan Schlangen

Susan Schlangen

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