industrial center of Tahoe-Reno uses wastewater to attract new businesses | Economy


In 2014, Tesla struck a deal to build its massive “Gigafactory One” just outside of Reno. This move brought the Tahoe-Reno Industrial Center, or TRI, national fame.

Today, 25,000 people work on site, in more than 100 different companies. But they are still trying to grow. And to do this, they are building a one-of-a-kind water supply system in the middle of the desert.

It feels a bit like an oasis in the middle of miles of desert, and the TRI team hopes that for tech companies looking for a home, their new reclaimed water system will be just as appealing.

“You can’t get the big tech companies unless you’re very environmentally friendly and have great grades,” TRI project manager Kris Thompson said during a site visit. “It will power most tech companies here.”

Tesla was TRI’s big hit eight years ago. But these days, the world’s largest industrial park is home to much more than Tesla:

Switch, Google, and Blockchains, to name a few, have all opened up to large tracts of land among rolling hills, sagebrush, and wild horses.

In the desert economy, taxes are low and space is plentiful. But another vital resource is lacking: water. It may not look like it, but buildings mostly filled with machinery need a lot of it, for cooling.

The brains behind TRI saw this coming. So over 20 years ago, before there was anything, they laid the groundwork for their latest project: a giant reservoir and pipe system to deliver water through the development of 104,000 acres.

“It’s huge,” Thompson said. “As far as I know, this is the largest industrial reclaimed water system in the United States. In total, it will be 10,000 acre-feet of water, which is huge.”

One of TRI’s founders, Roger Norman, handles much of the infrastructure planning for the park.

“We just had to dig a nice big hole, line it, put the ripstop on and make sure we had drainage,” Norman explained.

That, and $30 million.

In fact, the whole system will cost around $100 million. It is partly paid for by a coalition of companies that will benefit from it. Over the next two years, they will put in place the pipelines to pump the water to technology companies for industrial cooling.

Where the water goes, it will mean savings and growth. But where the water comes from is what they are particularly proud of.

“This is a retention area for water from the sewage plant,” Norman said.

This is the wastewater, which was not used anyway, from the Reno/Sparks and TRI treatment plants. Here, combined with storm runoff, it’s all but wasted.

“It’s the right thing to do,” Thompson said, “and it’s the desert, so it will help us preserve a lot of groundwater.”

This water harvesting project is just one of many projects the TRI team is working on. Thompson and Norman gave 2 News a sneak peek at their next big thing, so stay tuned for an update on that. In the meantime, to see our original Roger Norman exclusive from 2018, Click here.


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