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Citys goal of reliable drinking water closer to reality
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The city of Ceres is one step closer to securing an alternative source of drinking water after the Stanislaus Regional Water Authority awarded a $2 million contract on Wednesday, April 13 to West Yost Associates to develop the Regional Surface Water Supply Project.

"Wednesday's vote was the most critical vote I've made since I became mayor," said Turlock Mayor Gary Soiseth, who is the vice chair of the SRWA. "I made a goal of providing clean, safe and reliable drinking water to Turlock's residents and now we are well on our way to making that goal a reality."

The SRWA is a regional authority that includes the cities of Ceres and Turlock. In November, the city of Modesto opted out of the regional partnership.

At an October government forum, Ceres Mayor Chris Vierra said the costs of the plant are unknown but could cause Ceres' water rates to go up $60 to $70 per month higher, depending on how many cities get involved.

The plant would be built under a joint powers authority called the Stanislaus Regional Water Authority. After 30 years of talk the SRWA recently got the Turlock Irrigation District Board of Directors to agree to a Water Sales Agreement that will sell river water for domestic use to the Stanislaus Regional Water Authority.

The project, nearly 30 years in the making, will divert surface water from the Tuolumne River for domestic use, reducing dependence on groundwater basins.

In July, the SRWA accepted a water sales agreement with the Turlock Irrigation District to transfer surface water from the Tuolumne River. In turn, the cities will provide "offset water" to TID during dry or "less than normal" years. The offset water, which would be composed of a blend of recycled and non-drinkable well water, will serve to balance the reduced river water available to irrigators as a result of the transfer.

The 50-year agreement will provide up to 30,000 acre feet of transfer water to the SWRA annually and will be priced at TID's Tier 4 Irrigation Rate of $20 per acre-foot.

West Yost Associates' contract amount of $2,007,472 will consist of $674,975 for a 90-day "Quick Start Plan," $1,150,000 for the remainder of Phase 1 and a 10 percent contingency budget of $182,497.

The $674,975 is to be paid out of the 2015-16 budget, with Ceres and Turlock each paying half ($337,487). The funding balance of the contract will be included in the 2016-17 budget.

The Quick Start plan includes a project team review within the first week, identifying overall project goals, developing a funding strategy to apply for state and federal grants and loans, evaluating initial project facility capabilities and providing technical support to environmental consultant, among other elements.

Over the first 90 days, West Yost will be figuring out how big the project needs to be and what type of technology will be used to treat the water, said Cooke.