Every time a toilet is flushed in Ceres, farmers on the west side of the county will be getting water to farm.
The North Valley Regional Recycled Water Project, which will see recycled water from the cities of Ceres and Turlock go to drought-stricken farmers in the county’s westside, has reached its next milestone.
Members of the recycled water program broke ground Friday on the Turlock component of the project that will see the construction of a six-mile pipeline that will convey Turlock’s recycled water to Modesto’s Wastewater Treatment Plant on Jennings Road. A portion of Turlock’s recycled wastewater comes from Ceres through a pipeline from the Ceres wastewater treatment plant. At Jennings Road, recycled water from Ceres and Turlock will enter into the Modesto pipeline and be pumped to the Delta-Mendota Canal.
The North Valley partnership is the single largest recycled water conveyance project in the country and the first water project for the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, the owner and operator of the Delta-Mendota Canal.
The project will convey 10,000-acre feet of recycled water from Turlock and Modesto through the construction of a pump station and pipelines to the Delta-Mendota Canal for agricultural use by Del Puerto Water District and for wildlife refuges by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.
Funding for the project is coming from a U.S. Department of Interior grant in the amount of $4.2 million and a loan secured from the State Water Resources Control Board for $39 million.
Initially, Ceres and Turlock will provide about 10,000 acre-feet of recycled water. In 2016, the Turlock City Council approved an agreement that requires the Del Puerto Water District paying Turlock $175 per acre-foot for recycled wastewater over the next 40 years.
The water sale agreement, and its steady stream of revenue, allowed the city of Turlock to apply for a low-interest loan from the State Water Resources Control Board to pay for its part in the design and construction of the North Valley Regional Recycled Water Program.
This agreement not only helps the farmers in the western part of the county who have experienced significant water shortages over the past seven years, it also helps Turlock. Currently, the wastewater of both Ceres and Turlock is discharged into the San Joaquin River, a tributary to the Delta and an impaired water body under the Clean Water Act. Turlock, and thus Ceres are subjected to increasing wastewater treatment costs and regulations, like a provision that requires the installation of a new ultra violet light disinfection system – at an estimated cost of $15 million not including electricity and labor - by 2019.
The recycled water project will remove the cities’ wastewater from the San Joaquin River and pump it to the westside through the Harding Drain Bypass (installed in 2014) and into the Delta-Mendota Canal.
Jeff Benziger contributed to this article.