Currently every drop of water that comes out of faucets in Ceres comes straight out of the ground. But come June 2023, some of that water will be directly piped from the Tuolumne River after it’s been treated.
Construction is about 25 percent completed and running $1 million under budget, a manager of the project told the Ceres City Council on Monday evening.
Bob Granberg, general manager of the Stanislaus Regional Water Authority (SRWA), a joint powers authority to allow the cities of Ceres and Turlock to buy water from Turlock Irrigation District and operate the plant to treat and deliver water at cost, gave the update.
“We continue to find ways to reduce the cost of the project and make the project more efficient in operation,” said Granberg.
Both cities have enacted a series of rate increases in city water rates to pay for the $220 million plant. Granberg said that the JPA borrowed $184.9 million for the plant after receiving $35 million in grant funds. Borrowing from the State Revolving Fund at 1.2 percent interest rate has saved the project $100 million it would have incurred through municipal bond financing, he noted.
Based on water needs of their populations, Ceres will pay roughly a third of the cost, or $61.6 million, while Turlock is responsible for two-thirds, or $123.3 million. The annual debt service for Ceres is $2.5 million over 30 years and approximately $1.7 million for operations and maintenance depending on staff, electrical and chemical costs.
Ceres will ultimately receive up to 15 million gallons of water per day while Turlock takes 30 million gallons. Two additional phases will increase the plant’s capacity to produce 45 million gallons per day for the two cities.
The surface water plant has been in discussion for 30 years.
The SRWA is its own separate public entity with its own board with both cities having representatives.
“The leadership of the cities has to be commended for moving this project forward after decades of planning and decision and non-decisions and reverses decisions,” said Granberg.
The surface water system is deemed key for Ceres and Turlock to have a guaranteed source of good clean water. As water quality regulations tighten, it’s harder for groundwater alone to meet standards without expensive treatment.
Granberg noted that the plant will be an environmental benefit for fish upstream as more water is released from Don Pedro Dam downstream to accommodate what is drawn into the plant at Fox Grove. Ceres is currently relying on 13 wells with the 14th one being constructed near the Clinton Whitmore Mansion property. Public Works Director Jeremy Damas said the city will still use groundwater conjunctively with river water, especially in the summer, noting that in the summer peak use of 11 million gallons per day while the plant will only supply up to 5 million gallons. He estimated about 75 percent of the water consumed in winter time will be treated river water.
Granberg said that drawing less water from underground aquifers will allow for its recharge, and allow the city to shut down and repair wells as the need arises since there will be another source of water available. Having two sources of water will make Ceres more drought resilient, he noted, especially when TID is forced to scale back on releases from the dam as mandated by the state during times of drought.
Recently the state water board directed the reservoirs to curtail holding back water at the various dams which, if prolonged, could affect water to farmers if another year of drought is experienced. To whatever degree of water cutbacks to farmers is the same cut back in water allowed to be drawn by the SRWA plant. Currently TID has a 25 percent curtailment.
Ceres resident John Osgood suggested pushing back on the state’s demands, noting that the state Water Resources Control Board has both granted permission to use water from the Tuolumne River for drinking but is also demanding curtailments of releases.
Work is already taking place on the Turlock pipeline but work has yet to commence on the four-mile stretch of pipeline down Hatch Road from Fox Grove to the Ceres River Bluff Regional Park where a 2 million gallon storage tank will be constructed. Work on the Ceres line will have to wait until the canals are emptied for the winter season because of proximity to the TID Ceres Main Canal.
The SRWA maintains a website that tracks the project’s progress at www.stanrwa.com
The surface water project wasn’t the only talk about water on Monday. The council reviewed a report on the Urban Water Management Plan which the state demands that cities review every five years. It is intended to maintain the efficient use of water, continue of promote water conservation, ensure that water will be available for future use and provide a mechanism in response to drought.
Representatives of Blackwater Consulting Engineers, Inc. delivered an overview of the plan and told the council that the 11,755 Ceres households connected to city water has done an exceptional job in conserving water.
Alison Furuya of Blackwater said water demand projections for the next 20 years are that Ceres will be providing 4,152 million gallons by 2035, mostly because of single-family households. Last year the city supplied 2,151 million gallons to its 48,431 residents.
She noted that the state’s Water Conservation Act of 2009 called for water purveyors to reduce water use by 20 percent by 2020. Her firm looked at average water demand from 2001 to 2010 and developed a baseline water demand of 224 gallons per capita per day. A 20 percent reduction would equal a use of 180 gallons per capita per day. In 2020, the average resident used of 120 gallons per day, which is a 50 percent reduction that far exceeds the state’s 20 percent target.
“I also looked around at other urban water management plans in the area and this is the lowest one so citizens should be very proud of what they’ve been able to accomplish,” said Furuya.
Additional legislation is forcing cities to develop a drought contingency plan. A separate public hearing will be required for the plan.
Vice Mayor Couper Condit cast the lone vote in adopting the plan.