Pipes that will be transporting filtered water from the Tuolumne River to Ceres households by the year 2023 have begun showing up along Hatch Road for underground installation.
Through the Regional Surface Water Supply Project, Tuolumne River water will be treated at a new state-of-the-art water treatment plant to provide Ceres and Turlock with clean, safe, reliable drinking water.
Work has already been underway to run a 42-inch pipeline from Fox Grove Fishing Access down Geer Road to Turlock and now west to Ceres between Hatch Road and the Turlock Irrigation District’s Ceres Main Canal. Eventually the Ceres pipeline will feed into a large tank to be constructed at the Ceres River Bluff Regional Park on Hatch Road.
Because of its proximity to the TID Ceres Main Canal, work on the Ceres pipeline had to wait until the canal is emptied for winter.
The contractor has finished installing the 42-inch pipeline for the Turlock Water Transmission Main in Berkeley Road to Santa Fe Road.
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 wellhead treatment.
The cities of Ceres and Turlock formed a joint powers authority named the Stanislaus Regional Water Authority (SRWA) to construct the plant and pipe delivery system. The JPA will buy raw water from the Turlock Irrigation District which has rights to some of the water flowing down the Tuolumne River.
Both cities have enacted a series of rate increases in city water rates to pay for the $220 million plant. SRWA General Manager Bob 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 respective 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.
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.
The surface water plant has been in discussion for 30 years.
The SRWA maintains a website that tracks the project’s progress at www.stanrwa.com