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SRWA postpones vote on water agreement with TID for a week

POSTED July 16, 2015 9:35 p.m.

It may be another week before the terms of a water agreement between the Turlock Irrigation District and the Stanislaus Regional Water Authority are finalized, a project that has been roughly 30 years in the making.

The SRWA Board of Directors convened for a special meeting on Thursday evening to consider ratifying a water sales agreement between that both the City of Turlock and TID approved on Tuesday. 

“I called this special meeting because I felt it was prudent to look at the water agreement as soon as possible,” said Turlock Mayor Gary Soiseth.

The agreement includes TID providing a maximum of 30,000 acre feet of Tuolumne River water for domestic use by the SRWA, which includes the cities of Turlock, Ceres, and Modesto. However, the amount of water that SRWA will receive will be determined by a formula that factors in the amount of TID irrigation water that is made available to growers annually. In less than normal irrigation years, or years when irrigation customers are given less than a 48 inch water allotment, SRWA will have to provide “Offset Water” to TID, which would be a combination of recycled water and non-potable, or undrinkable, well water. Included in the amount of “Offset Water” is 2,000 acre-feet of “baseline recycled water,” an amount that was approved by the Turlock City Council. The amount is to be provided by the City of Turlock on behalf of the SRWA every year regardless of whether it is a normal or dry year.

On Thursday the SRWA met to vote on the terms of the water sales agreement, but Modesto’s SRWA representative Council Member Bill Zoslocki vocalized concerns in one area of the contract’s wording regarding the Environmental Impact Report. Fearing that the language, which permits TID to protest elements of future recycled water sales down the road, Zoslocki’s dissent thwarted approval in a 2-1 vote. A 3-0 vote is required for an item to pass.

“All three of us agree with the central tenant of the water agreement, this was the only sticking point,” said Soiseth.

The members voted to agree that the SRWA board would reconvene in one week after the City of Modesto and TID had a chance to iron out the language of the agreement. Once approved, the agreement would secure a reliable source of water for the City of Turlock for at least the next five decades.

The process that ultimately led up to the current Water Sales Agreement began in 1987 when TID initiated discussions with the SRWA regarding a drinking water project that would help offset deteriorating groundwater quality and supplement groundwater supplies by providing a portion of TID’s Tuolumne River surface water. The SRWA was formed in 2011 with the aim of negotiating a surface water agreement with TID to reduce regional reliance on groundwater. The ultimate goal is to establish a surface water treatment plant that would treat Tuolumne River water in order to make a reliable source of drinking water available to the three partner cities.

The SRWA will reconvene at 10 a.m. Thursday at 1010 10th street to vote on the item. If approved, the water agreement will once again appear before the TID Board of Directors for approval.

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