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Council moves forward with recycled water project
water treatment facility
The North Valley Regional Recycled Water Project would help provide a reliable water supply to the 45,000 acres of farmland serviced by the Del Puerto Water District using treated tertiary recycled water from the cities of Turlock and Modesto that would be pumped to the westside through the Delta-Mendota Canal. - photo by Journal file photo

In a unanimous vote on Tuesday, the Turlock City Council decided to move forward with the next stage of the North Valley Regional Recycled Water Project – a proposal to sell treated wastewater to farmers in west Stanislaus County by developing what would be one of the largest regional recycled water projects in the nation.

The roughly $100 million project would help provide a reliable water supply to the 45,000 acres of farmland serviced by the Del Puerto Water District, using treated tertiary recycled water from the cities of Turlock and Modesto that would be pumped to the westside through the Delta-Mendota Canal.

Although the collaborative partnership between Del Puerto and the cities of Turlock, Modesto, and Ceres was established through an agreement in 2010, city officials say that the project has been in discussions over the past 20 years. In 2010 and 2012, feasibility studies were conducted to determine whether the project was possible, while also finding the most viable option to connect Turlock and Modesto’s wastewater treatment facilities directly to Del Puerto’s irrigation users.

The City of Turlock had planned to move forward with the next steps of the project in November 2013, but was stalled after being approached by representatives from the Turlock Irrigation District who argued that the city’s water supply should stay in Turlock, particularly amidst the ongoing drought that caused lowered water allotments this irrigation season for TID farmers.

While TID’s expressed interest in Turlock’s recycled water resulted in the Council taking a step back from participating in the Phase III Study – which will review the environmental and technical requirements of constructing pipelines for the regional recycled water project –  the Council decided on Tuesday to reenter the project’s process, bringing an end to its six-month hiatus.

“Participating in the Phase III study will not prevent the City from participating in other recycled water projects should they prove more viable,” said City Manager Roy Wasden. “It must be emphasized that the work involves understanding the feasibility of the project only – it does not commit the City to actually constructing the project.”

According to Wasden, despite the City still being in discussions with TID regarding the City’s recycled wastewater use for irrigation purposes, it “behooves the City to better understand whether discharging recycled water directly to the Delta Mendota Canal is feasible” regardless of the final outcome of discussions with TID.

“Modesto and Del Puerto will continue on their end of the project with or without Turlock’s participation,” said Turlock Municipal Services Director Michael Cooke, who also shared that the Bureau of Reclamation and the State Water Board have funds committed to helping construct the project. “It will likely be the biggest recycled water project in the United States, so it’s grabbed the attention of politicians, water officials and members of Congress across the states. It’s really a great project and I’m glad that Turlock is back in it.”

Also pleased by the Council’s decision to move forward with the Phase III Feasibility Study was Del Puerto Water District Assistant General Manager Anthea Hansen, who has attended previous Council and TID meetings to express her concerns of Turlock pulling out of the project last minute.

“This project will provide benefits not only to the farmers of Del Puerto but also to the community of Turlock,” said Hansen. “It’s also the only logical solution to not wasting that recycled water anymore. It keeps water in the county and creates jobs regionally and in Turlock while helping stimulate the economy. That is enough reason right there to keep moving this project forward.”

Joining Hansen from the Del Puerto Water District were three other board members and a dozen farmers serviced by the water district that has long-been without the adequate water supply necessary to meet the needs of its users.

“Our growers and our board members are very excited to have you reenter the project, and appreciate you reevaluating everything over the past six months,” said Hansen.

Former Municipal Services Director Dan Madden, who retired from the City of Turlock in 2013, also commended the Council’s decision, saying the outcomes of the project would benefit the City and region for years to come.

“You’re making the right decision by moving forward with this project and are thinking ahead,” said Madden. “This project is 20 years in the making, and I’m glad to see the Council take that next step.”

While the maximum cost of the study is $1,568,965, the City of Turlock’s cost share is $666,810, or 42.5 percent. The City of Modesto and Del Puerto Water District are responsible for 47.5 percent and 10 percent of the study’s costs respectively.