While Turlock has experienced a rare wet spring, the City's water woes are far from over. In fact, Turlock has seen a significant reduction in water resources over the past two years that is "cause for concern," according to Director of Municipal Services Michael Cooke.
Director Cooke gave a report to the City Council on Tuesday outlining the status of the City's water resources — and the outlook wasn't good.
"The City's resources are a little bit challenged and nature's resources are a little challenged," said Cooke.
Currently, all of the City's water is pumped from the ground and over the past three years there's been a 19 percent reduction in pumping capacity due to the loss of four wells.
The City is hoping to recoup at least one of those wells, however, as the Council approved the preparation of a hydrogeological and water quality assessment study with Wood Rodgers, Inc. on the rehabilitation of Well 32.
"There's a new trend in the water industry to rehabilitate wells instead of drilling new ones," said Cooke.
Along with the loss of wells, the City is also having to pump deeper to find water. From 1986 to 2015, Turlock's aquifer dropped 26 feet, resulting in a 91.5 billion gallon reduction in water.
"Despite our reduction in pumping from 2012 to 2015, the aquifer continues to decline...We're at an all-time low in depth of drilling," said Cooke.
The news wasn't all bad. The City of Turlock reduced its water usage an average of 27.59 percent a month from 2013 to 2015.
"Our water use has reduced significantly. We use 10 percent less water than 20 years ago, which is significant with the growth of Turlock," said Cooke.
Leading the conservation were the city's institutions (schools, hospitals, etc.) with a 61 percent reduction in water use, followed by landscape only customers (37 percent) and residential (30 percent). The City's industrial customers, however, increased their water usage 7.51 percent.
"Poultry processors, milk processors use a lot of water for health standards, so it's hard for them to meet the mandate," said Cooke.
While Turlock is no longer under a state-mandated water conservation goal of 32 percent, following a Water Resources Control Board decision last week, the City is now tasked with showing it can provide enough water for its consumers even during a three-year drought.
The City has been working on reducing its dependence on groundwater through its partnership with the City of Ceres in the Stanislaus Regional Water Authority. The project, nearly 30 years in the making, will divert surface water from the Tuolumne River for domestic use, reducing dependence on groundwater basins.
In July, the SRWA accepted a water sales agreement with the Turlock Irrigation District to transfer surface water from the Tuolumne River. In turn, the cities will provide “offset water” to TID during dry or “less than normal” years. The offset water, which would be composed of a blend of recycled and non-drinkable well water, will serve to balance the reduced river water available to irrigators as a result of the transfer.
"Groundwater is a diminishing resource...the Stanislaus Regional Water Authority will provide 10-15 million gallons of water a day, which will make a significant impact on the aquifer," said Cooke.
"We're working very hard to move that forward."