Although the Turlock City Council was slated to approve a water transfer agreement between the City of Turlock and Del Puerto Water District, board members and staff from Turlock Irrigation District want them to reconsider.
During the council meeting, TID Board of Directors President Ron Macedo requested that the City consider putting off the agreement, as there had been confusion as to whether the said water to be transferred to Del Puerto Irrigation District had been previously promised to TID.
“TID is respectfully asking that the council postpone the agreement,” explained Macedo. “We were told the tertiary water would be made available to TID…I encourage you to act in a regional manner.”
There was confusion throughout the room amongst council members and TID staff, as Mayor John Lazar said that this was the first time he had heard of such an agreement.
“We’ve been working on this for the past five years, and this is the first time that TID has been opposed,” said Lazar. “We’ve met regularly, and now you’re coming at the last minute asking us to postpone.”
TID Assistant General Manager of Water Resources Tou Her said that although he was not personally in the discussions, he was also under the impression that the water was to be TID's in the future.
“We would just like to know if this is the same water that was for TID that is being voted on tonight,” asked Her. “We’re slightly confused right now as to what tertiary water was going to be made available to TID, because with this agreement that you’re voting on, would we still have that water or not?”
Luke Miller, a local rancher and dairyman, also believed that during discussions the City had stated that the water would be made available to TID for use, as part of a deal where TID would in-turn help provide surface water to the City. Additionally, Miller was of the opinion that the water should stay in the region, especially with the ongoing drought.
“Once you remove water, you should recharge it through the hands of the farmers in the same area that it was taken out of,” said Miller. “I certainly could find people that would take your water.”
Lazar said that the disputed wastewater is discharged into the San Joaquin River anyway, and not being utilized for any other purpose in this region.
“Even though it is discharged into the San Joaquin River, I know plenty of farmers who pick up water off the Harding Drain Pipeline,” said Miller. “There would be public outcry if TID didn’t give the City water and now it’s the other way around and there’s no public outcry. The point is to keep the water in our basin.”
The five-year agreement between Turlock and Del Puerto Irrigation District would see a 13,000-acre feet annual transfer of tertiary treated recycled water to help benefit both regions. Del Puerto Irrigation District, which serves approximately 45,000 acres between Vernalis and Santa Nella, would work alongside the Patterson Irrigation District to deliver the water from the San Joaquin River – where it is currently discharged by the Turlock Regional Water Quality Control Facility – to the Delta Mendota Canal.
Del Puerto Irrigation District would then divert the water through its existing turnouts on the Delta Mendota Canal to help provide water to their existing irrigation customers.
The five-year agreement between the City and Del Puerto Irrigation District would provide $800,000 in revenue per year for Turlock, as the City will charge the district $75 per acre foot.
Although the City has already turned in the applications, the State Water Control Board would have to approve the agreement which could take from six to 12 months. If approved, it would be likely that Del Puerto Irrigation District would not actually receive the water until 2015.
With the request to postpone the agreement from TID, however, the process may take longer.
City Manager Roy Wasden suggested that the Council not vote on the agreement, allowing time for the Council to arrange a committee with the TID Board of Directors and staff to discuss the confusion.
“I think this is a step in the right direction,” said Macedo.
A committee between the two agencies is expected to be formed at the next City Council meeting on Jan. 28.