A project three decades in the making is nearly complete and is scheduled to deliver a reliable source of drinking water to Turlock residents by next year.
The Regional Surface Water Supply Project was formed in 2011 as the Cities of Turlock and Ceres, in cooperation with Turlock Irrigation District, to start the process of building a plant to deliver treated Tuolumne River water to residents. The City of Turlock has been working for 30 years to secure this alternate drinking source, as its current drinking water supply is 100% groundwater — and dwindling.
Studies for the project began in 2016, with design taking place from 2018 to 2021. Last year, construction on the project began. City of Turlock Interim Municipal Services Director Dan Madden said that despite some setbacks, including supply chain issues caused by the pandemic and incremental cost increases, the project was started soon enough that these problems haven’t caused delays.
“At this point everything is on schedule for completion mid-2023,” Madden said. “...However, with any construction project of this size, unforeseen situations invariably arise.”
Madden said that at the moment, the Water Treatment Facility just east of Fox Grove Park is about 40% complete. The transmission pipeline to Turlock, which will transport 30 million gallons of water per day from Fox Grove to a storage tank on Quincy Road, is nearly 90% in the ground. A pipeline is also being installed from the treatment plant along Hatch Road into Ceres.
With the bulk of the pipeline installed, initial construction has also begun on Turlock’s water storage tank while ongoing work takes place for the addition of chlorination facilities and related technology within the City’s existing water system.
In December 2017, the City of Turlock adopted a new water rate structure beginning in 2018 and increasing every year for five years to help service current groundwater wells and fund the new $220 million surface water treatment project. Turlock and Ceres borrowed $184.9 million for the plant after receiving $35 million in grant funds, but borrowing from the State Revolving Fund at 1.2% interest rate has saved the project $100 million it would have incurred through municipal bond financing.
The new water rate schedule was projected to see a single-family bill at $36 a month for water in 2017 rise to $42 a month starting in March 2018, $49 a month in 2019, $57 in 2020, $67 in 2021 and $79 in 2022. The new rate includes a $25 month service fee for the typical single-family home, which covers the cost of securing the water source and delivering it to the customer.
According to Madden, the savings will not result in rates being reduced at this time.
“We are too early in the project to firmly determine final construction costs, operating costs and other items related to the City’s drinking water system that may come up in the future,” he said.
In addition to unexpected costs, there are other potential factors that may impact the treatment facility’s ability to deliver water in the future, like drought. Though the Central Valley is currently experiencing a wet winter for the first time in over two years, the state water board recently directed curtailments at California dams. TID currently has a 25% curtailment, and water cutbacks implemented on farmers also apply to the SRWA plant.
Madden credited TID’s adept water management techniques, as well as the water agency’s ability to deliver water during drought conditions thanks to that management. Though he can’t predict the future, Madden doesn’t believe drought conditions will affect the project’s ability to deliver water.
“However, as the demand for water increases, over time [drought] may have an impact,” Madden said. “Especially if we encounter a long-term drought in conjunction with multiple years of low snowpack in the watershed. But, time will tell.”
To keep up to date with the water treatment facility’s construction, visit www.stanrwa.com.