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River water coming to your tap this year
water plant
An aerial view of the new water plant being built by the Stanislaus Regional Water Authority east of Geer Road and south of the Tuolumne River. Water will be piped to Ceres and Turlock. - photo by Jeff Benziger

While there will be no noticeable difference in taste, filtered water from the Tuolumne River will be piped to Turlock and Ceres households this summer for the first time ever.

The treated river water will be comingled with water pumped from the ground as a project three decades in the making comes to fruition for the cities of Ceres and Turlock.

The Regional Surface Water Supply Project was formed in 2011, in cooperation with Turlock Irrigation District, to start the process of building a plant to deliver treated Tuolumne River water to residents. Ceres has been working for 30 years to secure this alternate drinking source, as currently all water from the tap comes from underground aquifers.

Leaders in Ceres and Turlock realized that relying solely on groundwater was not wise given that it is a limited resource that will not meet future demands and since treatment to remove contaminants is more costly. As groundwater quality standards become increasingly stringent, the cost for treatment and replacement wells will continue to increase with ground water. Cities are also concerned that the state’s requirements for sustainable groundwater management set forth under the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act may mean that they will have to reduce their dependence on groundwater.

Without treatment, surface water is not considered safe for consumption but new state-of-the-art water treatment plant will filter to meet all current federal and state drinking water standards.

Studies for the project began in 2016, with design taking place from 2018 to 2021. Construction on the project began in 2021. Despite some setbacks, including supply chain issues caused by the pandemic and incremental cost increases, the project was started early enough that these problems haven’t caused delays.

The Water Treatment Facility has been constructed just east of Fox Grove Park.

To pay for the $230 million plant, both cities enacted a series of rate increases.

The Stanislaus Regional Water Authority joint powers authority, or JPA, borrowed $184.9 million for the plant construction after receiving $35 million in grant funds. Borrowing from the State Revolving Fund at 1.2 percent interest rate has saved the project $100 million it would have incurred through municipal bond financing.

Based on water needs of their populations, Ceres will pay roughly a third of the cost, or $77 million, while Turlock is responsible for two-thirds, or $147 million. An additional $6 million will be contributed by the Turlock Irrigation District for its portion of the project.

Ceres will ultimately receive up to 15 million gallons of water per day while Turlock takes 30 million gallons. Two additional phases will increase the plant’s capacity to produce 45 million gallons per day for the two cities.

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 and government-imposed curtailments of water released at dams.

Officials don’t believe drought conditions will affect the project’s ability to deliver water.

To keep up to date with the facility’s construction, visit