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State water board’s actions could jeopardize Turlock’s future
Mayor Gary Soiseth
Turlock Mayor Gary Soiseth - photo by Photo Contributed

I’m Gary Soiseth, the Mayor of Turlock. I represent an incredible city that is committed to leveraging our water resources as much as we can. 

We will no longer be discharging our recycled water into the San Joaquin River, but instead we will be using this water in our parks and on neighboring farms. 

We have kept our aggressive conservation regulations, requiring residents to only water twice per week during the summer months. 

And we have made the very hard policy decision to increase water rates on our residents to pay for the needed infrastructure that will lead to a new source of drinking water.

Unfortunately, while the Substitute Environmental Document clearly recognizes potential ecological benefits, it ignores our investments and tends to generalize, downplay, and de-emphasize the potentially adverse impacts on the Central Valley’s water supply reliability and sustainability.

Turlock is very concerned that your flow proposals will cause significant harm to our region, our residents, and our businesses without achieving the stated objective. 

As of today, my city is 100 percent dependent on groundwater, but our wells are threatened by high concentrations of arsenic, nitrates and TCP. Six of Turlock’s 19 drinking water wells have been taken offline and will require expensive treatment.

Turlock now only has 17 active wells—with four of those active wells needing very costly treatment. 

Even when we can treat these wells, our compliance with your new regulations brings them back at a much lower production capacity.

This is our reality—but our communities don’t just wait for our fate to be handed to us. We’ve been proactive—we’ve conserved where we can and we’ve invested where we can. 

Water use is 28 percent lower than the peak year of 2006, even though Turlock has added more than 2,000 people during that timeframe.  

Even though water use per capita has dropped drastically over the past 10 years, we continue to see a decline in aquifer levels and declining groundwater quality.  

Hypothetically, even if we wanted to conserve our way toward water reliability by remaining on wells, we can’t: recently, four test holes were drilled for new well sites – the results of those test holes indicated that none of those locations were suitable for a new well due to low quality, low production, or both.

Ironically, this Friday, after over three decades of discussions and wavering by leaders, the partnership of Turlock and Ceres will break ground on the wet well construction of the Stanislaus Regional Water Authority’s surface water plant on the Tuolumne River. 

This means 9 billion gallons of surface water per year for five decades will flow in the pipes of Turlock, Ceres, and hopefully surrounding communities, with many of them being disadvantaged. This will lessen our groundwater dependence, allow for groundwater recharge, and will provide water for generations of Central Valley residents.

The surface water project is a prime example of local solutions to our local water reliability issues—yet your actions today could very well jeopardize our future and our way of life by limiting us only to the diminishing resource of groundwater. 

I first stood in front of you all Jan. 3, 2017 when I asked something of you then...and I will ask now: please take a more scientific, comprehensive and balanced approach to the declining salmon populations. Please consider the very real economic impact to the citizens of Turlock and the entire San Joaquin Valley. And please work with us—instead of against us—to find the solutions that take into consideration the environment along with our economy. 

Thank you for hearing Turlock’s story and weighing seriously your actions on our community.