The Turlock City Council was presented with a report that points to water and sewer rates rising in the near future, as Turlock’s water revenue has decreased significantly in addition to a costly surface water treatment project on the planning table.
According to the report given by Municipal Services Director Dan Madden, in 2010 the City implemented a meter-based billing system, which has resulted in the loss of approximately $965,000 per year. In addition to the loss of water funds, the City will also be facing the construction of an $85 million surface water treatment plant. The plant has been proposed as an effort to meet the region’s drinking water demand as the population increases with growth.
Since the City of Turlock currently uses groundwater and wells, it has been projected that by 2018 the City could face a water supply crisis if the surface water treatment plant is not built.
The City of Turlock plans to join the City of Modesto and the City of Ceres with the surface water treatment plant to treat TID-controlled water from the Tuolumne River, however, even with federal and state grants, the City would still be expected to pay a substantial sum of money. As a result, the City would likely be forced to raise water rates in order to help pay for the construction costs.
While the proposed surface water treatment plant has mixed reviews, as far as costs and the consequent water rate increases, it is undeniable that the City is in need of alternative options in order to meet the city’s growing water supply demand.
Madden also stated that while the surface water treatment plant is suitable for the long term demand of water, new wells would also have to be constructed in order to meet near-term demands.
“One well is 65 years old,” stated Madden in regards to the construction of new wells. “Most people retire at that age.”
With the election year and two incumbents, Councilwomen Amy Bublak and Mary Jackson, running for re-election, it is unlikely that the Council will decide to begin raising rates prior to election in November. Council Members could decide to raise rates when construction begins, or prior, as a means of generating funds for the project. If rate increases are delayed, the amount of rate increase could be bigger and more of a burden to rate payers.
The Council did not vote on a water rate increase during the meeting, however, Madden stated that the Municipal Services Department would be working on a plan to come back to the Council to further address the issue of water and sewer rates.
“It’s something that should be on your radar,” stated Madden.
“We are going to be looking at surface water,” stated Councilman Forest White. “And if that comes about, and I hope it’s sooner than later, we’re going to have to make some tough decisions as far as rates. It’s something we’re going to have to wrangle with in the future.”