The Turlock Irrigation District Board of Directors unanimously approved a large step on Tuesday in what could be a deal to provide reliable drinking water to Turlock surrounding cities for the next five decades.
The vote authorizes TID staff to present an agreement to the Stanislaus Regional Water Authority, which is made up of the cities of Turlock, Ceres, and Modesto, for consideration.
“This Agreement shows the full measure of TID’s resolve in seeing this project through,” said TID Board President Ron Macedo. “The project provides numerous benefits to the region while still maintaining the integrity of agriculture within our District. We are hopeful SRWA sees the Agreement as a positive step forward.”
Since 1987, TID has been in talks with Stanislaus County communities to deliver treated river water that could be used as drinking water.
In 2001, TID constructed an infiltration gallery on the Tuolumne River downstream of Geer Road Bridge to divert river water to yet-to-be-constructed water treatment plant.
As negotiations continued intermittently, the SRWA was formed by the cities of Turlock, Ceres, and Modesto in 2011 to negotiate the water sale agreement.
The agreement, as approved and presented by TID, would deliver a maximum of 30,000 acre-feet of water from the Tuolumne River annually to SRWA cities for the next 50 years at the price of TID’s Tier 4 Irrigation Water rate.
Before the water would be considered usable for municipal use, the water would need to undergo treatment at a yet-to-be-constructed treatment plant, which would be owned and operated by the SRWA, as part of the agreement.
The treatment plant, which comes with a more than $100 million price tag, would guarantee a long-term reliable water supply for the City of Turlock, which is currently dependent on a dwindling groundwater supply for its drinking water.
“The vote [Tuesday] was a big step forward to securing a reliable water source for the City of Turlock and the City of Ceres and south Modesto,” said Turlock Mayor Gary Soiseth.
Approximately a year ago, TID approved an agreement with the added caveat that the SRWA provide offset water to TID in dry years — years in which TID farmers do not receive 48 inches of water for irrigation — but it was never approved by the SRWA. That proposal has been modified to the one now approved by TID on Tuesday.
“I strongly believe that the current terms and conditions meet the core objectives of the overall project over the year and will be able to provide benefits to all participants,” said Her.
The current proposal still includes offset water, which would be calculated at a parity for both agricultural and urban users. According to Assistant General Manager of Water Resources Tou Her, offset water would be determined by a formula that takes the percentage of reduction for irrigation customers times the amount of water supplied to the cities. Additionally, water delivered to cities would be reduced by the percentage of reduction to farmers.
For example, if TID farmers are allocated 36 inches of water in a dry year — a 25 percent reduction — TID would provide 22,500 acre-feet of water to the SRWA and would in turn receive 11,500 acre-feet in offset water.
The offset water delivered to TID would be either recycled water or groundwater from well unsuitable for human consumption, but suitable for agricultural use.
Aside from the offset water, the City of Turlock has also agreed to deliver 2,000 acre-feet of baseline recycled water, which is not suitable for human consumption, to TID each year. In years that offset water is required per the deal, the 2,000 acre-feet would count as a portion of offset water.
Additionally, this agreement would not limit the ability for other communities in the region to join the project at a later time, something the City of Turlock has remained adamant about during discussions.
“I firmly believe that regional issues require regional solutions," said Soiseth.
Ultimately, TID believed the deal was mutually beneficial to the SRWA and the irrigation district. Other than the cities in the SRWA receiving a reliable water source, the deal would also help with groundwater recharge in the Turlock Subbasin for both ag and urban users.
“For every drop of surface water that the cities take, they don’t have to pump it from the ground,” said Her.
With TID approving the proposal, the SRWA has called a special meeting for Thursday evening to consider approving the agreement on the table.
“If it’s approved by the SRWA, then this agreement is the first step and the significant step towards the eventuality of this project,” said Her.
Any final agreement would require formal votes from both the SRWA and TID Board of Directors.
The SRWA will meet at 5 p.m. Thursday in Room 2001 of Modesto City Hall, located on the second floor of 1010 10th St.