History was made Thursday morning when the Stanislaus Regional Water Authority unanimously agreed to the terms of a water sales agreement with the Turlock Irrigation District that will provide reliable drinking water to local communities for the next five decades.
“This agreement is an excellent example of agencies crossing over institutional boundaries to show their determination to solve current and anticipated problems without state intervention,” said Turlock Mayor and SRWA Boardmember Gary Soiseth. “It shows state regulators that the Central Valley is self-motivated to take action, even in this historic drought, to solve our current water crisis.”
Negotiations between Stanislaus County cities and TID have gone one for nearly 30 years to find a way to transfer Tuolumne River water to local municipalities to be used for drinking water.
That deal is now only one vote away from being finalized and beginning a 50 year partnership to deliver safe and reliable water to local residents.
The SRWA, which was formed by the cities of Turlock, Ceres, and Modesto, unanimously agreed (3-0) to the terms previously presented by TID, with only some small modification.
“We’ve been working on this for almost 30 years and I’m excited to move this forward,” said Modesto Councilmember and SRWA Boardmember Bill Zoslocki.
The agreement will provide 30,000 acre-feet of water from the Tuolumne river to the cities in the SRWA annually for the next 50 years. The SRWA will purchase the water at TID’s Tier 4 Irrigation Water rate, which is $20 an acre-foot.
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, operated, and paid for by the SRWA, as part of the agreement.
The treatment plant, which is estimated to have more than a $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.
While exact price is unknown at this time, the costly project will likely lead to large water rate hikes in the City of Turlock.
As part of the deal, TID will get offset water in years of less than normal water conditions — or those years that irrigation customers receive less than 48 inches of water. The offset would be calculated at a parity for both urban and ag users.
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.
“I think this is a win-win for all parties involved,” said Ceres Mayor and SRWA Board Chair Chris Vierra. “…It’s a very important step for all of us."
As a regional project, this deal will not prevent other cities, such Hughson, Denair, or Hilmar, from joining the deal at later time.
TID, who had several representatives present at Thursday morning’s meeting, was pleased with the unanimous approval of the agreement.
“TID is pleased with the action taken by the SRWA Board,” TID said in a statement following the SRWA’s vote. “This is an exciting time to be moving forward with this needed project that will benefit the region on a number of levels. This Agreement is a significant achievement that demonstrates TID and SRWA’s collective resolve to respond to regional needs with regional solutions.”
Before the deal is finalized, the TID Board of Directors will need to approve the deal, with it’s recent modifications, at Tuesday morning’s meeting.
Both TID directors seeking reelection this year were excited by the outcome of Thursday’s vote because of the benefits for urban and agricultural water users alike, as well as the regional as a whole.
“SRWA’s approval to accept TID’s water sharing agreement is the beginning step for the future of water use in this region,” said TID Director Rob Santos. “It will allow the cities to grow economically while providing safe water for its citizens. This will also protect our local farmers' water source and insure a sustainable groundwater basin.”
“Today's vote by the cities of Turlock, Ceres, and Modesto to accept TID's proposal was a huge step forward for our region,” said TID Director Michael Frantz. “It is rare that farms, fish, and urban water customers all benefit at the same time, but we achieved that with today's historic 3 to 0 vote. In keeping with TID's legacy of stewardship of the Tuolumne River, today's agreement is designed to increase water reliability to both the cities and farms that we serve while providing river flows to critical salmon spawning portions of the river. I look forward to seeing this long discussed project move forward.”
The TID Board of Directors will meet at 9 a.m. Tuesday in the Board Room of TID’s Main Office, 333 E. Canal Dr.