TURLOCK — The City Council is holding off on selling treated wastewater to West Side farmers because the Turlock Irrigation District is interested in it, too.
The council this week agreed to a two-month delay of a proposed sale to the Del Puerto Water District, which covers about 45,000 acres along Interstate 5 between Vernalis and Santa Nella. The five-year deal would meet about 10 percent of the demand in the district, which has had drastic cuts in its supply from the federal Delta-Mendota Canal.
TID leaders told the council Tuesday that city staff members indicated in a November meeting that the water could be available for use on some of the western parts of the district’s 150,000 irrigated acres, stretching to the San Joaquin River.
“The problem we have with (the Del Puerto sale) is water being moved out of the basin,” said Ron Macedo, president of the TID board.
Mayor John Lazar said this was the first time he had heard of TID’s interest, but he and other council members agreed to the delay so the district’s concerns could be discussed.
Del Puerto was not going to get the water anytime soon. The sale needs approval from the State Water Resources Control Board, which could take much of this year and involves the complex issue of water rights.
Turlock has upgraded its sewage treatment system to the point at which the water can be used on cropland, though not for drinking. Irrigation districts are looking to this source to supplement fresh water supplies that could be reduced by drought and reservoir releases to benefit fish.
The Del Puerto sale would start at 11,000 acre-feet in the first year and reach 13,000 by the fifth. It is an interim step toward a permanent system that could provide the agency with 32,900 acre-feet of wastewater a year in a partnership with Stanislaus County and the cities of Turlock, Modesto and Ceres.
Under the terms of the initial sale, Del Puerto would pay $75 per acre-foot to Turlock.
It would not be a direct transfer. Instead, the Del Puerto district would draw 11,000 to 13,000 acre-feet from the Delta-Mendota Canal, which is fed by pumps in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. The city would release an equal amount of treated wastewater into the San Joaquin River, which flows into the delta.
The November meeting involved a proposed plant that would treat TID water from the Tuolumne River for domestic use in Turlock, Ceres and south Modesto. TID is seeking the recycled wastewater to make up for part of the river water it would turn over to the cities.
Bee staff writer John Holland can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 578-2385.