OID looking into selling drinking water to Oakdale, Riverbank and Modesto

jnsbranti@modbee.comMay 20, 2014 

— The Oakdale Irrigation District is going to explore options for supplying drinking water to homes in Oakdale, Riverbank and north Modesto.

“The drought has brought to a head the necessity of cities having a diversified water supply,” explained Steve Knell, OID’s general manager.

He said relying exclusively on groundwater “is a high-risk proposition” for cities such as Oakdale and Riverbank, and he said Modesto previously expressed interest in expanding its water sources to accommodate growth.

So OID is considering the possibility of building a water-treatment plant that could sell drinking water to those cities.

That would be a switch for the century-old irrigation district, which supplies water from the Stanislaus River and Sierra snowmelt to nearly 81,000 acres of agricultural land, primarily in northeast Stanislaus County.

OID directors on Tuesday voted to spend $30,000 to hire consultants to do research and write a “white paper” on what an OID-managed regional water-treatment plant might entail, based on those cities’ needs and growth trends.

This isn’t the first time such an idea has surfaced.

Before the housing market collapse and economic recession began in 2008, OID had begun preliminary discussions on the topic with Modesto, Oakdale and Riverbank officials.

“OID was at the table as the potential water provider and plant operator,” Knell said. “This effort fell by the wayside as development, and the associated water demand growth, ceased.”

Knell wants to revive those talks to provide OID “another place to market our water.”

During the past decade, OID has sold 382,408 acre-feet of irrigation water to buyers outside the county for $35.3 million. But there has been increasing community pressure in Stanislaus to stop such water transfers.

“Any time we can look at projects where we can keep the water local is good for me,” OID director Al Barios said.

The directors voted to hire CH2M HILL, a consulting, design, construction and operations firm, to produce the water-treatment plant report for $25,000. They agreed to hire Modesto’s former public works director Nick Pinhey to consult on the effort.

Knell said it would take five to six years before a treatment plant could be built, so starting research well in advance of the need is necessary.

Bee staff writer J.N. Sbranti can be reached at jnsbranti@modbee.com or (209) 578-2196.

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