June 9, 2014

Turlock may take next step on water recycling

Turlock’s City Council could take another step Tuesday on a proposal to sell treated wastewater to West Side farmers.

The City Council could take another step Tuesday evening on a proposal to sell treated wastewater to West Side farmers.

The council will consider contributing $666,810 toward the next stage of planning for the project, which would supply the Del Puerto Water District with reclaimed water from Turlock and Modesto.

Modesto would pay $745,258 and the district would kick in $156,897 under a 2010 agreement for sharing the planning costs.

The $1.57 million would pay for study of the project’s environmental effects, refinement of the basic design, evaluation of possible funding sources and other work. This would build on earlier studies that found the project appears to be worthwhile.

The project, which has a rough cost estimate of $100 million, could provide sorely needed water by 2018 to Del Puerto’s 45,000 acres of farmland along Interstate 5 between Vernalis and Santa Nella. The district is among several getting zero deliveries this year from the federal Central Valley Project because of the severe drought and fish protections.

Turlock and Modesto are upgrading their sewage treatment systems to the point at which the cleansed water could be used on cropland. Under the proposal, they would pipe water to the Delta-Mendota Canal, where it would be available to Del Puerto. Its farmers would likely pay a high price for the supply, but state and federal grants and loans are possible, too.

Turlock’s city staff is recommending that the council approve the next level of planning even though it is still dealing with a request from the Turlock Irrigation District for the water. TID argues that this supply should stay close to home. It also could help make up for Tuolumne River water the district could supply to a proposed treatment plant serving Turlock, Ceres and south Modesto.

The matter is part of a busy agenda for the Turlock council. It also will consider a 2014-15 budget and will take final votes on placing measures on the November ballot on district elections and a half-percentage-point sales tax increase for street repairs.

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