Environmental study predicts minor impact from recycled water project

A project to build a system for conveying recycled wastewater from Modesto and Turlock to farmland in western Stanislaus County won’t have a significant impact on the environment, a study says.

It suggests that without the project the lack of reliable water for the West Side farmland could create pressure to pave over the land for homes or other development.

The environmental study on the North Valley Regional Recycled Water Program is slated to be discussed at a 5 p.m. meeting Wednesday at Tenth Street Place in downtown Modesto.

Modesto and Turlock initially would sell a combined 26,500 acre-feet of recycled wastewater to the drought-stricken Del Puerto Water District, where farmers received no federal water for irrigating crops last year. Modesto and Turlock promise to supply water treated to near drinking water quality.

Rather than deal with regulations on dumping the water in the San Joaquin River, proponents believe it’s smarter to sell the water to farmers who need it.

The cities and Del Puerto are negotiating a price in the neighborhood of $200 an acre-foot. That could generate millions of dollars in annual revenue to pay for construction of the $100 million recycled water project, which will include pipelines and pump stations for sending the water to the West Side. The water sales could stabilize or lower monthly bills for city ratepayers, officials said.

Modesto, the lead agency, is applying for $100 million from the state’s revolving loan fund to finance construction. Officials say ratepayers won’t pay a dime for building the system.

Construction could begin next year and the recycled water could be delivered starting in 2018. The water deliveries could max out at almost 60,000 acre-feet with city population growth over 30 years.

“Because of conservation and water meters, our demand has been reduced, so it will take longer to get to that ultimate flow,” said Larry Parlin, utilities director for Modesto.

County government is a player because the pipeline routes would use mostly county right of way. Some of the wastewater would come from Ceres and the parties are open to other cities joining the program.

Last year, Del Puerto was cut off from federal water in the Delta-Mendota Canal because of drought conditions and rules that dedicate water for species in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. The 45,000-acre district stretches along the canal from the San Joaquin County line to Santa Nella.

The environmental study considered two alternatives for sending recycled water to Del Puerto.

A contractor could build a 6-mile pipeline from Turlock’s Harding Drain outlet on the San Joaquin River to Modesto’s treatment plant off Jennings Road, where the Turlock and Modesto water would combine. From there, the pipeline would cross under the San Joaquin River and continue underground for five miles to the Delta-Mendota Canal.

Under the second alternative, pipelines would cross under the river at two locations, running from the Harding Drain and the Jennings Road plant to the canal. The northern line would parallel Lemon and Zacharias avenues and the southern one would follow Pomegranate Avenue and West Marshall Road.

Farmers would be able to draw the water from the canal at different locations inside Del Puerto’s boundaries. In wetter years, some water may be sent to Valley wildlife refuges through turnouts on the Delta-Mendota.

The cities are talking with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation about a long-term agreement for discharging recycled water into the canal. Modesto and Turlock will use their tertiary treatment facilities to thoroughly clean and disinfect the water.

“The Bureau of Reclamation is very positive about it,” said Brad Hawn, a former Modesto councilman and consultant for the project. “It is essentially new water because we are cleaning it to high standards.”

The environmental study mainly identifies the typical impacts of construction, including noise, dust and possible interference with sensitive species such as the giant garter snake and tricolored blackbird.

Hawn said the recycled water program could be further developed to free up water for irrigating orchards in eastern Stanislaus County, where groundwater pumping is a concern.

By putting new water in the federal canal, officials could work out swapping arrangements for water users in irrigation districts on the east side of the county.

Bee staff writer Ken Carlson can be reached at kcarlson@modbee.com or (209) 578-2321.


Partners: Modesto, Turlock, Ceres, Stanislaus County, Del Puerto Water District

Cost: $100 million

Recycled water source

Modesto: 16,500 acre-feet

Turlock: 10,000 acre-feet

The public may comment on the environmental study Wednesday from 5 to 8 p.m. at Tenth Street Place, 1010 10th St., Room 2001, Modesto.

Send written comments to: William Wong, Modesto Utilities Department, 1010 10th St., Modesto, 95354; wwong@modestogov.com; or Ben Lawrence, U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, 1243 N St., Fresno, 93721 or blawrence@usbr.gov.

Read the study at www.nvr-recycledwater.org/documents.asp or the Modesto Utilities Department, 1010 10th St., fourth floor, Modesto; city of Turlock, 156 S. Broadway Ave.; or Del Puerto Water District, 17840 Ward Ave., Patterson.