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Fresno plugs away on water infrastructure projects as Temperance Flat effort launches

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Fresno plugs away on water infrastructure projects as Temperance Flat effort launches

The City’s public works department is expanding its water footprint in Southeast Fresno and has eyes on Temperance Flat Dam.

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Some good things are happening on Fresno’s water front. To wit:

1.) Public Utilities Director Tommy Esqueda says the city’s “purple pipe” system has its first paying customer. A farming outfit near the Wastewater Treatment Plant west of town is buying about a million gallons per day of the highly treated water.

2.) The purple pipe system, of course, is designed to deliver thousands of acre feet of recycled wastewater throughout the metropolitan area. Much of the water will be used for landscape irrigation. Complete build-out of the system is some time away. Esqueda says landing the first customer is a big deal because it enables his team to test the recycling plant’s operations under real world conditions. For example: Can the plant move water to the customer at the optimum pressure? So far, the answer is yes.

3.) The really big Recharge Fresno project – installation of the Kings River pipeline to the Southeast Surface Water Treatment Plant, construction of the Southeast Surface Water Treatment Plant, installation of new pipes in the metro area to deliver Treatment Plant water to customers – is proceeding nicely, Esqueda says. Ideally, he adds, all three parts of this project will finish at about the same time.

4.) The SE Treatment Plant should be ready to go in 2018. Esqueda says the plant will go through a two-week drill before delivering water to customers. The plan is to deliver eight million gallons of Kings River water to the plant. The plant will process the water according to standards. The water will go to a storage pond on the site, then shipped back to the plant for another round of tests. In other words, the same eight million gallons will get quite a workout.

5.) Fresno in a few years should have three surface water treatment plants capable of handling 110,000 acre feet per year. Fresno’s water customers consume about 120,000 acre feet per year. Just think of the revolution in our water consumption habits. Not too long ago, we were consuming about 150,000 acre feet a year and most of the water came from our aquifer. Pretty soon, we’ll be relying on surface water for close to 100% of our needs.

6.) Temperance Flat Dam is much on the minds of city leaders. Why is additional storage so important to City Hall? It’s a safe bet Fresno will continue to grow. Our trend line could have us reaching 1 million people in 40 years or so. Let’s say we continue to improve our conservation efforts. Let’s say we maximize the use of every drop of our Kings River and San Joaquin River entitlements plus the recycled water from the purple pipe system. Let’s say we grab every opportunity to buy extra water on the market. Let’s say our groundwater-recharging project goes exactly as planned. Even with all those blessings, Fresno with 1 million people would need another 80,000 acre feet per year to live the good life. The storage opportunities provided by Temperance Flat Dam are pivotal to meeting that demand.

7.) Finally, Public Utilities has been doing the necessary environmental studies to build a new potable water well on a corner of the sewer farm. The well’s No. 1 purpose is as a backup for the wastewater treatment plant. Esqueda is pushing hard to have reserve capabilities at the plant for things like water and electricity. If a unit goes down, then the backup unit kicks in and service remains uninterrupted.

But according to a city document, the proposed sewer farm well would also “accommodate potential development if this property is rezoned.”

District 3 Council Member Oliver Baines, who represents West Fresno, has been working for years to relocate the Darling rendering plant in his district to a spot far from homes. He wants his residents happy. He wants Darling happy.

Mayor Lee Brand is keen on a city-county animal control shelter that would improve services and maximize the taxpayer’s dollar. Such a shelter would need room to spread out and must be easily accessible to the public.

The sewer farm itself is located in the corner of an immense piece of land. There’s plenty of room out there for Darling and the animal shelter. And there’s always plenty of water.

The Darling and animal shelter issues have plagued City Hall for years. Looks like the new water well is another step toward a solution.

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George Hostetter

George Hostetter is a contributor to CVObserver and advisor to The Collegian, the student newspaper of Fresno State.

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