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Lower Manteca water rates on the horizon?
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Surface treated water, the installation of park irrigation wells, and reduced pipeline construction costs could bring about a rarity these days – lower water rates.

It is a distinct possibility if current trends continue for several more years.

That’s the cautious prediction of Public Works Director Mark Houghton in assessing the status of Manteca’s municipal water supplies and system.

Based on rates that went into effect on Jan. 1, 2009, a household using 2,400 cubic feet of water per month will see their cost go from $44.49 today to $54.98 in 2012 for a jump of $10.49 over five years.

Long-range planning that brought South San Joaquin Irrigation District treated surface water to Manteca while initially expensive is having a positive impact on the cost of the city meeting tougher federal arsenic standards.

Instead of putting in costly arsenic filtering plans on each municipal well and then replacing expensive filters periodically, the city is “blending” treated surface water from the SSJID plant with well water. It is effectively diluting arsenic in water down to less than a tenth of one percent part per billion as required by new federal standards. All city wells were meeting the previous standard. Arsenic is a naturally occurring element in water.

It means the $22 million price tag for arsenic removal that was first projected before city staff engineers explored blending as an option will be significantly less.

“I can’t take credit for any of that,” Houghton said of the decision to participate with SSJID in the surface water treatment plant. “That was foresight done by the city years ago.”

Manteca is also being helped by plunging construction costs that the city is being able to take advantage to replace aging pipelines in central Manteca before they fail. The price tag had been placed at $6.2 million but the last five water pipeline projects have been coming underbid significantly thanks to work starved construction firms. The latest was the new Moffat Boulevard replacement line that will cost $350,000 instead of the initially projected $400,000.

Other line work is being done to enhance pressure and provide future service such as the new line now being placed along Austin Road between Lathrop Road and Yosemite Avenue. It too is coming under the estimated cost.

The Austin Road line will substantially boost pressure in East Manteca thanks to the inter-tie with the main line coming from the SSJID water plant.

Manteca has also put in “purple hydrants” for construction water trucks to fill up with recycled wastewater at the treatment plant off East Yosemite Avenue near the ACE train station. Not only were they using costly treated water for dust control and ground work before directly from fire hydrants but contractors weren’t being charged for the water they use. That has since changed.

Manteca water ratepayers are also benefiting from a decision a few years back by city leaders to start switching municipal parks from the city system to shallow wells to use non-potable water to irrigate parks. Besides reducing the consumption of expensive treated surface water, it also has the added bonus of increasing water pressure throughout the city.

Manteca is now looking at putting in a water tower of some sort near Moffat Boulevard and the Highway 120 Bypass to address pressure issues in the southeastern segment of the city.