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Ripon may tap into water plant
Salinity, pumping costs dog municipal well water
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Ripon - facing salinity issues in well water - is looking to become part of the consortium of South County cities that own the Nick DeGroot Surface Water Treatment plant near the base of Woodward Reservoir.

The South San Joaquin Irrigation District which built and operates the facility, will discuss the possibility of Ripon becoming one of the treatment plant benefactors when they meet Tuesday at 9 a.m. in the district office, 11011 E. Highway 120.

SSJID General Manager Jeff Shields noted the growing salinity in Ripon’s water is posing two issues for the city that currently relies 100 percent on well water. First it is slowly reducing well water as viable drinking water.

At the same time, the hard water that typically comes from well water is prompting many residents to use water softeners that use sodium to replace calcium and magnesium ions,

“Practically everyone in Ripon has water softeners,” said Shields who also lives in Ripon.

As a result, the city is returning a relatively large amount of salt to the Stanislaus River through its wastewater treatment process. That in turn creates the strong possibility that the Central Valley Regional Water Board will crack down and require the removal of the salt through the treatment plant which is an expensive proposition.

Another issue - though not as pressing - is the energy expense of pumping all of the city’s water supply from aquifers.

The plan calls for Ripon to buy into the plant by acquiring part of Lathrop’s share. That would require Ripon to pay Lathrop for a portion of the initial capital expenditures that the city invested in the plant.

Such a move would benefit Lathrop that has ended up using little or no water at times due to its needs not being as pressing due to a slowdown in growth. As a result the treated water that Lathrop does use has a much higher price per unit of consumption than originally projected. By selling part of its capacity to Ripon, Lathrop will reduce its water costs. At the same time Ripon will solve quality and supply issues.

“It seems to be a win-win for everyone,” Shields said.

The SSJID operated state-of-the-art treatment plant improves substantially on Mother Nature as it takes water captured from the Sierra snowmelt high on the Stanislaus River watershed and removes even minute traces of bacteria and particles.

It is those fibers known as ZeeWeed that are immersed in water. As the water passes through, the hollow fiber membrane serves as a physical barrier to contaminants. The porous plastic fibers are hollow in the center. The surface is covered with billions of microscopic pores that filter out all known bacteria and almost every known virus, with minimal or no chemical use.

The fibers are only part of the process at the Nick DeGroot Water Treatment Plant that have redundancy, constant sampling, and computer as well as human oversight to assure the cleanest water possible flows to the cities of Manteca, Lathrop, and Tracy.

Water quality starts on the upper Stanislaus River watershed. It has minimal human use providing a fairly clean run-off. The water ultimately reaches Woodward Reservoir just a half mile from the treatment plant located on Dodds Road some 22 miles northwest of Manteca.

Barriers are in place to prevent human contact – or that of gas-powered water recreation vehicles - on the upper part of Woodward Reservoir near the intake line for the treatment plant.

The technical processes used to treat the water would fascinate a room full of engineers for weeks.

The most simplistic way to describe how it works is that water initially coming in goes through a series of baffles that causes the solids – dirt particles and such – to float to the top of series of open concrete tanks. The water then passes through numerous panels with the membranes that snag bacteria and viruses. From there the water is further treated and then sent to a storage tank awaiting its journey westward to faucets in the three cities.

The treatment plant is in place due to the foresight of the South San Joaquin Irrigation District board members who saw it as a way to put water rights secured and fostered for a 102 years for farming in the Manteca, Ripon, and Escalon areas to work for urban users as well.

The SSJID took the lead and stayed on task even in the early going when the cities seemed far apart to coming to any type of agreement that would work.

Ultimately a plan came out that had SSJID overseeing and operating the plant on behalf of the cities that would then pay for their fair portion of costs based on projected water use.

The plant was dedicated July 14, 2005 and water started flowing to the three. The second phase will also send water to Escalon.

The SSJID governing board pursued the project based on four key benefits:
•It increases regional water supplies.
•It improves water quality.
•It keeps water in San Joaquin County.
•It reduces demand on groundwater.

The treatment plan essentially either allows municipal growth with minimal additional ground pumping or helps reduce use of underground aquifers which is critical as salt water intrusion becomes more of an issue.

The end results are farmers who irrigate by ground water as well as rural residents won’t have to worry as much about growth accelerating the depletion of their water sources.