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Water system operating costs drop 7.9 percent
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The cost of operating the Nick DeGroot Water Treatment Plant that provides surface water to Manteca, Lathrop, and Tracy will drop 7.9 percent over the next 12 months.

That means surface water costs will not put upward pressure on water rates in any of the three cities.

The plant - operated under the stewardship of the South San Joaquin Irrigation District board - is reaping the benefits of the agency’s ongoing effort to sharpen efficiencies marked by its $1 million-plus solar farm that is effectively capping power costs.

The district fronted the money for the seven-acre solar array immediately west of the treatment plant that is owned by the three cities but operated SSJID on Dodds Road some 15 miles northwest of Manteca not far from the base of Woodward Reservoir.

The three cities through water system payments are reimbursing the district for the investment in the solar power that effectively wipes out more than $400,000 in PG&E costs. It is basically money that would have gone to PG&E. It effectively has capped power costs at the treatment plant for the three cities meaning rates are flat-lined until the solar farm is paid off. Eventually, much of the plant’s energy cost will go away.

In the meantime, the cities are essentially immune to PG&E rate increases for the treatment plant portion of the surface water system.

That’s not the case, though, for three pump stations along the transmission line that are still powered by PG&E. The Manteca pump alone will cost $231,058 to run in the next 12 months. That cost will be reduced by 15 percent if the San Joaquin Local Agency Formation Commission this summer allowed SSJID to go ahead with its plan to enter the retail power business.

The solar farm also ends serious dependability issues the treatment plant had with PG&E power that had been a problem on a number of occasions. Without power the cutting edge technology that treats the water cannot operate.

The overall operating budget is $6,678,200 for the surface water by the SSJID board on Tuesday. A $752,679 capital expenditures spending plan was also approved. That includes $197,679 for a microwave tower system to provide real time data on the water flow through the pipeline system to immediately alert operators of any potential problems.