News Feature | May 4, 2018

Fresno Eases Reliance On Groundwater With New Plant

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome,

Despite years of reliance on groundwater to meet its drinking water needs, Fresno is now giving surface water a chance.

The city will begin opening a new water treatment plant this summer, which will exclusively treat water from the Kings River, according to KVPR.

“The building sits on nearly 50 acres of land in southeast Fresno, and is one of the biggest projects the city has undertaken. When it’s up and running at full capacity, it should be able to treat 80 million gallons of water a day, more than twice the amount the city can treat now,” the report said.

The use of surface water is a key part of the city’s plan to become more drought resilient. Though the California drought is over, over 65 percent of the state remains abnormally dry, according to U.S. Drought Monitor.

“By using surface water from rivers and snowpack melt during wet years, the city can let the wells rest, and replenish. So, when the next dry spell hits and surface water is limited, Fresno can use groundwater,” the report said.

Mike Carbajal, planning manager with the city, also spoke to KVPR.

“Once these facilities come online in the next couple months, it will enable the city to shut off a large number of groundwater wells that have been the primary source of drinking water for the city of Fresno for many decades,” Carbajal said.

“Historically, Fresno has relied primarily on our groundwater supplies,” he added. “Over the last 80 years we've seen groundwater levels decline over a hundred feet, and that means our wells have to be drilled deeper, we have to buy more energy to lift that water in order to deliver it to our customers.”

As the new plant opens, the city is drawing from lessons from previous infrastructural upgrades. Chief among those lessons is the need to ensure that water chemistry from the new plant does not impact pipes, a situation that played out in a previous upgrade, the report said.

Fresno has been putting considerable work into upgrading its infrastructure.

“The city recently executed Recharge Fresno, which updated many of the outdated water lines in downtown. Additionally, high speed rail is working with state and federal funds to upgrade gas, water, sewer and electrical lines,” The Business Journal reported.