Local officials gathered near Lodi Lake to celebrate the groundbreaking of a new $36.5 million water treatment plant and sip bottled Mokelumne River water.
The start of the plant comes after eight years of intense arguments about how to use water purchased from Woodbridge Irrigation at the cost of $1.2 million a year.
"After the dust has settled, I'm sure the citizens of Lodi will recognize our foresight during the past eight years," Mayor Bob Johnson said.
The project started in 2003 when the council voted to purchase 6,000 acre-feet from Woodbridge. The city was able to bank all of the water until it decided what to do with it.
The council was split for years, even in 2006 when the council decided to move forward with the plant.
Bob Johnson, Larry Hansen and Phil Katzakian voted to build a treatment plant while Councilwoman Susan Hitchcock and JoAnne Mounce argued that the city had always planned to do groundwater recharge. The debates continued to rage every time the treatment plant was on the council's agenda.
Councilman Alan Nakanishi, who was elected in 2010, said water is always an issue, but he supports the treat-and-drink plant because it will secure Lodi's future.
Johnson said this will help address Lodi's water needs for the next 80 years.
"Treat-and-drink is the best use of Mokelumne water. Keeping more water in the ground is the best groundwater recharge," he said.