A water consulting firm will determine over the next two weeks whether it would be more cost-effective to build a single water treatment plant to serve Lodi, Stockton and rural areas of northern San Joaquin County.
Three small water districts, including the North San Joaquin Water Conservation District, which serves the Lodi area, have hired Boyle Engineering to develop cost estimates for a large water treatment plant and find out if it would be cheaper than for each political entity to develop their own treatment systems.
At its meeting Wednesday morning, the North San Joaquin board approved spending $2,200 as its share of the consulting fee.
Ed Steffani, manager of the North San Joaquin district, said he believes there would be an economy of scale over building as many as four smaller treatment plant - one each by the city of Lodi, city of Stockton, East Bay Municipal Utility District and a coalition of North San Joaquin and two other small districts. The larger Stockton East Water District, the lead agency in the proposal, will pay Boyle $13,200, while the Central San Joaquin Water Conservation District will add only a few hundred to the cost because of its low population numbers.
Officials from the cities of Lodi and Stockton, along with the East Bay Municipal Utility District, say they are anxious to see the potential cost savings, but it's difficult to say whether they will find it worthwhile.
"I'm very skeptical," Lodi Public Works Director Rich Prima said.
The city of Lodi is likely to be located too far from wherever the large water plant would be located, he said.
Prima said he is assuming the plant would be located either near the Freeport project pipeline west of Camanche Dam, where EBMUD plans to pipe water from the Freeport area of southwestern Sacramento County, or at a new treatment plant planned by the city of Stockton near Lower Sacramento and Eight Mile roads, which is more than 6 miles from downtown Lodi. The East Bay Municipal Utility District, which uses the Mokelumne River for its domestic water customers in parts of Alameda and Contra Costa counties, hasn't decided whether it would build a new treatment plant in San Joaquin County anyway, said Gerald Schwartz, Central Valley liaison for EBMUD.
"We may take the water to Walnut Creek and treat it there," Schwartz said. "That's what our engineers are looking at."
The Freeport project, which is projected to begin operation in 2009, would serve EBMUD only during dry winters, which Schwartz said would generally take place three of every 10 years. Therefore, it may not be feasible for EBMUD to build a treatment plant for that little use, he said.
An environmental impact report on the Freeport project is being circulated for public review.
However, it's good to study a proposal that has a regional perspective like the single regional water treatment plant, Schwartz said, because it benefits the community and would likely generate cost savings.
"I think it is a concept that is worth considering, at least at some preliminary level," Prima said.