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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
You have questions. We have answers.
What is “Recharge Fresno?”
Recharge Fresno is the City’s program to improve the pipelines and water system facilities that will capture, treat and deliver water to Fresno homes and businesses, including surface water from the Sierra Nevada Mountains.
Recharge Fresno will:
- Ensure a reliable and sustainable water supply for Fresno’s present and future prosperity by increasing available water supply
- Bring new, treated surface water from the Sierra Nevada Mountains to our community
- Improve natural and intentional groundwater recharge
- Maintain focus on conservation and its role in ensuring a sustainable water supply for Fresno
- Ensure a safe and reliable water supply 24/7/365
Water Supply and Water Resources
What is the source of the City’s water supply, and how much water do we use on an annual basis?
The City has two major sources of water: groundwater and “surface water.” Groundwater is the water that exists below the surface in the City’s aquifer. Surface water is the water that flows from the Sierra Nevada mountain range, down the San Joaquin and Kings rivers. The City of Fresno pays for access to 180,000 acre-feet of surface water during a normal year. In 2013, the total demand for water in the City of Fresno was approximately 142,000 acre-feet. The City was allocated just over 120,000 acre-feet of surface water but due to a lack of storage and treatment capacity only used 65,000 acre-feet (including 47,000 acre-feet for recharge and approximately 18,000 acre-feet for potable water supply through surface water treatment). The balance of the demand was met by pumping almost 124,000 acre-feet of water from below the ground.
Why should we worry about water supply? We have plenty of groundwater.
The City used to have a plentiful supply of groundwater. However, as the groundwater chart indicates, groundwater monitoring over the last century clearly demonstrates that groundwater levels are declining at an alarming rate. In fact, over the last 80 years, the City’s groundwater has dropped more than 100 feet – the equivalent of all the water in Millerton Lake. We are using more groundwater each year than we are putting back, and pumping water from greater depths results in increased pumping cost and lower water quality. In other words, we are using the next generation’s water supply today.
The City of Fresno is committed to being a good steward of our financial and natural resources and is implementing the Recharge Fresno Program so that the next generation is not overly burdened with the cost of correcting this problem. Furthermore, in January 2015, State law went into effect that mandates correction of groundwater overdrafting. Simply put, doing nothing about the City’s groundwater overdrafting problem is no longer an option.
Did the City consider other water supply options – desalination, rainwater harvesting, more recharge, more conservation, grey water and cloud seeding?
The City evaluated all options for increasing its water supply and found construction of the Southeast Surface Water Treatment Facility to be the most cost effective and efficient. Other sources of water supply, such as desalination, using grey water, rain barrels, and cloud seeding, among other ideas, were raised but are not practical, or in most cases are not affordable, to address the dramatic water supply challenges we face in Fresno.
If we conserve more, can we forego the need for a new surface water treatment facility?
Conservation is an important part of balancing Fresno’s water supply, and the City has already significantly reduced water demand through conservation. In fact, Fresno’s average per capita water consumption has dropped over 25 percent in the past six years, from 320 gallons per day down to 240 gallons per day. But conservation alone cannot solve Fresno’s water challenges. Solutions require a combination of conservation, recharge and maximizing surface water supply.
Why can’t we meet our needs through more recharge basins?
Recharge basins are part of the solution but cannot fully address Fresno’s water challenges. Acquiring the amount of land needed, securing the environmental permits, constructing recharge basins and installing treatment systems to deal with groundwater quality issues required to provide enough recharge to take the place of the Southeast Surface Water Treatment Plant would actually cost more than constructing the water treatment facility.
Repair of aging infrastructure is important and necessary. Will funds be dedicated to repairing aging infrastructure?
Funds for repair of aging wells, equipment and pipelines are included in the City of Fresno’s capital plan. This is good news but it is important to note that the capital plan does not fully fund the amount of repair and replacement (R&R) that is optimal for the City of Fresno. We will continue to work to find ways to accelerate this R&R while keeping customer costs and charges affordable. Future infrastructure plans will focus more heavily on repair and replacement but for now, our priority is on utilizing surface water so we can comply with the new state groundwater regulations.
What is the impact of the state’s new Sustainable Groundwater Management Act on Fresno?
The Sustainable Groundwater Management Act addresses overdrafting, or overuse, of our groundwater supplies. As such, action must be taken by the City of Fresno to address the over‐drafting conditions. The City of Fresno is well‐prepared to balance its aquifer with Recharge Fresno. If the City does not move forward to correct groundwater overdraft problems, the County or State agencies will be required to take action, most likely in a more significant manner and at greater cost to our customers.
How much will the five-year water rate plan cost, and what will it pay for?
The five‐year, $429 million plan will pay for the following:
$6.4 million Intentional groundwater recharge
$98.4 million Raw water supply to bring water to treatment facilities
$186.4 million Surface water treatment to address groundwater overdraft and quality
$55.4 million Finished water distribution to Fresno residents and businesses
$82.5 million Rehabilitation and replacement of older water pipes and wells
How will the City’s water plan affect my monthly water bill?
The five‐year plan will increase a family’s rate to an average of $52.18 per month. Even at the increased level, the price of water in the City of Fresno is substantially lower than other major cities in California and on par with or lower than other San Joaquin Valley cities.
What is the City doing to ensure water affordability? Are funds available to subsidize low‐income residents’ water bills?
Providing safe, affordable water system has always been a City of Fresno priority. And, while rates in Fresno have actually been far below where they should be to cover costs and water system improvements, we understand that any charge can be a challenge for some customers. State law prohibits the use of ratepayer funds being collected to create a low‐income subsidy program. However, the City Council has appropriated funding from the City’s General Fund to create the Water Affordability Credit Program.
Does new development pay its fair share?
There are a series of requirements and fees that apply to water supply and service for new development in the City of Fresno. In other words, new development is required to pay additional fees to cover the cost of hooking up to the City’s water system. Those fees are above and beyond the cost of monthly service the residents and tenants in the development also pay. To ensure the City is accurately assessing the cost of new development “hook ups” to the system, the City Manager has directed staff from the Department of Public Utilities to update its Water Capacity Fee Study.
Recharge Fresno Projects
Will the new surface water treatment facility attract and prompt growth in Southeast Fresno?
Construction of the Southeast Surface Water Treatment Facility is NOT to support growth. Its purpose is to deal with current groundwater issues and supply water to existing customers. If growth in Fresno halts today, we still face a significant water challenge. Groundwater is declining, and the cost to reach and treat groundwater will increase due to required depths for drilling and expected state water quality regulations. In addition, State law passed in 2015 requires that we and other California water users stop overdrafting our groundwater supplies.
Unlike many California communities, we are fortunate to have access to a surface water supply. The location of the Southeast Surface Water Treatment Facility was selected a decade ago because of its proximity to the Kings River, which would be the source of the surface water coming to the treatment facility. Water from that facility would then be distributed throughout the City – not just in the southeast.
Will the Southeast Surface Water Treatment Facility have access to surface water during drought years when allocations are limited?
We have and pay for access to surface water supplies. The City has surface water allocations totaling 180,000 acre-feet per year during a normal year. For perspective, the City’s water demand was approximately 142,000 acre-feet in 2013. The amount of surface water available to Fresno fluctuates, but even in an extremely dry year like 2013, our total available allocation was 120,000 acre-feet. That was lower than a normal year, but had we been able to access all of that water it would have met almost all of our water demand. Because we don’t have the facilities to capture and treat the water, the City of Fresno missed the opportunity to use 55,000 acre-feet of the allocation.
What is the Southeast Surface Water Treatment Facility?
The Southeast Surface Water Treatment Facility, often referred to as SESWTF, is the new water treatment facility to treat river water to drinking water standards. It will have the initial treatment capacity of 54 million gallons per day and will provide an additional 72,000 acre-feet per year of potable water for use by Fresno residents and businesses. For more information about the project and ongoing construction, visit the SESWTF page. Construction is expected to be complete in 2018.
Why is the City adding a pipeline to serve the new surface water treatment facility?
Based on thorough analysis and discussion with state regulatory agencies, it was determined that a pipeline is a preferred option to serve the new SESWTF, because of the minimized environmental impact, improved water quality and reduced cost for treatment. This pipeline, called the Kings River Pipeline or KRP, will travel 13 miles from the Fresno Canal, down Belmont Avenue to the SESWTF. For more information about the KRP, visit this page. Construction is expected to be complete in 2018.
My business is located on Belmont Avenue and I use the road daily. Will I have access to my business during construction?
The project team will keep residents and businesses informed about construction work and scheduling, and will maintain access as much as possible during construction. Traffic control measures and detours will be clearly marked. Construction is expected to begin in fall 2016.
Is the Northeast Surface Water Treatment Facility being expanded? Why does the City need the Friant-Kern Canal Pipeline (FKCP)?
The FKCP will serve as the primary and protected source of raw water for the Northeast Surface Water Treatment Facility (NESWTF), enabling improved water quality, increased reliability and greater flexibility in operating the existing treatment facility. Currently, an onsite raw water pump station is used to deliver water from the Enterprise Canal to the NESWTF, but the new FKCP will require no pumping to reach the facility. Construction on the FKCP began in summer 2016.
How large are the Regional Transmission Mains? Is that how the water will get to my home?
The Regional Transmission Mains (RTMs) will enable water from the treatment facility to reach residents and businesses throughout the City. The RTMs will connect to smaller water mains that serve neighborhoods. The City will install about 13 miles of 24-inch to 66-inch diameter pipelines.
What will construction be like during work on the Regional Transmission Mains?
Construction is expected to begin in fall 2016. The Regional Transmission Mains, or RTMs, are large-diameter water pipelines that will carry treated water throughout our community. During construction, you can expect several simultaneous pipe-laying crews, traffic detours and street closures, and large equipment within wide work areas that may occupy both traffic lanes. The City will ensure you have up-to-date information about RTMs construction.
For more information about this project, please visit the RTMs page.
Why can’t we recycle more water? That seems like the easiest way to expand our water resources.
The City of Fresno will begin treating wastewater at a tertiary level, which will allow the City to produce 25,000 acre-feet per year of recycled wastewater for purposes of irrigating parks and open space. The recycled water will also be mixed with untreated water to be used for groundwater recharge.
What is being done to upgrade the existing water system?
The City of Fresno has aging wells that pump ground water and aging water distribution pipelines, some of which are close to 80 years old. These wells and pipelines need to be replaced or rehabilitated to create more cost-efficient and reliable delivery. There will be many projects to rehabilitate and replace the existing water infrastructure.
How can I find out about Recharge Fresno project construction in my neighborhood?
The City wants to ensure you have up-to-date information about construction activities. Visit the Project Finder to find out which projects are near your home or business, and for construction notices, please visit the Construction Notices page. To sign up for regular email construction updates, please submit your information on the Contact Us page or call 844-FRESNOH2O.