TUD Water Availability
Written by Betsy Hurst – President, Tuolumne County Association of Realtors and Justin Myers – Tuolumne County Business Council Director:
We appreciate TUD providing information regarding our County Water Supply Availability at their February 11th meeting. The presentation showed that our Pinecrest and Lyons reservoirs will continue to “fill and spill” this year and will provide enough water to meet our current demands with enough remaining water to provide 275 years of available supply at the TUD annual average of 50 new residential connections a year. TUD’s Pinecrest Lake agreement with the California State Water Resources Control Board also enables TUD to draw down Pinecrest Lake to a lower lake level in dry and critical dry years. During dry years there could also be some other forms of State imposed conservation that would further extend the water supply. In addition, TUD is looking at long-term water supply solutions with the acquisition of the Pacific Gas & Electric Phoenix System Water Rights and Facilities and with the United States Bureau of Reclamation for additional water from a New Melones Central Valley Project Water Supply Contract. TUD staff also identified ways to better manage the raw water and treated water delivery systems to reduce system-wide water losses.
Overall, the TUD presentation was very encouraging for our County’s short and long-term water supply availability. Unfortunately, this got sidetracked when the TUD Board discussed if they could then make a positive determination regarding the current water supply availability. Comments by three directors (Barbara Balen, Lisa Murphy, and Ron Ringen) indicated a desire to immediately start restricting potable water hookups with Director Murphy indicating she realized that it would be an “inconvenience”. The meeting ended with no action by the TUD Board due to no majority vote to affirm this year’s available water supply for Tuolumne County. TUD Board vote: President Barbara Balen (No), Vice President Ron Ringen (abstain), Director Lisa Murphy (Abstain), Director Jeff Kerns (Yes), Director David Boatright (Yes).
Had the TUD board decided to restrict connections on February 11th, how would they tell the owners of the almost completed homes with Habitat for Humanity and other people with homes under construction that they are going to be “inconvenienced”? How do they tell the State of California they can’t connect the new $50 million dollar courthouse or how do they tell Visionary Homes to stop working on their affordable apartment project in Sonora that our County has provided some of the grant dollars needed to plan and construct?
This no action by the TUD board coupled with a previous no-action vote, that would have enabled a small commercial development at the Pedro Wye to consolidate three water lines and three sewer lines into a common line for each, looks like certain Board members are trying to push a no-growth agenda by restricting responsible water delivery and availability. Our County has a very real need for additional economic investment, apartments, and for-sale housing at all levels for local families. The Mission of the Tuolumne Utilities District is to provide “Responsible Water and Wastewater Services for our Customers with Great Customer Service in a Socially, Financially and Environmentally Responsive Manner at a Fair Value.” Prematurely restricting water hookups when we currently have adequate water supplies is not being responsible.
Restricting new water hook ups will assure that existing ratepayers will bear the brunt of all new costs associated with the operation of TUD. New TUD ratepayers provide additional revenue through hookup fees and monthly water service fees to offset TUD system upgrades and yearly operational costs. Restricting new customers means higher rates year after year for existing ratepayers.
Our City and County have the responsibility to determine where and how growth occurs and it is TUD’s responsibility to address that growth when adequate infrastructure exists or is provided.
As our community tries to slowly recover from the significant impacts of COVID, it is important we work together to support and facilitate local economic development and much-needed housing. We encourage all TUD Board members to continue to support these efforts.