Water supply in the City of Fresno is critical to our health, livelihood and everyday living. Business, industry, universities and families enjoy a high quality of life and vibrant community here in Fresno, thanks to the availability of water.
Even without the recent drought which endangered water supplies throughout the state, our groundwater supply is declining at an alarming rate. In fact, over the last 100 years, groundwater levels have dropped more than 100 feet. This is a problem since the majority of Fresno’s water comes from the underground aquifer through wells. Thanks to planning and investment in our water system, Fresno has implemented a solution.
2018 Water Supply Transition
A major expansion of Fresno’s water system will be completed this year, with start-up of the new state-of-the-art treatment facility and pipelines that will allow use of additional surface water (river water) from the Sierra Nevada Mountains. These additional surface water supplies will allow Fresno to achieve its long-term goal of becoming drought resilient by reducing dependence on groundwater and replenishing our aquifer.
The map above shows the City’s blend of surface water use and groundwater use after additional water supplies from the Southeast Surface Water Treatment Facility.
The map above shows the City’s blend of surface water use and groundwater use prior to additional water supplies from the Southeast Surface Water Treatment Facility.
What is the change?
Historically, most Fresno residents and businesses receive water from the underground aquifer (groundwater) through a system of wells and a network of small diameter pipes. With start-up of the SESWTF and new large diameter transmission pipelines, many Fresno water customers will receive a blend of treated surface water and groundwater. That blend will change seasonally and daily based on water demands. As always, all water delivered to homes and businesses, whether from wells or our surface water treatment facilities, will continue to meet federal and state water quality standards.
The City is preparing to augment existing groundwater and surface water supplies with additional surface water from the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Through construction of the new 13-mile long Kings River Pipeline, the City will be able to convey surface water from the Kings River to the new state-of-the-art Southeast Surface Water Treatment Facility (SESWTF), where it will be treated to drinking water standards prior to delivery to homes and businesses throughout Fresno. This exciting effort is part of “Recharge Fresno,” the City’s program to ensure a sustainable water supply for Fresno’s future.
When will the change occur?
Surface water from the Kings River Pipeline is now being delivered to the new treatment facility. Throughout May, water will be treated at the facility, then delivered to customers in gradually increasing amounts, beginning at 10 million gallons per day, and ultimately at 54 million gallons per day in June 2018. The City of Fresno is committed to continuing to provide a clean, safe, reliable water supply and is working with regulatory officials and water experts to prepare for a smooth transition toward increased surface water usage.
Will I notice the change?
This expansion of the City’s water system should go unnoticed by most water customers. Most Fresno water customers will receive a blend of water including surface water and groundwater. All water delivered to homes, whether from wells or our surface water treatment facilities, will continue to meet water quality standards.
Important Information for Businesses
Many businesses and institutions treat drinking water further for special use for processes or products. Businesses that monitor water for processes or products may wish to consult water quality and treatment professionals to make adjustments, if needed. Changes in water characteristics may include pH, mineral content, alkalinity and hardness.
Most Fresno water customers will receive a blend of surface water and groundwater. While all water delivered to homes, whether from wells or surface water treatment facilities will continue to meet water quality standards, characteristics of groundwater and surface water are different. Changes in water characteristics may include pH, mineral content, alkalinity and hardness.
What has the City done to prepare?
The City is actively preparing for a smooth transition to increased surface water usage and has engaged water industry experts to help develop an approach to ensure continued delivery of clean, safe drinking water to businesses and homes. Drinking water is regulated by the State of California, and the City has been coordinating with the State during this water supply transition. The following activities are underway to ensure a smooth transition:
- Water system monitoring and customer water sampling
As always, all water we deliver to our customers meets federal and state regulations. To best understand existing conditions, support implementation of the water supply transition, and make the transition as smooth and unnoticeable as possible, the City has started an extensive water sampling program to measure conditions before and after surface water from the new SESWTF is introduced to homes and businesses. This effort is being undertaken in addition to ongoing, routine, system-wide water quality monitoring.
- Pipeline flushing
Delivery of drinking water from the new SESWTF may result in water flow direction and velocity changes within many existing pipelines. Without prior flushing, these direction and velocity changes may cause disruption of sediments that may have accumulated in the pipelines. To remove these sediments from the system and eliminate risk of the sediment being delivered to your faucets, the City is in the process of flushing the existing water distribution pipelines.
Learn more about the treatment process and all of the steps the City is taking to make sure your drinking water is clean and safe.
How can I get more information?
Complete the form on the Contact Us page or call us at 559-621-CITY for additional information.
This page will be regularly updated as these major enhancements are made to our water supply, so we encourage you to visit often.
Fresno’s Water Sources
Groundwater is currently Fresno’s primary source of water. The City of Fresno operates roughly 260 wells throughout the city that, together, historically have supplied as much as 200 million gallons of water per day to more than 500,000 residents. Although groundwater will remain an integral component of the city’s supply, our reliance on groundwater will be significantly reduced helping replenish the groundwater aquifer.
The City of Fresno is fortunate to have access to surface water from the Kings and San Joaquin rivers, which are fed by rain and snow from the Sierra Nevada Mountains. The City operates the Northeast Surface Water Treatment Facility which treats up to 30 million gallons of surface water each day. Every year, we pay for additional surface water but have lacked pipelines and other facilities to treat that water for use within the City. Through completion of the Recharge Fresno Program, the City will have the infrastructure to capture and treat this water increasing the City’s surface water treatment capacity by 200 percent.
Recycled water is currently produced and used in small amounts within select areas of the City. Increasing use of recycled water for landscape, irrigation and other non-potable uses is an important component of the City’s water supply plan. In an effort to reduce demands on both groundwater and surface water supplies, the City has plans for using 25,000 acre-feet per year of recycled water. The new tertiary treatment facility and pump station at the Fresno-Clovis Regional Water Reclamation Facility will pump water into a new network of recycled water pipelines that will convey recycled water across the City for non-potable use at open spaces, parks, street medians, golf courses, and groundwater recharge facilities.
Conservation is an effective way to offset water demands and reduce reliance on depleting groundwater supplies. For decades, the City of Fresno has been a leader in water conservation and has actively promoted activities to reduce water demands throughout the community. Through several years of severe drought, residents have worked hard to conserve. Over the past five years, the City of Fresno’s Water Conservation Program resulted in a decline in average daily water usage from 329 gallons per person per day to less than 250 gallons. In 2015 alone, in the midst of State-mandated water restrictions, water use throughout the City was reduced by 26 percent in comparison to the prior year.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Is the new water safe to drink?
The City of Fresno has always been committed to providing a clean, safe, reliable water supply, and that commitment applies to this additional water source. Water will be treated to meet all federal and State drinking water standards. State regulators have been working with the City throughout this transition and will need to approve the City’s facility operations plan and issue an operating permit before the water is delivered to customers.
2. When will I receive the water from the Southeast Surface Water Treatment Facility?
Facility testing began in March 2018, and upon approval from the State regulatory agency, water will be delivered to some customers beginning in mid-May 2018 and will continue to more customers as the facility is brought up to full operation in June 2018. The blend of surface water and groundwater you will receive will depend where you are located in Fresno.
The City of Fresno is committed to continuing to provide a clean, safe, reliable water supply and is working with regulatory officials and water experts to prepare for a smooth transition toward increased surface water usage.
3. Can I opt out of receiving the Southeast Surface Water Treatment Facility water and continue using my current source?
No. City of Fresno water customers will receive either surface water, groundwater, or a blend of surface and groundwater depending on their location and season. The City has no way of isolating a specific water source for an individual customer, but all water delivered to Fresno customers will continue to be high quality, and will continue to meet federal and state drinking water standards
4. Will the new Southeast Surface Water Treatment Facility impact my private well and water system?
No. If you receive water service from a private well, you are not a City of Fresno water customer and this surface water will not be delivered to you. The added water source and treatment facility will not affect your well. It’s important to note, though, that reducing reliance on City of Fresno wells will help to replenish our region’s groundwater supply, which is good for everyone.
5. Is the new water more expensive, and will my rates increase?
Rate increases to fund construction of the SESWTF and associated pipelines were approved in 2015 to pay for these important water system improvements. The current rate structure applies until June 2019. The City also obtained millions of dollars in low-interest loans for these projects, which helps to minimize costs to ratepayers.
6. Do I have to do anything to connect to the new surface water treatment facility, and if so, is there a cost involved?
Pipelines are already in place to serve existing water customers. You may have seen the construction of these pipelines over the last year on Olive Avenue, Fresno Street, McKinley Avenue and Palm Avenue. It is not necessary for customers to take any action.
7. Will the water taste different?
Surface water and groundwater supplies do have different characteristics. Although the taste of the new blended water may be different from what is supplied by the wells, that difference should not be significant, and all water will continue to meet federal and state drinking water standards.
8. Will the water have a smell/odor?
No, the water from the SESWTF is thoroughly treated to comply with drinking water standards, and customers should not experience any unusual smell. There are some natural components of water that can have an odor, but our rigorous treatment technologies (like use of carbon and ozone filters) are in place to address potential odor issues. You may notice a slight smell of chlorine during the transition between groundwater to surface water, depending where you live in the City, and this is normal.
9. Will I need to flush my faucets once the treatment facility is connected?
In preparation for start-up and delivery of water from the new Southeast Surface Water Treatment Facility, the City is currently flushing existing water distribution pipelines. This process is intended to remove sand and other sediments, which typically exist within distribution pipelines fed from groundwater wells, and will minimize movement of sediment to your water faucets. As treated water from the surface water treatment facility will be free of sediment, start-up of the facility will not cause any need for flushing of your faucets.
The City is expecting a smooth water supply transition, but if you notice any changes to your water, such as color or odor, please contact 844-FRESNOH2O. In addition, if you notice temporary sediment, running tap water for 30 to 60 seconds can flush the sediment out of the pipes. Sediment does not pose a health concern. You may choose to flush seldom-used faucets, as they may collect sediment, but flushing is not required.
10. Will the water be softer? How will the new surface water impact my water softener?
Surface water is typically softer than groundwater. However, most customers will receive a blend of surface and groundwater and that blend will change seasonally, and even daily. Customers are encouraged to work with their water conditioning company, if they use a softener, to determine individual needs.
11. Will I experience discolored water issues?
The City of Fresno, its professional engineering consultants, industry experts, and the State of California have worked together to determine best strategies and treatment technologies to produce high quality drinking water at the new treatment facility. Along with continuous monitoring of treatment processes and water chemistry, the City has a proactive water sampling program to assure high water quality throughout the water system. Water chemistry will continue to be managed to eliminate or minimize corrosion and color issues, and the City does not expect customers to experience discolored water.
If, though, you experience a taste, odor or color issue, please report the issue to the City’s Water Division by calling 844-FRESNOH2O.
12. Will the new water contain lead? What about iron?
The City has complied with the Environmental Protection Agency’s Lead and Copper Rule and has no violations. Lead and copper testing of the water supply has proven that the City meets all State and federal requirements and the water delivered to your home does not contain lead.
Iron is a naturally occurring mineral that appears in all water. The City will continue to monitor and test for iron, as regulated by the State. There is no health risk associated with the naturally occurring iron.
13. Does the City use chlorine, and if so, why? What about fluoride?
Chlorine is used to make sure that the water is safe once it is treated at the surface water treatment facility and transported through the pipelines. The City’s water supply does not contain fluoride.
14. How will my water pressure change?
Depending where you are located in the City, you may notice an increase in your water pressure. The City is conducting extensive hydraulic modeling to understand changes in water pressure. Currently, pressures in the areas to be served by the SESWTF range from 40 to 60 pounds per square inch (psi). With the new surface water supply, water pressure may increase by approximately 10 to 15 psi.
Community Meeting – April 23, 2018
- Water Supply Transition Fact Sheet – English (3 MB PDF)
- Water Supply Transition Fact Sheet – Spanish (3 MB PDF)
- Water Supply Transition Fact Sheet – Hmong (3 MB PDF)
- Water Supply Transition Business Handout – English (891 kB PDF)
- Water Supply Transition Business Handout – Spanish (919 kB PDF)
- Water Supply Transition Business Handout – Hmong (1.8 MB PDF)