If you happen to spend any time driving around Fresno, you soon will be aware that the city is installing a high-capacity water system to take care of its future needs. This system will include a new treatment plant, to take advantage of surface water that’s available.
Like Madera, Fresno is seeing a decline in its water table, and, and it knows the state may put limits on what it can pump from groundwater.
Unlike Madera, Fresno is a large city and has superior water resources, both from Millerton Lake and Pine Flat Lake.
And it can afford the multimillions of dollars the major improvements presently under way to improve its water capacity and quality are costing.
Madera, on the other hand, is dependent on its aquifer almost entirely for its drinking water supplies and for water for industrial use. That aquifer’s level continues to drop, even though a wet fall and winter last year slowed that drop and left us with a certain amount of surface water in settling ponds, water which eventually percolates into the aquifer.
Madera Irrigation District is willing to sell to the city some of the surface water it receives, but the city right now has no way to get much of it, or to handle it once it arrives.
This water situation puts limits on the city’s growth, particularly its industrial growth, while Fresno is clearing the way for considerable industrial and residential expansion by exploiting its current resources and positioning itself for a sustainable water supply, more or less immune from state restrictions meant to limit overdrafts on California’s underground water.
In planning for its future, Madera needs to position itself to start using surface water supplies, especially in the face of future and almost certain state restrictions on how much water may be taken from the aquifer.
This means digging more ponding basins — perhaps using some of them as park features — and building a pipeline to receive surface water from Madera Irrigation District.
It means building a treatment plant that would handle surface water and make it a safe and high-quality drinking, cooking and yard irrigation source.
This won’t come cheap, but waiting too long to do it won’t make it any less expensive.
Just the planning probably would take eight to 10 years.
The best brains in our city government already have been thinking about these things. The time should not be far off for turning these thoughts into reality.