City officials say Wheatland’s municipal water utility infrastructure is antiquated and in need of replacement. To cover the costs associated with replacing it – estimated at nearly $1.4 million – they are seeking out regional funding and a grant through the Yuba Water Agency. 

“The city’s water meters, water meter reading technology and associated software is antiquated and in need of replacement,” said City Manager Jim Goodwin in a letter to the water agency. “The current system is inefficient, labor intensive and does not allow the city to identify water losses or work proactively with customers on water conservation.”

The city’s water utility currently serves a population of 3,700 customers – a total of approximately 1,100 connections. Goodwin said the deficiencies across the distribution system are numerous and include multiple brands of meters that are in need of standardization. 

City staff had to recently open over one third of the city’s metered boxes to ensure accuracy during a meter read, which for a small agency with limited staff is unacceptable, Goodwin said. 

On top of that, the city’s meter reading technology and software doesn’t allow for any proactive or timely noticing of customers when their water use is high, which hinders the city’s ability to encourage conservation, he said.

The city has been working with the water agency to develop a plan – the Wheatland Comprehensive Drinking Water Project – to pursue funding for the project. There is available grant funding through the Integrated Regional Water Management Project, a program through the Department of Water Resources that provides state resources for multi-benefit regional water projects, but the process for applying requires a 50 percent local match. 

That’s where the city hopes the Yuba Water Agency will step in with a grant worth up to $700,000.

“Based on the current IRWMP funding approach and schedule, the city may not be able to address these problems before 2021,” Goodwin said in his letter to the agency. “We are asking YWA to consider funding the 50 percent local match ahead of the DWR IRWMP project review schedule so the deficiencies described above can be addressed as soon as possible.”

The two main components of the Wheatland Comprehensive Drinking Water Project include water account/conservation and water storage improvements. 

The first component would involve new meters at each of the city’s supply wells, new remote-read meters for customers, and radio communications improvements, along with updated software to allow for improved water conservation and water efficiency. 

It would also see the city replace broken groundwater monitoring equipment to help monitor groundwater data. 

The second component would involve making the city’s supply plant more reliable by taking the existing elevated water tower out of service. 

The tower’s existing corrosion would be repaired and the structure would be re-painted to preserve its status as a historic icon in the area, Goodwin said. 

By taking it out of commission, the city would install ground-mounted hydro-pneumatic tanks, which would pressurize the city’s system. On top of that, the old pumps and motors would be replaced by new motors that will reduce energy consumption. 

Goodwin said if the water agency were to sign off on the grant, the funds would only be used for meters, remote feed hardware and software for meter reading and updated accounting software. 

The rest would be funded with the IRWMP grant funds when approved. If that wasn’t to be approved, then the city would likely seek additional funding from YWA for the project, Goodwin said. 

The agency’s Project Operations and Development Committee approved the grant request at a meeting on Jan. 7. 

The agency’s Board of Directors will take the item up for final approval during its next board meeting scheduled for Jan. 21.

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