Our Water Problem Has a Solution

Poor ground water quality can be fixed with the proper technology

by Douglas Keck
BenitoLink, on Tue, 07/23/2013 – 02:01pm

Hollister has an on-going water quality problem.

Most people living in the greater Hollister community would agree with that statement. A solution is being proposed that will provide reliable, high-quality drinking water and support a better quality of life for everyone in our community.

Our groundwater is full of salts and minerals and requires the use of water softeners to deal with the hardness and the purchase of bottled water for drinking. Bottled water and water softeners are expensive. In addition, water softeners use salt that ends up in our wastewater. This prevents our wastewater treatment plants from meeting state discharge requirements, which could result in fines and penalties. The discharge is too salty for irrigation of most crops and must percolate back into the groundwater, further increasing the concentration of salts and minerals. It’s a vicious circle. But there is a solution.

Three local agencies are collaborating on a Hollister Urban Area Water Project (HUAWP), which will increase the water treatment capacity of surface water from the San Luis Reservoir. The City of Hollister, Sunnyslope County Water District and San Benito County Water District are working together on the $30 million project that will upgrade the existing Lessalt Water Treatment Plant and build a new West Hills Water Treatment Plant. It will also construct new pipelines to allow distribution of high-quality drinking water to City of Hollister and Sunnyslope water customers.

While the most prominent result of the project is better-tasting water, there are other benefits too. Higher-quality water will reduce the need for water softeners. Reduced minerals in the water will increase the life of appliances, such as water heaters, clothes washers and dishwashers. Better water will reduce the need to buy bottled water, a significant household expense for many. Cutting down on salt in our wastewater will protect our groundwater basin, which provides vital water storage and is an emergency water source during earthquakes.

Improving our water quality will require increased water rates for many customers. The rate increases will vary, depending on how much water you use and which agency provides your water. A rate calculator for City of Hollister customers is available at http://hollister.ca.gov/Site/html/gov/office/documents/HollisterWebcalc3.swf

The proposed water rates for the Sunnyslope County Water District are available on the District website at http://www.sscwd.org/Sunnyslope_W-WW_Rate_Study_Draft_7-3-13.pdf.

While the project will increase water rates, in many cases the increases will be offset by savings in the form of a reduced need for water softeners and salt, bottled water and appliance replacement.

Reliable and high-quality water is important to a healthy, vibrant community and a stable economy. By improving water quality, we can help to ensure a better quality of life for our entire community now, and for future generations.

Doug Keck
Former board member
San Benito County Water District
Suunyslope County Water District
Retired Educator