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Sunday, September 19, 2021
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City Council Milpitas plans for water system improvements as California’s droughts worsen

Milpitas plans for water system improvements as California’s droughts worsen

As California’s drought crisis intensifies year after year, Milpitas is projecting a 67 percent increase in water usage by 2040 as the city’s population grows. 

Sourced from the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission and Valley Water, Milpitas in 2019 delivered approximately 8.3 million gallons of water per day to more than 16,000 homes and businesses. But in the next 20 years, city officials project that there will be 11,200 new homes and businesses, bringing Milpitas’ daily water consumption up to 13.4 million gallons. 

At Tuesday’s Milpitas City Council meeting, the council reviewed a draft of the Water Master Plan, which assesses the city’s water infrastructure needs based on growth and future development. The plan also includes an overview of the city’s 206 miles of pipelines, pump stations, and reservoirs, and improvements the city needs to make.

In accounting for population growth in the next two decades, the preliminary report stated that the current supply and storage capacities fall short. In order to meet the increased demand, the city would need to build a new 2 million gallon storage reservoir with a pump station that can pump 4,000 gallons per minute.

Elizabeth Drayer, the project manager on the plan and vice president at West Yost Associates, said that as part of the process, they also evaluated “pipelines in terms of age, pipeline material, and other data.” Roughly 40 percent of the city’s pipelines are in a category where they would need attention in the near future. 

All in all, the capital improvement projects on the city’s water systems will cost $51.6 million through 2040. 

To reduce those costs, Vice Mayor Carmen Montano is suggesting the city consider developing fewer wells.

“These wells are very, very expensive, and we get water from Hetch Hetchy; we get water from Valley Water,” she said. “Cities don’t have the income that they did back in the day, and maybe we ought to rethink if we really need all those additional wells.” 

Public Works Director Tony said that Milpitas is developing three wells across the city––mainly for emergency purposes. The first is on Pinewood Way and is already fully developed. Of the remaining two, the one on Curtis Avenue is in the ground but not developed and the third is still in the works. 

“We get water from SFPUC and from Valley Water,” Ndah said. “If things happen with their systems, we have to be able to rely on ourselves.”

Drayer added the wells are critical, especially as SFPUC and Valley Water make cutbacks during drought years. 

The Water Master Plan will return to the council in the fall after city officials incorporate the council’s feedback and finalize a financial strategy to cover the cost of system improvements.

Grace Hase
Grace Hase is a Bay Area-based freelance journalist. She previously worked as a reporter for Metro Silicon Valley/San Jose Inside where she covered San Jose City Hall, transportation, housing policy and the Covid-19 pandemic. Grace holds a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and a Bachelor of Journalism in Investigative Reporting from the University of Missouri-Columbia.

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