The new West Hills Water Treatment Plant, originally anticipated to come online near the end of 2017, will start-up ahead of schedule by mid-August. This means that neighbors in west/central Hollister will receive improved, better-tasting tap water sooner than expected.
“We’re extremely pleased to be able to start operation months ahead of schedule,” said John Tobias, president of the San Benito County Water District (SBCWD) Board of Directors. “The West Hills Water Treatment Plant will bring many benefits to the residents, businesses, and farmers in our community.”
The new plant will enable the district to treat higher-quality imported “San Felipe” surface water and blend it with local groundwater. The groundwater — up to now the county's primary source of drinking water — is naturally higher in dissolved salts, which gives the tap water a salty taste. This will change when surface water from the San Felipe Project will be blended-in. Once the new system comes online and the new water is phased into use, a blend of about 40/60 groundwater to surface water ratio will be achieved.
“The start-up of the new treatment plant is a big win for the people of our community,” said Ignacio Velazquez, mayor of Hollister. “This new blend of water will have less dissolved salts, so the taste will be much improved. Plus, residents can consider getting rid of their water softeners, they can buy less bottled drinking water, and their appliances that use water should have less mineral buildup and last longer.”
As the new, higher-quality water is phased into the pipeline system, it may dislodge mineral deposits that the “old” water left in the pipes. Although unlikely, it is possible that some homes or businesses may see a temporary change in the color of the tap water. Any change in water color is temporary — a normal effect of transitioning to our new and better water source — and is not a cause for alarm. Anyone noticing a color change can simply let the faucet run for a few minutes to flush out these deposits. Hollister will also be flushing its distribution pipelines to minimize effects, and will be conducting increased water quality testing as these changes are made to improve the overall water quality.
Adding this new source of higher-quality drinking water will offer multiple benefits, beyond the improved taste and less mineral-buildup in customers’ appliances. Local agriculture will be getting higher-quality water too: when our residents use higher quality water, the wastewater going to the Hollister Wastewater Reclamation Plant is also better quality (“softer” water, with less salts), and the resulting recycled water that is produced and used by agriculture is therefore higher-quality as well.
“It’s crucial that we have a continuing source of high-quality water to recharge our groundwater basin,” said Judi Johnson of the Sunnyslope County Water District Board of Directors. “We need to protect that groundwater, as a safeguard against the next drought. And at the same time, everyone needs to continue conserving water – conservation has become a way of life in our communities and people have already done a great job, so let’s keep up the good work!”
The cost of the new West Hills Water Treatment Plant is about $30 million, and is funded through a combination of SBCWD reserves, grants, and the rates paid by water customers of the City of Hollister and the Sunnyslope County Water District. The new water treatment plant will primarily serve the west/central areas of Hollister. Other parts of Hollister and surrounding areas are already served by the Lessalt Water Treatment Plant.
The West Hills Water Treatment Plant is part of the Hollister Urban Area Water Project and is being built through a partnership between the San Benito County Water District, the City of Hollister, and the Sunnyslope County Water District — working together to bring water benefits to the community, protect the groundwater basin, and help meet wastewater discharge requirements.