Tulare to drill new well with state funds

City of Tulare is approved for $4.28 million in final step of state-mandated consolidation with Matheny Tract, the first water consolidation order in California history

TULARE – Exeter and Tooleville are the latest communities to go through a state-mandated water consolidation, but not the first in Tulare County. In 2016, the state issued its first ever mandatory water consolidation between the city of Tulare and Matheny Tract, a rural community just west of the city limits.

Now, six years later, Tulare is about to take the final step of the consolidation, building a new well with state money. Tulare Public Works Director Trisha Whitfield said the State Water Board notified the city on March 11 it has been approved for $4.28 million from the state’s Drinking Water State Revolving Fund Program to build Well 4-3, which will generate 1,000 gallons per minute for the city’s water customers, including about 1,500 people living in Matheny Tract. Whitfield said the funding for a new well was part of the consolidation program to help the city offset the increased water and water pressure demands from adding 380 new homes at one time. 

Tulare was originally allocated $2 million for the new well but Whitfield said the state increased the amount to more than $4 million to account for inflation. Plans have already been drafted and approved by the state for the well and Whitfield expects to go out to bid on the project by this summer. Tulare will pay up front for the cost of the improvements and will be reimbursed by the state up to the $4.28 million mark.

“We’ve been working through that with them for the last six years,” Whitfield said, “and this is the final piece we have been waiting for.” 

The new well will be located at the corner of Bardsley Avenue and K Street. As part of the project, Whitfield said the city will create a loop in the water system by running a new water main under the railroad tracks from K to I Street and then up I Drive to Matheny Tract to improve pressure. 

“The new well will support them and provide better pressure to that side of town,” Whitfield said. 

Matheny’s water system was managed by Pratt Mutual Water Company prior to the consolidation. In 2010, the state began issuing water quality violations to Pratt because its two wells had high levels of arsenic, a naturally occurring substance that, when ingested, can cause lung and urinary bladder cancer. It is the most common contaminant found in water systems in California. Pratt began talks with Tulare to connect to the city’s system for access to potable water for its residents. 

In April 2011, Tulare and Pratt agreed to proceed with a voluntary consolidation. In August 2013, $4.9 million in Proposition 84 funding was made available to construct a new water distribution system for Matheny Tract, which included two points of connection to Tulare’s water system. 

On Aug. 18, 2015, the state’s Division of Drinking Water issued a letter to the two public water systems recommending they reach an agreement within six months but Tulare and Pratt could not reach an agreement and ended talks in litigation. The state issued its first mandatory order to Tulare and Matheny on April 1, 2016.

Whitfield said the city began work in April 2016 to connect the disadvantaged community to its water system and water began flowing to Matheny Tract in May 2016. After the project, Pratt was dissolved and Matheny’s residents became water customers of the city of Tulare, billed under the same rate structure as residents living within the city limits.

Overall, Whitfield said the consolidation has been a good fit for Matheny and Tulare, providing their residents with a safe and reliable supply of drinking water and Tulare with a new well and infrastructure to improve pressure for the entire city. There have not been any issues collecting payments from Matheny residents, the city has not run into any major water supply issues and the new connections did not overwhelm the system.

“It’s been in line with what happens with the rest of our customers,” Whitfield said.

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