By Ron Kopf

It is a commonly understood fact that water is the elixir of life, something we cannot live without and from which all living things spring. In developed countries water is often assumed, expected, and seen as a given.

Water is an implied part of our daily life, yet water can be both elusive and omnipresent. Too much or too little water can be seen as equal burdens. Yet, we always want it.

Over the course of human history we have tamed water for many purposes with consumption seemingly its most commonplace use.

Nothing quenches a deep thirst better than a cold glass of good, clean water. That is why the making of water — for human consumption — is a central, imperative function of societies around this planet. Every community in every country in every part of the world pursues water production of some sort or type to support daily living. We are no different in Tuolumne County.

Here at home we use our natural resources to “make” water fit for consumption. Flowing from a small watershed that begins above 9,000 feet elevation and that collects in Pinecrest and Lyons Reservoirs, passes over wooden flumes and through 71 miles of ditch on its way 14 water treatment facilities, the water of the Tuolumne Utilities District (TUD) is carefully shepherded to its final destination — your tap.

Each year, TUD treats and delivers 1,480.0 million gallons of drinking water through 78 water storage tanks and 330 miles of pipeline to 14,105 connections serving approximately 44,000 people.

After that water is used and sent down the drain, it is collected once again from 6,078 wastewater connections, cleaned, treated and made once more into life sustaining recycled water that is used to support agriculture in our county. Each year TUD makes and stores more than 1,560 acre feet of quality recycled water for delivery to agricultural interests. That is more than 500 million gallons of recycled water.

Between 1992 and 2008, 17 private water systems, most in a state of disrepair and regulatory non-compliance, were acquired by TUD in order to ensure the systems could be rehabilitated and a safe, secure public water supply provided to affected property owners. Since 2014 alone, TUD staff has secured over $13.5 million dollars in grant funding for various water and wastewater projects that improve infrastructure and protect our water supplies.

This year, TUD will begin the multi-year Cuesta Heights Water Storage and Distribution Improvements Project, a $3.1 million dollar grant funded multi-phase project to improve water service in the Sonora area. This project involves consolidating and replacing aging water storage facilities. Three small, aging water tanks will be replaced with a new, single 600,000 gallon water storage tank that will improve water service and fire flows in portions of Sonora. In addition, a new 10-inch dedicated water supply pipeline will be constructed to connect the existing Columbia Water System to the Pedro Y Tank to improve the operation of that tank for the benefit of that area including improving fire flow and water service reliability throughout the Gibbs and Saratoga areas.

It takes a cadre of water professionals, each bringing specialized education, training and skills to the fore to capture, treat, and deliver drinking water and then capture again, treat and deliver recycled water throughout our county. The TUD Board of Directors takes this opportunity to highlight Water Professionals Appreciation Week, Oct. 7 through 15, and to salute the water professionals of TUD.

These dedicated professionals labor in heat, cold, dark of night, on weekends and holidays, in ditches, sewer systems, water tanks and congested roadways, advocate for grants, regulatory relief, water rights, and critical projects all in support of our customers and the provision of clean drinking water and effective treatment of wastewater. Their work and dedication helps us all.

Ron Kopf is president of the TUD Board of Directors.