If you weren’t able to attend this past Saturday’s FLCR Riverwalk, an informal tour of the facilities at Stockton East Water District, you can rest your fears and relive the morning’s tour right here.

Kristin Coon, SEWD’s conservation and education coordinator, began the day with a brief overview of the importance of educating the public about their water resources. She established early on that Stockton receives the majority of its drinking and agricultural water from New Melones Reservoir in Tuolumne County and New Hogan Reservoir in Calaveras County.

“Many people aren’t even aware of where our water comes from,” she said. “We’ve been educating inside classrooms since the early 1990s, hopefully raising a generation that will understand and respect our water resources.”

After Coon’s introductory talk, the group moved inside to view SEWD’s Master Control Board. Here, Chief Operator Jim Wunderlich, described the differing functions of the “conventional” and “old-school” panel.

“There are lots of different phases we have to move through before your water comes out of your faucet,” he explained. The treatment plant is staffed 24 hours a day, every day of the week. High-tech monitoring systems are continually checking, double checking, and sounding off at the slightest deviation from the norm.

Wunderlich assured guests who lived nearby and were concerned about hearing alarms so often that the plant is designed to keep attending engineers “on our toes,” and that their worry was unfounded.

He compared running the plant to juggling, “there’s always two to three balls up in the air at a time, we’ve got to stay alert and sharp.”

Water moving through the plant is continually monitored for quality and direct samples are drawn every two hours.

General Manager Kevin Kauffman joined the tour group during Wunderlich’s presentation and helped break down how much of the city’s water comes from what source. Approximately nine months out of the year, water is drawn from New Melones – mostly composed of snow melt, as opposed to New Hogan, which receives the majority of its water from rainfall runoff and is therefore subject to varying seasonal quality and used mostly for agricultural irrigation.

The water moves from New Melones to Lake Tulloch outside Copperopolis before traveling to Stockton. During its long travel time various canals allow for water to be drawn from the main source for agricultural irrigation.

From the main control room the group moved outside to view the raw water lagoon where various intake pumps draw in water as needed. Wunderlich led the group on a physical walk-through of much of SEWD’s infrastructure and explained the process of sludge removal, how a scrubber works and even provided a special backwater demonstration.

The morning’s tour provided a nice technical complemented to FLCR’s Riverwalk series. Be sure to check back soon to read about what we’ll be learning about next month on the Lower Calaveras!