The City of Chowchilla (City) faces challenges familiar to many California small and rural cities, which often serve disadvantaged communities with limited resources. City officials and staff in these communities put their hearts and souls into their service, and as we see here in the Valley every day, this type of leadership can lead to great advances that benefit the public far into the future.
Since a previous infrastructure analysis for the City showed significant deficiencies in its water system, the City knew it needed to make a big change. But thinking forward, it didn’t seem enough to the Council and Staff to simply put a band-aid on the structural problems. They didn’t want to just fix things that needed immediate repair. They wanted to commit to the delivery of energy-efficient infrastructure across the board so that their constituents would know that their contributions as ratepayers are being wisely invested in their long-term future, instead of short-term remedies.
It was this total commitment to water and energy efficiency that led City leaders to find Johnson Controls, Inc. (JCI), which was then able to assist City staff not only in planning for a clean and green future but with the creative financing of that plan that included public funding. Since City Council and Staff know that water is the lifeblood of their community, it was determined that an initial major step on the City’s path to sustainability should be in its water system.
The City has several aging wells and an elevated water tank that is no longer in use. Many of the wells have old equipment and controls that require constant attention and adjustments based on the seasonal water demands. The growing population and water demand of the City have only exacerbated the existing issues of insufficient well capacity, inadequate storage for peak hour and fire flow conditions, and the inability to pressurize the entire system.
The City is divided into two zones – the east and west sides of town, with HWY 99 running through the middle. Because the east side of town is positioned at a higher elevation than the west, the City was inundated with citizen complaints regarding the lack of pressure on that side.
So, when one of the City’s main wells went down, the long-awaited need for an updated system became urgent. As a result, the project design included drilling a new well and installing a 750,000-gallon storage tank at the City’s existing corporation yard that could be filled at night and pumped out during the day. The new well is equipped with a Variable Frequency Drive (VFD) which allows flexibility of speed at which the motor runs to adjust the flow rate of the well. A new booster station was also installed at this site, equipped with three VFD pumps that automatically adjust to meet the varying demand.
The design also included the installation of two Pressure Sustaining Valves (PSVs) – in the center of the two 12-inch main water lines that connect the east side to the west side. The PSVs only allow water to pass through in one direction unless certain pressure conditions are met. This ensures that the higher elevation side doesn’t lose pressure due to the water wanting to flow downhill.
Lastly, a solar panel array was installed on-site to not only provide power to the new facilities but some of the existing City buildings as well. In total, the combination of the new well, storage tank, booster pump station, PSVs, and solar panels ensure that the City’s water delivery system is operating efficiently, with the pressure necessary to satisfy the demands of its citizens, and the storage required to meet peak demands or to take the well offline for maintenance.