When it comes to water, the city of Tehachapi doesn’t want all of its proverbial eggs in one basket and is working on several fronts to ensure an adequate supply.
That was the message from Development Services Director Jay Schlosser in a report to the Greater Tehachapi Economic Development Council on Oct. 6.
Schlosser said the Groundwater Sustainability Project initiated by the city of Tehachapi in 2019 is moving forward. The plan is to upgrade treatment of the city’s wastewater to tertiary level, then return it to the ground to eventually become part of the potable water supply.
The city has looked at ways to recycle water since at least 2015. Phase I of the GSP — conceptual engineering — is now complete, Schlosser said. The next phase — initial studies and work to comply with the California Environmental Quality Act — is about 90 percent complete.
And work is about 10 percent complete on the detailed design of the project. Completion of that effort and the permitting process are expected to take about 18 months, with construction to take another year.
By recycling treated wastewater, the city may be able to spread up to 1,500 acre-feet of water per year at Blackburn Dam, essentially recharging the Tehachapi Basin with water previously pumped from the basin.
Schlosser said the goals of the project include:
• Maximize beneficial use of effluent (treated water) from the wastewater plant.
• Decrease reliability on State Water Project water, leaving more for others.
• Increase the Tehachapi Basin water supply.
• Comply with future wastewater discharge requirements and regulations.
• Improve water quality.
The project will also allow the city to stop using Tehachapi Airport property for wastewater reclamation. The city has been irrigating alfalfa grown on airport land with treated wastewater. Completion of the GSP will allow that practice to end, making the land available for aeronautical use in the future.
Schlosser estimated the cost of the project as $15 to $20 million.
He said the GSP is just one of the efforts the city has undertaken to provide water for the existing community and future residents. Conservation efforts are ongoing and the city’s water usage peaked in 2007, he said. Additionally, the city has an active effort to purchase additional water rights when they become available and is engaged with the Tehachapi-Cummings County Water District to purchase SWP water for basin recharge and to have banked water in reserve.
“We have water,” Schlosser said. “We do not have a water shortage problem.”
Claudia Elliott is a freelance journalist and former editor of the Tehachapi News. She lives in Tehachapi and can be reached by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.