Acquiring an independent water supply for the Folsom Plan Area was no small feat, but the landowners and City of Folsom teamed to create a solution that will benefit residents on both sides of the freeway. Following the rules spelled out in the city’s charter, the city and landowners in the plan area developed a water plan that does not decrease the supply available, nor increase costs to, residents north of Highway 50.
The City of Folsom gets its water from Folsom Lake. The city has senior water rights and contracts totaling 34,000 acre feet of the water from the lake. While this is less than 2 percent of the water that flows through the lake in an average year, it is enough to serve the current and anticipated future needs of Folsom and its residents.
“The city’s water rights are sacrosanct,” said Joe Gagliardi, chief executive officer of the Folsom Chamber of Commerce. “That is, no other government, including the federal government, has rights to the water that are senior to those of the City of Folsom.”
Several years ago, the state mandated that Folsom, along with other California communities, reduce water use by 20 percent by 2020. The city implemented a system optimization review program to assess the city’s water supplies for reductions through conservation, leak and loss detection, and system upgrades. The review found water waste – more than the 20 percent required – from faulty, leaking pipes. State legislation prohibits use of the recovered water by existing users (in this case, current residents and businesses in Folsom). However, the city could apply the recovered supply of water to a new use – such as the Folsom Plan Area. This solution saved Folsom taxpayers from paying the cost of repairs, and had other benefits as well.
The landowners in the Folsom Plan Area agreed to pay an expensive water contract, more than $1.65 million per year, relieving homeowners in the east area of Folsom including Broadstone, Empire Ranch and The Parkway, of the surcharge.
“The landowners in the plan area had secured a water supply from the Natomas Central Mutual Water Company prior to the city’s optimization review and were prepared to fund the estimated $100 million cost of the pipeline to bring the water to the area,” said Gagliardi. “Instead, under an agreement with the city, the landowners are paying for the city’s $2.29 million water system optimization review program and $13.3 million for all of the costs incurred to upgrade the water system.”
It was a use-it-or-lose-it proposition. If the recovered water was not put to a new use, the state could have taken it. An article recalling the recent drought on the City of Folsom website said, “in spite of multi-year drought conditions, the City of Folsom delivered water to city residents and businesses without disruption, and the city maintains enough water to serve current and future residents, even in the driest years.”
The City of Folsom filed a validation action in the Superior Court of the State of California, essentially filing suit against itself to verify the validity of the water supply agreement. In the judgment, which you can see in its entirety on the Folsom Ranch website, the court decreed that the water supply agreement is “lawful, valid, enforceable and in the best interests of Folsom and all persons in any way interested therein. In addition, the Water Supply Agreement is consistent with all applicable laws and obligations, including the Measure W Water Supply Requirement.”
Because the Folsom Plan Area was saving infrastructure cost, the City of Folsom crafted a plan whereby the landowners are fully funding 138 acres of parks, more than 30 miles of trails, an aquatic center and more – at an estimated cost of $170 million and at no cost to existing residents of Folsom.
In a nutshell, the landowners in the Folsom Plan Area funded analysis and repairs of the city’s existing water system – costs that would otherwise have been borne by Folsom residents — that allowed the City of Folsom to develop a new supply of water; relieved residents of the east area of the $1.65 million annual water surcharge, and Folsom is getting parks, trails, an aquatic center and more at no cost to existing residents.
Along with achieving the goal of an independent water supply, the new area also is implementing state-of-the-art measures to conserve water. All buildings will be fitted with low-use or low-flow fixtures. Public landscaping will be drought-tolerant, and new homeowners will have to comply with a stringent landscape-permit process to ensure water is used responsibly.