Do you know where your drinking water comes from?
If you live in Penn Valley or Lake Wildwood, this story is for you. First, get a fresh glass of water to enjoy and contemplate during the journey.
Your drinking water is conveyed to you via Nevada Irrigation District (NID) facilities.
The Source: Our journey begins high in the Sierras with snow falling in the Tahoe National Forest. Picture a 70,000-acre watershed, with snowcapped mountains and meadows that melt and flow into a half dozen reservoirs. The highest of these reservoirs is French Lake at the 6,800-foot elevation. French Lake is a little larger than Lake Wildwood on the surface but it holds almost four times the water. These reservoirs were constructed in the 1800s to provide high pressure water for hydraulic mining.
Lake Spaulding: These high-country reservoirs all drain into one big reservoir named Lake Spaulding, at 5,000 feet. If you drive up Interstate 80 towards Truckee, as you pass the Highway 20 interchange, look off to the left and you’ll see a very large body of water. That is Lake Spaulding. Lake Spaulding is a little more than twice the surface area of Lake Wildwood but holds 20 times the volume of water. Your glass of water could have come from any one of the smaller reservoirs and spent some time in Lake Spaulding. Lake Spaulding was not created so that you could have a glass of water, nor was it created to irrigate farms and pastures. It was created in 1913 by PG&E to provide the power to run electric generators.
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South Yuba Canal: From Lake Spaulding, your glass of water takes a fast ride down the South Yuba Canal. The Canal is 17 miles long and was built in 1850 to supply water for hydraulic mining. The Canal consists of flumes, tunnels, pipelines and open water. Some of the flumes are wood channels built high on wooden trestles and others hang precariously on the sides of steep cliffs.
At the end of the line, your glass of water enters the Deer Creek powerplant, which is a few miles east of Scotts Flat Reservoir.
Scotts Flat Reservoir: After driving the turbines at the Deer Creek power plant, the water flows into Scotts Flat reservoir, just north of Nevada City. Scotts Flat is about three times the surface area as Lake Wildwood, with 13 times the water storage. The dam was built in 1948 by the Nevada Irrigation District.
Deer Creek: Deer Creek flows out of Scotts Flat Reservoir, down through the middle of Nevada City. It’s a tributary through Lake Wildwood and enters the Yuba River below Englebright Lake. You can see where your glass of water traveled under the Broad Street bridge next to Lefty’s Grill. Next you can see its path under the bridge at South Pine Street. Just west of the Pine Street bridge, your glass of water gets diverted out of Deer Creek into the Newtown Canal.
Newtown Canal: The Newtown Canal, formerly known as the Newtown Ditch, is for the most part, literally a ditch dug into the earth. This is the slowest and perhaps least hygienic part of your glass of water’s journey. The Canal meanders through farms and pastures between Nevada City and Lake Wildwood.
Lake Wildwood Treatment Plant to Your Faucet: We are finally at the end of the journey. Your glass of water is brought into collection ponds next to our treatment plant. The plant is located just off the Beitler Road connector with Sun Forest Drive. There is a locked gate across this road. At the treatment plant, the water is screened and then goes through coagulation, flocculation, sedimentation and disinfection. In other words, it gets a thorough cleanup. From the plant, it goes to one of several water storage tanks around Lake Wildwood, down through pipes buried in our streets and to your faucet. Relax and have another glass.
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