Chip Allen

Water is the lifeblood of the West. Humans not only must drink it to live, but it also irrigates much of the nation’s food supply and provides the means for future growth.

So creating the infrastructure to deliver water to millions of people is vitally important. Civic leaders, lobbyists, and environmentalists haggled on a new water system to serve a wide area of California, from San Francisco Bay to

Sacramento. Now, 10 years later, a new water intake facility and pumping station near Freeport, Calif., diverts water and pumps it through pipelines to other Freeport Regional Water Authority (FRWA) facilities. Eight vertical turbine pumps with 2000-horsepower electric induction motors have the capacity to pump up to 185 million gallons of water per day.

Lithocrete gives the concrete surface a colorful look. Crushed glass aggregate was used for the radiant color scheme.
Lithocrete gives the concrete surface a colorful look. Crushed glass aggregate was used for the radiant color scheme.

Although the project’s primary purpose is to deliver water to the Sacramento County and the East Bay Municipal Utility District, it also serves as a recreational connection and resting point at the southern edge of Sacramento and provides access to the Sacramento River.

“Our design concept focused on water and its importance because the water agencies wanted public visitation and education,” said David Campbell, project landscape architect with HLA Group of Sacramento. “Quality and workmanship therefore became essential, and we used a process and materials in pedestrian areas not common near Sacramento—and challenging because of its high strength and fast cure.” No run-of-the-mill plant would do. Quality and workmanship would be essential.

Rich Robertson, senior general superintendent of concrete contractor T.B. Penick and & Sons, of San Diego, turned to Lithocrete for the concrete surface outside the pump house. Lithocrete is an architectural concrete paving system that utilizes the structural properties of reinforced concrete, combined with the aesthetic quality of surface-seeded aggregates.

“We seeded lots of greens and blues, and we also used abalone shells,” Robertson said. The surface was prepared with a 2-inch sand base. One-quarter-inch by 2-inch metal strips were used as forming throughout the concrete surface to separate the different colors. Crushed glass created the colors. The surface’s beauty and durability make the added costs worth it, he said.

“It was definitely unique and interesting,” Robertson added. “It had its challenges.” The project schedule was spread over many months and seasons. “In the summer it was 114 degrees, and we have pictures of frozen water on the Lithocrete in the winter. So we went from one extreme to another,” he said.

The FRWA commissioned a regional artist to design an art and poetry wall on the front of the intake facility structure, or pump house. This is also where cyclists from a nearby bike trail can rest and cool off. And they can get a drink of water.