Farmers on the western edge of the parched San Joaquin Valley have little to no groundwater resources this year.
The Southern San Joaquin Irrigation District and Oakdale Irrigation District have legal rights to 200,000 acre-feet of water behind the New Melones Reservoir in excess of this year’s needs for farms and businesses. urban customers they serve.
The two districts want to help farmers who will be faced with a difficult choice: to let tens of thousands of hectares of productive orchards die and to leave cultivated land fallow or else to accelerate the pumping of groundwater to exacerbate the fall of the aquifers that the The State of California has identified it as an urgent problem.
They are even willing to transfer 100,000 acre-feet of water at a rate of $ 400 per acre-foot – significantly lower than spot market demands – as the drought worsens.
At the same time, Gov. Gavin Newsom issued an executive order to reduce roadblocks where possible to facilitate water transfers to help California weather the drought.
The Bureau of Reclamation did not understand the message.
And although the office is a federal agency and falls outside the governor’s jurisdiction, it signed an agreement in 1988 with the two local agencies that created a 200,000 acre-foot water conservation account. they can carry over annually under certain conditions in addition to the historic rights they have to the first 600,000 acre-feet of water in the Stanislaus River watershed.
The Bureau has so far refused to approve the water transfer.
The sudden change this year by the Bureau to using New Melones water for monitoring the quality of the Delta water – a mission explicitly assigned by the Central Valley Project for water captured by the Shasta dams and Folsom while charging New Melones with other fish and environmental missions for water discharges – has raised concerns with SSJID and OID leaders.
While reducing the Bureau’s slackness for using “out-of-the-box” solutions during an urgent drought that violate legal agreements, both water agencies fear that the CVP will. makes the new standard even during wet years as well as drought years. As such, it could have serious negative implications for SSJID and OID.
Merely keeping the water in the conservation account to protect the two districts against a third dry year is not possible under the terms of the contract governing water use. There are a series of variables that control whether districts can draw water in a given year. At the same time, the 200,000-acre conservation account is the first New Melones water spill in a new hydrologic year that begins October 1.
The current water conditions based on the language of the contract allow both districts to access the conservation account this year. As conditions improve, they will not be able to use the account this year.
This means that it is basically a matter of using it or losing it.
Both districts have increased pressure on farmers and water users within their boundaries to conserve water due to the drought.
SSJID Managing Director Peter Rietkerk noted that it was not just about helping other Californian farmers who find themselves in dire straits, but helping those with water contracts with the Central Valley Project – the very water supply system the Bureau operates – to which the Bureau told they would ‘I won’t have water this year.
By blocking the transfer of water by the Bureau, they will cause western farmers to suffer massive losses that could be financially fatal, especially if it means the loss of productive orchards that require three to four years of initial investment before to start producing crops.
Faced with such a prospect, it will likely force many farmers to resort to what they did in the last drought, which is to draw more groundwater to further compromise aquifers.
SSJID Council today
think about another
It is against this background that the SSJID Board of Directors, when they meet today at 9 a.m. at the district office, will consider a smaller water transfer request that does not involve the account. water conservation.
It involves 1,750 acre-feet to the Stockton East water district immediately north of the SSJID.
Similar transfers were made on a temporary basis in previous dry years. The water will come from the 600,000 acres of annual water rights of the two districts.
Even though he helps an immediate neighbor, he also helps farmers within SSJID boundaries as well as in the town of Manteca. This is because if the farmers of Stockton East cannot access surface water once their district’s supply runs out, they will initiate ground pumping.
They draw from the same sub-basin as many farmers in the SSJID territory who choose to rely on soil waste. This is the same sub-basin from which the town of Manteca draws part of its water supply from Jenna.
Water transfer is done at $ 125 per acre-foot. It will generate up to $ 109,375 for each district.
The transfer is similar to an SSJID done with farmers at the South Delta Water Agency in mid-April.
The transfer is for 266 acre-feet of water at $ 150 per acre-foot to farmers west of SSJID territory. This represents about 1/10 of a percent of the district’s overall planned water allocation this year.
This is the fourth or fifth driest year in the 125-year history of records kept in the Stanislaus River watershed.
It will be one of the lowest snow accumulation yields in terms of water in recorded history.
Manteca, Lathrop and Tracy all receive treated water from SSJID in addition to pumping water from aquifers. However, all parts of California face a looming mandate preventing them from taking more water from the soil than it gives back in any given year.
To contact Dennis Wyatt, email [email protected]