First the Feds, Now The State Plans More Water Diversions From Farms

More Planned Water Diversions From Farms to Fish-Not Just by Federal, but Also State Officials

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director

 

California’s State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB), regulators and environmental organizations want more water diversions to flow into the San Francisco Bay Delta Watershed to help save the declining Delta Smelt and Salmon. They have targeted three tributaries of the lower San Joaquin River; one of which is the Tuolumne River. Phase 1 of the Bay-Delta Plan is a real threat to all Modesto Irrigation District (MID) and Turlock Irrigation District (TID) customers including ag, urban water, and electric.

Coalitions for a Sustainable Delta, water diversionsMichael Boccadoro a spokesperson for the Coalition for a Sustainable Delta, commented on the SWRCB: “They need to be pushed back. They need to be told no.” Boccadoro explained the water in question represents about 400,000 acre-feet taken from communities, businesses and farms. Ironically 400,000 acre-feet is roughly equivalent to the capacity of Hetch-Hetchy Reservoir (360,400 acre-feet) that funnels water, unabated, to San Francisco.

“This is only Phase One of the Boards’ decision,” said Boccadoro. “This is going to eventually encompass the Sacramento River; this is just the beginning. This isn’t by any stretch of the imagination the only potential impact agriculture would feel,” he said.

Boccadoro, like other people in the industry, cannot fathom why the SWRCB needs to take this water when it doesn’t seem to be doing anything beneficial for the endangered fish species. “This issue of continuing to take water that is providing no benefit—or no clear benefit—for fish, while we do nothing [to mitigate] the other stressors that are having a huge impact on the fish, has to stop,” Boccadoro said.

Boccadoro noted, “It looks like Governor Brown has it in for farmers. We have problems with groundwater and increasing water scarcity in the state, and the result of this [plan] would be increased groundwater pumping—until they tell us we can’t pump groundwater. At that point, they are basically telling us, ‘You can’t farm any more.'”

“It’s a huge problem, said Boccadoro. “For whatever reason, it appears that the Brown administration has declared war on California agriculture. Enough is enough. We need to push back hard against the Water Board’s decisions,” noted Boccadoro.

“This is as good a place to fight as any as I can think of,” Boccadoro explained. “We need to start the fight and continue the fight, which is the only way it’s ever going to be turned back. The regulators and environmental groups must address the other stressors [to the endangered species]. Taking water from agriculture has not corrected the problem.

In the meantime Boccadoro hopes the farmers are taking notice. “I sure hope they’re willing to come up here [to Sacramento] and demand that the state not take their water,” he said.

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Recycled Water Project for Water Stability, Part 2

North Valley Regional Recycled Water Program Projected Completion

By Brian German, Associate Editor

In our continued coverage of the monumental North Valley Regional Recycled Water Program (NVRRWP), Anthea Hansen, general manager of the Del Puerto Water District, talked about the projected completion for the project.

Anthea Hansen, general manager, Del Puerto Water District
Anthea Hansen, general manager, Del Puerto Water District

“We estimate the pipeline will be completed by December 2017—less than two years,” Hansen stated. “The first year’s combined quantities, if both cities (Turlock and Modesto) are online at the start date, will be somewhere between 25K and 30K acre-feet per year,” Hansen calculated.

NVRRWP will convey recycled water from Turlock and Modesto, currently being discharged into the San Joaquin River, instead to the Delta-Mendota Canal via pipeline for storage purposes and later use. “The sense that we all have here,” said Hansen, “is that this transaction and this accomplishment will change the future of the Del Puerto Water District for the better. It will give us some stability in our base [water] supply that we know will come year in and year out.”

After many years of working with various agencies and collaborating with  multiple cities, the project has passed all of its major hurdles and is set to break ground within the next few months. Using recycled water from treatment plants will reduce reliance on unsustainable groundwater supplies and also lower the amount of water pumped from the Delta.

NVRRWP map recycled water
NVRRWP map (Source: NVRRWP map)

“People use water in the cities every day, 365 days a year,” explained Hansen. “The reliability of the supply is so important to us because, for such a long time, we have not had reliability in our water supply,” Hansen noted.

“We have 40-year agreements in place with both cities,” she continued. “As a result of the program, even in the first years, each irrigable acre in the district will receive somewhere between one half to three-quarters of an acre-foot of guaranteed water supply, year in and year out.”

Hansen added the project will sustain a growing population. “Over time,” she remarked, “as the cites grow and the populations expand, the quantities of water are projected to grow over the build-out period for the project.”

______________________________

See Also: Recycled Water Project for Water Stability, Part 1, “North Valley Regional Recycled Water Program: A New Water Source for Valley Farmers,” June 14, 2015.

Additional Benefits of the North Valley Regional Recycled Water Program

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Costa: Westside Water Cut Unconscionable

Jim Costa: Water Allocation is Immoral

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Deputy Editor

Jim Costa, Congressman for the 16th Congressional District of California that covers all of Merced County and parts of Fresno and Madera Counties and includes vast areas of agricultural land, is not happy with the water situation in California. Costa stated, “To be sure, we are still in a water crisis even though we have had some good [wet] months.”

“Sadly those good months have seen too much of that water going out to sea—as opposed to getting into the San Luis Reservoir and providing water for our Valley—whether for the East side or the Westside. It is a fight that I have been engaged in for years, but most recently, I have been trying to ensure that we are pumping at the maximum levels even under the flawed biological opinions that we are having to contend with.”

Costa explained that while the pumps have been turned up over the past month, sometimes to the maximum level, “the San Luis Reservoir is only 51% full, and now we are are still looking at a 5 percent water allocation for Federal water users.  This has been avoidable, and it is unconscionable and immoral. Let me repeat that, it has been avoidable, and it is immoral and unconscionable that we, in fact, are in this predicament. It is largely because we have failed to take advantage of the El Niño months of December and January.”

Assessing our winter water losses,Costa remarked, “Since January 1st, we estimate that we have lost over 440,000 acre-feet of water. This freshwater440,000 acre-feetwould make a big difference to our Valley, which has been water-starved from a combination of 4 years of drought, plus the flawed biological operations of the Federal and State Water Projects. So, we have to fix this broken water system, bottom line.”

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