Recycled Water Project for Water Stability, Part 1

North Valley Regional Recycled Water Program: A New Water Source for Valley Farmers

Part One of a Five-Part Series

By Brian German, Associate Editor

Anthea Hansen, general manager of the Patterson, Calif.-based Del Puerto Water District, described the exciting work to bring more water stability in the form of recycled water to multiple Central Valley cities—in our five-part series on the North Valley Regional Recycled Water Program (NVRRWP)

“After six and a half years of effort,” Hansen said, “we have fully completed all of our environmental documentation, and most of the permitting is in hand.” Recently, the partners have interviewed and selected the preferred firm to construct the Modesto component of the project, so that process is underway.”

cropped-cropped-SLDMWA200x200Logo101714NVRRWP is a collaborative partnership that includes the cities of Modesto, Turlock and Ceres along with the Del Puerto Water District and Stanislaus County to solve the region’s water supply and reliability problemsThe program will provide a new source of water for agricultural customers in the Del Puerto Water District (DPWD), whose supplies have been severely impacted by drought and by environmental restrictions on pumping water from the Delta. Hansen noted the collaboration was the largest obstacle they were able to overcome.

“One of the biggest things that happened recently, a day we were all looking forward to,” noted Hansen, “is when the United States Department of the Interior, Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation) executed the record of decision for our project, a document that supports not only the federal National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) documentation but also the signing of a long-term contract. It will allow us to convey and store the recycled water in federal facilities,” she said, “and it will also support the sharing of a portion of the water with the wildlife refugees south of the Delta. That was a big milestone for our project.”

The cities of Turlock and Modesto will provide treated, recycled water to the Del Puerto Water District through a direct pipeline into the Delta-Mendota Canal. The district will then distribute that water to the agricultural customers within its service area.

After so many years already invested in the project, Hansen is excited the plan is coming together. “We worked lockstep with Reclamation for over three years,” Hansen said, “and we did some very extensive and thorough analysis. We had a great team and a good working relationship, and it looks like we are nearing the end of assembling all of the different pieces of this very complicated puzzle.”

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Resources:

Del Puerto Water District

North Valley Regional Recycled Water Program Map

Recycled Water Uses Allowed in California 

The Citizen’s Guide to the National Environmental Policy Act

San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority Member Agencies Map

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See also, “Recycled Wastewater Could Help Growers in Del Puerto Water District, June 9, 2015.

Westlands Water District Approves Emergency Water for Westside City of Huron

Edited by Laurie Greene, CalAgToday Reporter and Editor

During its monthly meeting yesterday, Westlands Water District Board of Directors unanimously approved making water available to the City of Huron, as the City struggles with a desperate situation of diminishing water resources in the face of the drought.

Westlands Water District Map

As the State of California experiences unprecedented water supply conditions, not only is the agricultural industry suffering, many rural communities are struggling to meet basic water needs. The City of Huron, in Fresno County, has experienced the same perilous situation, for its approximately 6,900 residents and additional temporary farm workers. With unemployment hovering just above 35%, Huron recently approached Westlands about acquiring water to enable it to meet the City’s water needs.

Westlands Water District Board President Don Peracchi stated, “We are very pleased to be able to assist one of our local, rural communities during this difficult situation. Every day we hear of another family or community succumbing to a dry well. Unfortunately, situations like these are becoming all too commonplace.”

The City of Huron welcomed the recent news ensuring they would receive water from the District. Mayor Sylvia Chavez said, “Our community continues to suffer with the effects of the drought. We take for granted that water will remain plentiful, but the drought has depleted our reserves. We are thankful that Westlands was willing to work with us during this difficult situation.”

Earlier this year, the United States Bureau of Reclamation (USBR) initially denied the City of Huron’s request for assistance; at which point, the City turned to Westlands as an additional source. The issue was brought before Westlands’ board members who agreed to help the City look for viable solutions.

The drought has caused irreparable harm not only to agriculture but also to families, businesses and communities with effects that are far-reaching beyond this year. This decision will provide limited relief to a much greater problem.

Westlands Water District, the largest agricultural water district in the United States, is made up of more than 1,000 square miles of prime farmland in western Fresno and Kings Counties. Westlands currently has a contract with USBR for its annual supply of water to properly irrigate the district, yet USBR determines the allocation percentage it will supply. For example, USBR’s allocation percentage to Westlands for 2013 was 20% and for 2014 was 0%.

 

Sources: Gayle Holman, Westlands Water District; Jack Castro, City of Huron, CA

Reclamation Announces It Will Dump Water While Thousands Stand in Line for Food Handouts

The following is a statement by Dan Nelson, Executive Director of the San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority, regarding the release of water from Trinity Reservoir by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation for speculative fishery purposes.

Today, United States Bureau of Reclamation announced it will dump precious Central Valley Project water while the people of our valley suffer from well-documented and widely reported social and economic destruction as a result of government policies compounded by the drought.

While over 2,000,000 acres of farmland throughout the Central Valley, which produces over half of the nation’s fruit, nuts and vegetables, continues to have a 0 percent water supply from the Central Valley Project, Reclamation has determined there is somehow enough water available to let it go down the Lower Klamath River in the hope it may help conditions for unthreatened salmon. This decision is wrong – both scientifically and morally.

At issue is fear about a repeat of a fish die-off that occurred in 2002 – the one and only occurrence in recorded history. It is hypothesized that the die-off was caused by a number of co-occurring factors: over-abundance of returning fish, low flows in the river, and the presence of endemic diseases such as Ich.

However, since recordkeeping of flows and the number of returning fish began in 1978, there have been six other occasions when conditions have been similar to or worse than today and no fish die-off has ever occurred.

Since the once in history die-off, Reclamation has provided additional flows upon request on occasions when a repeat was feared. Initially, Reclamation acquired the water from willing sellers but more recently they have simply taken the water from CVP water and power customers.

Again this year, Reclamation received a request to provide additional flows. However, on July 30 they announced they would not do so because the number of returning fish is far below previous levels of concern and, in light of the severe drought conditions, it is vital to preserve as much water as possible for the future. When Reclamation declined the request they stated they would monitor conditions for the outbreak of disease and if emergency criteria were triggered, they would be prepared to respond rapidly.

Today, none of the environmental conditions upon which all previous decisions have been made support Reclamation’s reversal. The number of returning salmon is still well below the established level of concern. In fact, reports from field biologists, fishing guides and fishermen along the Lower Klamath all indicate that the prevalent fish in the river is steelhead, not Chinook salmon.

There are no reports of any disease outbreak, which was the requisite condition for change Reclamation established just weeks ago. The only condition that has changed is the increase in volume in the voices of a few special interests.

Sadly, Reclamation and the Trinity Management Council squandered the 369,000 acre-feet of water they had available from Trinity Reservoir for fishery management this year. For years, they have been encouraged to set water aside for contingency purposes. This year, like all others, they have ignored that advice and have once again created a completely avoidable crisis.

No one wants to see a repeat of the fish die-off that occurred in 2002. And, our current understanding of the environmental conditions and science strongly suggests it will not reoccur. This makes the uncertainty that is the basis of today’s decision so egregious. Public policy decisions should be based upon a real and substantiated balance of the risks and benefits.

This is what we know – the fish claimed to be of concern are not present in significant numbers. There is no evidence that the disease of concern is present. The emergency criteria developed by Reclamation and federal fish agencies have not been triggered. The potentially bad side effects to other fish and wildlife, some of which are threatened, have not been studied. And, any potential benefits of undertaking this action are purely speculative.

In contrast, the damage being brought to the families, farms, rural communities, and vital wetlands of California’s Central Valley by government policies will continue. Reclamation’s response to the request from people losing homes, businesses, and hope, for even a little bit of CVP water to lessen the crisis, has been consistently no – there simply is not any more to provide. Until today.