Throughout California, water issues have remained at the center of policy makers’ discussions not only at the state level, but amongst local jurisdictions.
In Stanislaus County and the Central Valley, regional leaders and elected officials have taken up groundwater issues as the precious resource continues to dwindle. With conditions worsened this year by one of California’s worst droughts in history, public agencies are taking action on the area’s groundwater problems, such as forming policies to stop over-pumping.
This Wednesday, the recently formed Stanislaus County Water Advisory Committee continued seeking proposals about whether or not to get pumping and water level data from local farmers and agricultural well owners. As the plan has caused a level of concern from area growers hesitant to release such information out of fear that it might negatively impact their ability to pump their privately owned wells in the future, the Committee is also battling with whether or not they should collect the requested information.
During the meeting, local farmers and even some committee members warned of the difficulty in retrieving data on how much water is being pumped from private agricultural wells, with some forewarning that they would not be cooperative with the committee’s request as it is confidential information.
According to Committee member Wayne Zipser, the committee needs the data to fully understand the extent of the problem with over pumping at privately owned wells, saying that only then can a solution be found.
“We need to gain the trust of the local farmers that we’re not going to use this information against them,” said Zipser.
After hearing several comments during the public hearing, the committee suggested the county try collecting groundwater level measurements from private well owners on a voluntary basis instead of mandating the data.
The Water Advisory Committee’s next meeting will be at 9 a.m. May 28 in the Kirk Lindsey Center, located at 1010 10th St., Suite 102 in Modesto.
Also held in Modesto last Tuesday as the Bureau of Reclamation’s meeting on the draft Environmental Impact Report of the North Valley Regional Recycled Water Program — a regional solution to address water supply shortages within Del Puerto Water District’s service area, on the West Side of the San Joaquin River in Stanislaus.
The proposed program would see up to 59,000 acre-feet per year of recycled water produced by the cities of Turlock and Modesto be delivered via the Delta-Mendota Canal. Recycled water would be conveyed from Modesto and Turlock through pipelines from their wastewater treatment facilities, crossing the San Joaquin River, and ending at the Delta-Mendota Canal. The recycled water would then be conveyed directly to Del Puerto Water District customers or to the San Luis Reservoir for storage during low water demand periods. The program is estimated to create approximately 572 ongoing jobs, in addition to reducing reliance on area groundwater supplies.
Although Turlock Irrigation District had voiced concern about the City of Turlock entering the five-year contract, resulting in multiple meetings being held between the two agencies to discuss the plan, City Manager Roy Wasden reported on Tuesday at the Turlock City Council meeting that the City would be moving forward with the project. TID may eventually become the benefactor of Turlock’s tertiary recycled water eventually, once the contract with Del Puerto Irrigation District ends. TID and the City of Turlock remain in negotiations on the recycled water, in addition to discussions regarding a future Regional Surface Water Treatment Plant that would significantly help conserve regional groundwater supplies.
On Wednesday, a town hall meeting sponsored by the community advocacy group Stanislaus Water Coalition will highlight groundwater sustainability. The free, public event will begin at 6:30 p.m. at the Oakdale Community Center located at 110 South Second Ave.