By: Lance Jackson
Will taxpayers foot the bill?
The solution is simple and cheap
“Water is the foundation of our existence in more ways than most people take the time to realize, and its uses are nearly infinite. However, currently in agriculture, and soon in our homes, our access to water is going to definitely be finite.”
Everyone can have the water they need if we can get corrupt politicians out of the picture!
Like most of the Generation X guys farming today, I think I’ve been a farmer since I could walk. Even after spending time in school exploring other career opportunities and actually spending nearly ten years in construction, when I came back to Ag, it was like I never left. As those of us remaining in the industry know, it is a passion far beyond being merely a job or a career. It is a life. …
The Central Valley and Agriculture are inseparable. Agriculture and water are inseparable. Water is the foundation of our existence in more ways than most people take the time to realize, and its uses are nearly infinite. However, currently in agriculture, and soon in our homes, our access to water is going to definitely be finite.
The water situation is this: For our cities and towns; the State has decreed a household may use no more than 55 gallons of water per person per day for “indoor water consumption”. Even though water agencies have no way of actually measuring “indoor” water use, our legislature went ahead with the laws (AB 1668 and SB 606) in order to “encourage conservation”, and no doubt, set the stage for future metering technology that will most certainly find its way in to new construction sometime soon.
Out on the farm, (and in the cities as well) we are all faced with the implementation of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA), which essentially says that we can’t take more water out of the ground (pumping) than we put back into the ground (recharge). The State has been divided into different Groundwater Sustainability Agencies (GSA’s) based on local and regional conditions and each of these GSA’s was required to develop a Groundwater Sustainability Plan (GSP) that would explain how they intend to reach the state’s mandated condition of sustainability (putting back what we take out) by the year 2040. There are many, many facets to the plans of how each GSA will reach this goal; everything from pumping restrictions to metering to reduction of actual farmed acres in the region. However, every single GSP I have read through to date shares one common item: groundwater recharge by utilizing surface water deliveries and flood water diversion.
So…surface water deliveries and flood water diversion – where does all of that come from? Well, if you’re in our area it comes from the Kings River and Pine Flat Reservoir. In fact, Kings River water can go all the way out to Corcoran and to points northwest by way of the James Bypass. Most, if not all, of the GSA’s that are capable of gaining access to Kings River water have placed it in their GSP as part of their plan to achieve “sustainability”. I am not going to go into whether or not the different GSA’s have a valid claim to the water or not – that is a discussion for the attorneys. More importantly, is that we understand the scope of service that the Kings River and Pine Flat Reservoir are capable of. We’ve all heard ad nauseum about Millerton Lake, the San Joaquin River, and the Temperance Flat dam project. Temperance Flat is estimated to cost between $2.5 and $3.5 billion dollars and will provide surface water storage of approximately 1,260,000 acre-feet. The project is supposed to have power generation of 160 megawatts. However, the project will inundate existing hydroelectric plants that currently generate approximately 313 megawatts of power, resulting in a net LOSS of power generation. As far as water storage goes, I think it is a decent project, but it is extremely expensive and will undoubtedly be plagued by overruns and other construction issues like every other government project. Partner that with the excessive political pressure that has been placed on the San Joaquin River by the fanatic environmentalist crowd and their asinine attempts to populate the San Joaquin with salmon, and I find it difficult to believe that even IF the Temperance Flat project were to be completed, there would be little benefit to our agricultural economy and communities.
Now, take another look at Pine Flat Reservoir –the Bureau of Reclamation along with the California Department of Water Resources did an investigative study in October of 2003 on the possibility of raising Pine Flat Dam approximately 20 feet. Raising Pine Flat Dam 20 feet would increase the water capacity of the reservoir by 124,000 acre-feet, which would be enough water to irrigate 35,000 acres of tree fruit or nuts for one year. At the time of the investigation, estimated cost of the project was $44 million dollars, which would translate to approximately $63 million today. In the investigative summary of the report, the commission found no technical constraints that would limit design or construction of the project, but the Kings River Conservation District (KRCD) indicated they would not be interested in participating in the project due to estimated environmental impacts. Because KRCD took this position, the project was dropped from further consideration and has not been revisited…why?
To summarize our local water project options, here is what we have: Temperance Flat and all the glamour it brings to the environmental universe; $3.5 billion dollars for 1.26 million acre-feet of water breaking down to about $2,780.00 per acre-feet, but don’t forget –you can bet the 50%environmental rule will be in full effect here, We will actually be gaining only $630,000 acre-feet of water for distribution to agriculture and our cities. On the other hand, we have the option to push our representatives to get the ball rolling once again on Pine Flat Reservoir; the environmental influence on the water supply is nowhere near what the San Joaquin is faced with, and we can gain 124,000 acre-feet at a cost of approximately $63 million dollars, or $508.00 per acre foot – about 18%of the cost of Temperance Flat.
At the end of the day, this is what we’re faced with…everyone in California needs to be aware of the water situation the state has put us in. The State of California has in fact created disastrous policies that have resulted in us getting to a point of no return regarding our underground water supply. By minimizing or even eliminating surface water deliveries to agriculture and our rural communities in favor of flawed and outright false environmental policies, cities and farm operators are forced to pump water in order to provide food, fiber, and to simply survive. SGMA is in place to curtail pumping and recharge the underground aquifers with surface water we, the people, do not even have access to! Currently, the State takes 50% of the available water and removes it from any and all negotiations because it is for the “environment”. The remaining 50% is what we are left to grow food with and to sustain our cities, and now, recharge our underground water supplies. How does this make any sense at all?