SEWD moves water to other districts

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By Craig W. Anderson

Stockton East Water District approved a temporary – 2021 only – water transfer of 7,500 acre-feet from New Melones Reservoir to four water-starved agricultural water districts in San Joaquin and Stanislaus counties. The water is being purchased by Byron Bethany Irrigation District, Del Puerto Water District, Patterson Irrigation District and West Stanislaus Irrigation District.

“The transfer of this water doesn’t impact any of our other obligations, including ongoing and future water deliveries to customers,” said Scot Moody, Stockton East general manager. “This transfer water can be used only in San Joaquin and Stanislaus counties.”

Stockton East received 100% of its contractual water allotment to meet customer demands and, according to Moody, the district decided to utilize a small fraction of that supply “to help our neighbors while it’s available. Our allocation from New Melones can’t be carried over to 2022 so it must be used or it is lost.”

“Farmers in various areas of San Joaquin and Stanislaus counties are in desperate straits,” said SJFB First Vice President Andrew Watkins, who is also president of the Stockton East Board of Directors. “There isn’t any water for them from Shasta or other reservoirs and we had the water available to help them out.”

The water will be temporarily transferred by using supplies stored in New Hogan Reservoir; the district will use New Hogan’s water while performing essential repairs on New Melones’ delivery and conveyance systems.

“This is a great example of districts helping districts,” said SJFB Executive Director Bruce Blodgett,. “The drought and dried up water sources have put water districts and their clients in a very hard place. Farm Bureau is glad to see Stockton East reaching out to those who really need the water.”

“Districts helping other districts … this is wonderful,” said Frances Mizuno, now retired executive director of the San Luis Delta Mendota Water Authority and currently the authority’s special project administrator. “This is the first time Stockton East has done this type of transfer. The water wouldn’t have been used by the district anyway so their directors decided to make it available to other districts.”

She said all districts in San Joaquin and Stanislaus counties are eligible for this type of transfer; this one consists of 7,500 acre feet of water with a 10% carriage loss proviso which means 6,750 acre feet will actually be delivered. “These four districts are very happy about the opportunity to purchase this water because they are out of water. It’s not close to a full allocation but it is a usable amount that will help them.”

2021 is the driest year on record since 1977 and it follows dry conditions in 2020. On May 20, Gov. Newsom declared a State of Emergency for the severe drought condition, focusing on the Central Valley.

“The proclamation urged consideration of voluntary water transfers to assist other water users who are in a desperate position,” Moody said, adding that the district is concerned the Bureau of Reclamation’s decision to release 3,000 acre feet daily from New Melones Reservoir – 180,000 acre feet in only two months –will “result in a reservoir too low to provide water allocations to the district in 2022.”

On the positive side, in an environmental assessment, the bureau determined the district’s transfer created no unreasonable impacts to fish and wildlife or problems for other legal users of Stockton East’s water.