An increase in the availability of water from the State Water Project to 100 percent of Table A allocation will mean little to Tehachapi-Cummings County Water District because it is already struggling to find places to store its previous allocation.
The original allocation of 5 percent in December was increased to 30 percent in January, upped to 35 percent in February and then to 75 percent on March 24.
The latest increase — to 100 percent — was announced on April 20, a day after the district’s Board of Directors heard General Manager Tom Neisler’s report at its April 19 meeting.
The district’s importation system has been operating since March 15, but in order to bring up all of the water that has become available, pumping would need to have started earlier, Neisler told directors. But the district also must balance natural gas orders and costs, and based on earlier water allocations, the district did not start pumping earlier, he said.
Because the allocations announced prior to March 24 would not have allowed the district to meet all customer needs, the board spent months haggling over a water priority ordinance approved in February but now not needed.
Late winter and early spring rains also mean that ag customers aren’t yet needing water, Neisler said, so the district must store water until it is needed.
As of April 14, the district had imported 956 acre-feet of water. For comparison, a total of only 2,841 acre-feet of water was imported last year, when the allocation ended up at only 5 percent of the Table A allocation.
“We currently have little to no demand, so we are banking as much water as possible and filling the lake with the remainder,” Neisler said. “All our recharges are operating at full capacity, with the exception of the Cummings Ponds.
“We do not own or operate these ponds, we simply have an easement right to recharge water in them. They were constructed onstream on Cummings Creek and have overflowed due to natural runoff. While overflow has currently ceased, we will not run the risk of contributing to any further downstream damage from these facilities,” he added.
As of April 14, the district had spread a total of 441 acre-feet of water in various areas and placed about 550 acre-feet of water in Brite Lake.
“The current storage in Brite Lake is 1,380 acre-feet, leaving less than 500 acre-feet of additional capacity,” he said. “We are hopeful that the forecast — good weather — will lead to the commencement of irrigation activities.”
In addition to SWP water, the bountiful water from last winter’s atmospheric storms has meant that the district has been able to purchase what is called “Article 21” water, which is sometimes called “wet weather water” that is made available to contractors when there is a lot of water in the system. And it has had access to excess flow from the Kern River.
But there are complicated rules for accessing that water and also an expense to purchase and store it.
The upside is that in future dry years, water stored outside local basins can augment supplies to meet customer demand.
In addition to continuing previously authorized storage arrangements, at its meeting April 19 the board approved a water banking and storage agreement with Grimmway Enterprises for a new banking facility adjacent to the Cross Valley Canal in the San Joaquin Valley.
Neisler said the agreement provides that for every acre-foot of water the district deposits in the facility for recharge, it will retain two-thirds for extraction at a later date, and Grimmway will retain one-third, less spreading losses.
The agreement is for two years and recognizes that regulatory work is needed to have the site fully approved for water banking.
The board discussed risks involved and Neisler noted that without the option, the district would have to pass on some available water this year.
Claudia Elliott is a freelance journalist and former editor of the Tehachapi News. She lives in Tehachapi and can be reached by email: email@example.com.
Sorry, there are no recent results for popular commented articles.