State Water Board order could hinder 2022 irrigation season and groundwater recharge

The California State Water Resources Board has issued restriction orders to 45 water rights holders in the Sacramento and San Joaquin Delta, including the Turlock Irrigation District. These controls could lead to water shortages in the years to come if left in place for an extended period.

The curtailment order orders local agencies to immediately stop diverting flows to rivers. Turlock Irrigation District, along with Modesto Irrigation District, owns and operates Don Pedro Reservoir which is a collection site for the Tuolumne River and the main source of irrigation water.

The current water year will end on October 1, and there is enough water stored for the remainder of the year, according to TID. Also on October 1, the State Water Board will review the reduction and determine whether or not to lift it.

“There isn’t really a lot of water going down anymore, so what will be stored from this very dry year is already stored. So while they’re asking for a diversion seizure, at least for TID, it’s really not impacting us this year. We will be able to meet all of our farmers’ demands this year, “said Brandon McMillan, communications specialist at TID,” However, this could have a significant impact in 2022 and beyond if the restrictions are not lifted. . “

These are the first reduction orders Turlock has faced. The National Water Board issued these same orders during the last drought in 2015. These orders were legally challenged and the state lost these restriction orders. According to McMillan, TID will potentially file a request for reconsideration with the State Water Board regarding these orders and “has not ruled out seeking an injunction.” TID is also seeking to file a legal challenge with other agencies as a joint power group called the San Joaquin Tributaries Authority.

The State Water Board said its goals for the reduction are to: Protect drinking water supplies, prevent salinity intrusion into the delta, and minimize impacts to fishing and the environment.

“TID’s position is that the Tuolumne River does not need these reduction orders because TID is meeting these targets based on our operations,” McMillan said.

According to McMillan, TID believes that local entities are best equipped to deal with water-related issues affecting their own communities.

“We belong to local interests; we have a council of five members who are local elected officials. We have local control here. Because we have this local control, we were able to make good, smart and proactive decisions. Essentially, the council was able to save water and help us get through a drought lasting several years. In this context, we always meet our requirements, or go beyond them, in terms of reserved environmental flows. We are still doing all the discharges necessary for the environment and we have already set aside water to do next year’s discharges, ”he said.

Don Pedro is currently at a low level and water, rain and snow are required to fill the reservoir.

“Much of our region’s economy is based on agriculture. Whether it is farmers or food processors, like Blue Diamond, much of the area revolves around TID having agriculture and TID having water. We have to be able to fill Don Pedro, to fill Don Pedro we have to be able to store water and we cannot store water if the reduction orders do not allow the water to flow. McMillian said. “If we go into a third year of drought, where the first two years have already been drier than the last drought, it puts us in a very difficult position to help our farmers. ”

The reduction could also have an effect on the area’s groundwater resources, which is the only source of drinking water for residents of Turlock.

“TID is the region’s largest groundwater charger. Irrigation is even more important than rain. So when farmers flood irrigated fields, this flood irrigation absorbs the aquifer and recharges it. If we can’t use it to recharge the sub-basin and recharge the groundwater, that could be a really big problem for the Town of Turlock, ”McMillan said.

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Gail Mena

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