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Ripon may create dual water systems

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Ripon may create dual water systems

Ripon Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Tamra Spade introduces water experts during a Wednesday night forum in the Ripon City Council Chambers. They are, from left, Jeff Shields, South San Jo...

GLENN KAHL/The Bulletin


POSTED July 18, 2014 1:09 a.m.

Ripon is exploring having two water systems — one for domestic use and the other for landscaping.

Such a system would reduce the rate of depletion on deeper aquifers that are suitable for drinking. It would rely either on shallower wells to tap into non-drinkable water or possibly recycled wastewater delivered by purple pipes.

Ripon Mayor Chuck Winn discussed the potential for two municipal water systems – one for landscaping and one for family usage – using potable and non-potable water during Wednesday’s water forum staged by the Ripon Chamber of Commerce.

“We’re producing three times the food (for a growing population) with half the water,” South San Joaquin Irrigation District Shields said of agriculture’s trend to use less water.

Almond farmer David Phippen agreed.

“While we we’re busy doubling our population, it’s imperative we create more water storage to feed the people,” Phippen noted

Shields voiced his concern over current state law concerning the SSJID’s limit on water storage throughout the wet months of the year.

 “We could have 50,000 to 60,000 acre feet of overage water flow but they won’t let us store it,” Shields said. “ State law on water rights says ground water recharge is not available and it can just go down stream and under the Golden Gate Bridge.”

Shields stressed that the State Water Control Resource Board can be very “contentious.” 

Shields said it would be beneficial to be able to charge the ground water storage adding that the county is seeing the sixth worst year drought in its watershed since 1853.  

“If we don’t get rain in October and November you will see things really deteriorate,” Shields warned.  

Other speakers addressed other aspects of the drought and water issues impacting Ripon, San Joaquin County, and California as a whole.

“If we didn’t have ground water we would be in a world of hurt,” pointed out Brandon Nakagawa, ground water manager for the Eastern San Joaquin County Water Basin Authority. “The ground water basin is a shared resource where land owners are prohibited from selling their water outside the district.”

He added that the real problem is not knowing if this drought “is going to be the one that does us in.”  Nakagawa recalled that the last year of a multi-year drought was in 1992.  It was quite intense, he said, with many new ground wells being installed throughout the county.

Some 400 wells are being constantly monitored throughout his coverage area and he hopes the water levels will not drop below the 1992 levels.

County Supervisor Ken Vogel said that severe floods in California in past years caused the Central Valley Project to be developed outlining how things were going to be done in relation to the state’s water or lack of it.  

The northern Rivers were to be kept as “wild and scenic” – a move he contends is a recipe for disaster.  He added that he fears the construction of the Twin Tunnels project that will stretch beneath the Delta providing intakes from the Sacramento River will devastate San Joaquin County farming and the Delta habitat.

“The economy of the Delta will go away, yet the county still has to maintain the Delta,” he warned.  

There is approximately 55 percent of the Delta in San Joaquin County proper, Vogel added.  Numerous vineyards, alfalfa, orchards and field crops are all in the path of the Delta tunnels in a project that hasn’t been well thought out. 

“It doesn’t increase water supply – we need more water storage,” Vogel said of the Twin Tunnels.

Vogel explained that 27 million people live south of the Tehachapi range need northern California water.  

The twin tunnels project is regulated under the control of the Delta Stewardship Council.

“Once it accepts the environmental impact report it (the tunnel project) goes into law, not to go before the voters again,” Vogel said. 

 Shields added that it is very unfortunate as it was slated to be a $40 billion project that is now expected to go over budget and still not create one drop of water. 

Former Ripon Mayor Mike Restuccia said he had been to the Caribbean recently where desalination was being used to provide the water supply.  Shields noted that desalination is becoming more favorable in some areas, adding that one problem is that it is energy intensive.  

“There are several plants in Southern California that are under construction right now,” he said.  Another is on California’s north coast that has been slow in Marin that would cost about $4,000 per acre foot.  The fishing industry has fought the plan saying that desalination upsets marine life.  

Shields said the pressure to have more water in the Stanislaus River is tied in with having more fish survive and reproduce in greater quantity.  

“We (SSJID) spend a million dollars a year in researching fish in the Stanislaus River.  We know more about what fish are doing in the river than anyone else.  The single loss factor is predators.  We’ve tried to get Fish and Game to let us correct the problem but they won’t let us,” Shields said. 

Ripon spokesman Ted Johnston said the city is using recycled water on its parks as well as drawing from wells that have been previously shut down because of excessive nitrate levels.  It is cheaper for the city, he said.  

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