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SSJID may join effort to protect groundwater

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SSJID may join effort to protect groundwater

Water flowing through SSJID canals and onto farmland helps recharge aquifiers.

HIME ROMERO/The Bulletin

POSTED July 22, 2013 1:03 a.m.

San Joaquin County is fighting water wars on two fronts.

* There’s the highly publicized battle over the proposed Twin Tunnels that could drastically alter the Delta and increase the diversion of surface water currently being used for farming and urban uses to protect fish.

*And then there is the water war front hardly anyone notices because it is in the form of dropping groundwater aquifers.

A 1985 San Joaquin County groundwater study noted aquifers had dropped an average of 1.7 feet per year between 1947 and 1984 or 64.6 feet in total. The overdraft was blamed for saltwater intrusion that was occurring far east of the Delta. The study warned that at the rate noted San Joaquin’s water tables would be 160 feet below sea level and in serious threat of being rendered useless by salt water intrusion by 2020.

The study triggered the formation of a county groundwater recharge program.  While that has helped slowdown the drop in water tables it still continues. A 2009 state water study indicated the entire San Joaquin Valley had lost close to 60 million acre feet of water since 1961 or enough to fill 60 Folsom Lake Reservoirs. That translates into a 400-foot drop in underground water levels in some locations for the San Joaquin Valley Aquifer.

The South San Joaquin Irrigation District board when they meet Tuesday at 9 a.m. in the district office, 11011 East Highway 120, will hear a presentation about the Eastern San Joaquin County Groundwater Basin Authority that is being formed to replace the Northeastern San Joaquin County Banking Authority.

A presentation is being made by San Joaquin County Water Resource Manager Brandon Nakagawa. The board will consider joining the joint powers authority at a cost of $20,000 a year. Members already include Lodi, Stockton, and Stockton East Water District. The City of Manteca council recently voted to join the authority.

The district does pump water from underground sources occasionally to supplement surface water. And it also pumps water in some places as a protective measure for permanent crops in areas of shallow groundwater.

But the SSJID’s biggest impact is the fact 40 percent of the 250,000 acre feet of the water it imports from the Stanislaus River watershed ends up recharging aquifers. Most of it is through seepage at Woodward Reservoir as well as from losses in canals and storage basins.

The district also helps to avoid the need for Manteca, Lathrop, and Tracy to pump 22,000 acre feet of water annually from underground sources by providing the three cities with surface water through the Nick DeGroot Water Treatment Plant.

To contact Dennis Wyatt, email

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