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Tracy may need to buy unused Lathrop, Manteca surface water
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Tracy’s reliance on scarce Bureau of Reclamation water could end up bringing a bit of temporary fiscal relief to Lathrop’s water budget.

Bureau water pumped from the Delta-Mendota Canal accounts for 50 percent of Tracy’s municipal water supply. Another 33 percent comes from groundwater while the remaining 17 percent from the South County Surface Water Treatment Plant.

The Bureau is substantially cutting back deliveries this water year due to the continuing drought. Farm users are getting zero percent of their allocation in March while municipal users are being reduced significantly.

South San Joaquin Irrigation District General Manager Jeff Shields said Tracy is expected to try and acquire capacity that belongs to either Lathrop or Manteca or both from the treatment plant the three cites operate in conjunction with Escalon. SSJID oversees the actual day-to-day operations.

Tracy already is using Escalon’s share as that city doesn’t intend to start accessing treated surface water until the second phase of the plant is built
Lathrop has the biggest unused capacity thanks to River Islands at Lathrop fronting the money to provide a supply for its future 11,000 households. Lathrop currently is using less than 25 percent of its water capacity.

Tracy has the ability to request that it “buy” unused Lathrop water. By “buy”, it would take over the cost of treating whatever percentage of water that they acquire that is Lathrop’s. The end result would be more production of Lathrop’s share of water. That would send the unit price for treating down reflecting in a somewhat lower water cost for the water Lathrop does consume for itself.

Lathrop’s municipal staff had mentioned the possibility of selling some of their water as a way of helping reduce costs during a protest hearing over the need to hike water rates in that city.

Shields noted that none of the cities have the right to sell raw SSJID water that they have an allocation to receive within the overall picture of serving the urban and agricultural needs of the 62,000 acre district of which Lathrop and Tracy are outside of the boundaries.

Any cutback that farm users face has to be shared equally by the cities. If the SSJID has to cut back deliveries 10 percent, each of the cities would face a 10 percent cutback in their supply.

Manteca isn’t expected to be affected since it mixes surface water with well water and has a long way to go until it reaches full use of the allocation.

Tracy, though, which maxes out its share, may face cutbacks that could force it not just to access Escalon’s water as well as what Lathrop doesn’t use but some of Manteca’s as well.

The SSJID board is asking all cities to enforce what conservation measures they have in place and to consider other ways to reduce water use.

There is also the real possibility of a fourth year drought in 2010 which means conserving water this year regardless of a city’s water supply outlook in the next 11 months may end up helping them next year when supplies could be extremely critical.