By DENNIS WYATT
Every year 35,000 acre feet of water — enough water to meet the domestic in-house needs of every resident in Manteca, Ripon, Lathrop, Escalon and other rural areas in between for a year — seeps into the ground at Woodward Reservoir.
That alone makes South San Joaquin Irrigation District, after Mother Nature, the largest recharger of underground water supplies in the South County.
It is one of the main reasons why the SSJID board on Tuesday may take the first step in forming a groundwater sustainability agency.
The SSJID board meets Tuesday at 9 a.m. at the district office, 11001 East Highway 120.
“Every time we (the district) fill Woodward Reservoir the water level at the western end of the district near Manteca and Ripon goes up (three inches),” noted SSJID General Manager Jeff Shields.
New state law requires water basins to have a susrtabaiuble groundwater management plan in place that can be enforced. Although many of the 48 entities that legally can serve as a groundwater sustainability agency within the basin have discussed forming one, no one has stepped forward. There are 17 months left before an agency needs to be in place or else the state will take over groundwater management
The management plan will determine how much everyone from cities and farmers to individual residential wells will be allowed to take in any given year from the Eastern San Joaquin Water Basin.
If the board decides to go ahead Tuesday, work will start on forming such an agency using the district’s boundaries as the area covered although it could be expanded beyond that at a future date. The cities of Lathrop and Ripon have indicated they favor SSJID taking the lead. Manteca hasn’t indicated what it wants to do as staff said they may consider recommending the City Council for a groundwater sustainability agency just for Manteca.
If a city opts not to be covered under the agency SSJID might pursue, they can notify the Department of Water Resources in writing that they are pursuing an agency on their own.
Legal and engineering cost required to form such an agency is expected to cost $150,000
Currently cities, farmers and rural residents use existing wells or drill new ones without any limitation on how much water they can pump. The new state law changes all of that requiring a sustainability plan for a groundwater basin. That in all likelihood will lead to caps on how much water cities, farmers and rural residents can take from the ground as well as limit the ability to drop new wells.
Groundwater pumping is causing land to drop throughout much of the San Joaquin Valley, but primarily from Merced to Bakersfield
Farmland near Corcoran in the Southern San Joaquin Valley dropped 13 inches during an 8-month period in 2014.
Over drafting is also causing structural damage. It has caused the Delta-Mendota canal near Los Banos to crack the concrete lining as well as force a bridge that dropped so low it has to be demolished and replaced with a higher bridge.
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