Converting farmland to urban uses doesn’t mean water that was used to irrigate crops can be tapped to flow through faucets for homes developers want to build in Manteca.
Richland Communities discovered that’s the case when they were told water that had been used by Michael Hat for his vineyard where he built the imposing 30,000-square-foot mansion just south of Woodward Avenue near Pillsbury Road where hundreds of new homes are popping up in South Manteca can’t be used for their envisioned housing project.
The firm wants to build 800 homes on the 184-acre parcel. But during the environmental review process South San Joaquin Irrigation District made it clear the water doesn’t go with the property.
That has thrown a major wrench into development plans for the firm that is seeking to annex the land to Manteca. State law requires a viable water source to be identified before development can proceed.
The City of Manteca has secured treated surface water from the SSJID that has been earmarked for land already with the city limits. Water for homes proposed for parcels in the city has been secured by the city. Drought withstanding, in a normal water year the city has identified adequate water resources to service homes they’ve either approved or have zoned land for future housing development.
Richland can’t merely go to the front of the line by annexing and bump another project from water availability simply because work hasn’t progressed on land already in the city.
Richland may not be the last developer to run into a major hurdle to try and scale when it comes to water. That said, almost all of the other 9,000 plus homes in various stages of approval for Manteca have identified water sourses.
The SSJID has 72,000 acres within its territory of which about 50,000 receive water.
The district’s superior surface water rights secured over a century ago coupled with the drought, groundwater stability, the growing PG&E costs associated with pumping, and the growing value of permanent crops such as almond, walnuts and vineyards is prompting more and more farmers within the SSJID boundaries that had been on wells to seek permission to tap into surface water deliveries from canals.
In other words the SSJID has a demand for its water for agricultural purposes on farmland in the countryside around Escalon, Ripon, and Manteca that passed on SSJID service in the past.
SSJID and not the owner of farmland have the rights to water. Simply put surface water that has been historically used by a parcel of land for agricultural purposes doesn’t go with the land when it is sold.
An example of a farmer opting to secure irrigation service surfaced last month in Ripon. A grower with a 20-acre orchard that has a shallow water well down to about 60 feet has requested SSJID water after a developer that owns land around the orchard on the northeast corner of River and North Ripon roads advanced plans for homes.
The farmer’s concern is a new municipal well dropped near him to serve the homes will up drying his well up.
Almonds are the biggest irrigated crop in the SSJID service territory with 33,000 acres followed by alfalfa at 6,000, grapes at 6,000, pastureland at 5,200, walnuts at 2,400 and peaches at 1,800. The rest is split between a diversity of crops ranging from corn to melons.
To contact Dennis Wyatt, email email@example.com