Eye On Modesto

Thoughts and observations about Modesto and Stanislaus County

Archive for the tag “Water Resources”

Groundwater Problems In The Foothills of Stanislaus County

come on in, the water's bad

come on in, the water’s bad (Photo credit: scpgt)

By Vance Kennedy

There has been a large increase in planting of trees in the foothills of this county, especially almonds.  There is no flood irrigation to replenish groundwater, which is being pumped by increasingly deep wells.  Rainfall in the area ranges between 12 and about 16 inches per year on average, of which perhaps half recharges groundwater.

Almond trees need about 30 inches of water per year to do well.  Hence, there is on the order of two feet of water deficiency from rainfall alone.  The rest of the needed water must come from pumped groundwater.  That seems fine if you have a ready and easily available groundwater supply.  But therein lies the problem.

In the foothills the rocks are tight and much of the water must come from fractures.  Overall, an estimate of 10 percent porosity is possibly a generous estimate.  So, when one pumps out a foot of water, the water table drops 10 feet.  Since perhaps 2 feet of water must be pumped a year, that means that the water table may drop 20 feet per year or more.  Initially, the trees may do fine and the orchard can be sold to an unsophisticated buyer at a very large profit.  However, in 10 years, the water table will be down about 200 feet, or much more if the porosity is less than 10 percent.  I have heard that some very large pumps are getting water at 300 to 400 feet.  That is very expensive and cannot be justified if prices go down.  One might say that the buyer will lose and that is his problem.  There is a Latin phrase to describe the situation – Caveat Emptor – let the buyer beware.  It is not that simple.

When a well begins removing water from an aquifer, that is a water-bearing rock, there is a “cone of depression” that forms around the well, so that there is a sloping water table toward the well.  As the well goes deeper that cone of depression extends further and further from the well and ultimately will start drawing water from neighboring properties, causing their water table to drop.  California law provides no protection for that adjacent property owner.  He can be ruined, and he has no legal recourse.

There is another problem, for society as a whole.  When the tree grower has removed the groundwater to 400 feet or so and lets his trees die, that property is useless for many decades.  The water table will only be recharged by rainfall and that can raise the water table perhaps 5 feet per year.  That almond grower has literally mined a valuable resources and harmed future generations.  He has actually caused an environmental disaster, and as matters stand, there is no way of stopping him.

Mr. Kennedy is a citrus grower and a retired Hydrologist with the U.S.G.S.

 

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An Interesting Email Exchange Between Garrad Marsh and Dave Thomas

This exchange was Modesto Mayor Garrad Marsh and Dave Thomas President of the Stanislaus Taxpayers Association.

Garrad, et al. it is clear that inquiring minds want to know what is really going on with our water policy.  The message below was sent by an inquisitive person.  Please amend my PRA of this morning to include the questions below.
It should be obvious that any document which is used in negotiating with MID regarding an issue that involves a 218 expense is clearly in the public domain.  Again, I trust that you will send me the “Term Sheet” relating to your negotiations with MID immediately.
This proposed scheme by City to take over Surface Water Treatment Plants MUST be fully disclosed to the Public, and soon.
 


Dave, 
As you can see from item 19, copied below, on the just-released agenda for Tuesday’s meeting, the mayor has already discussed the Prop. 218 process to fix the water plant with the City Council. When did that discussion occur? 

When was the decision made to order staff to start the 218 process? Was this decision reported to the Public?  If this was discussed under potential litigation, a Prop. 218 vote has nothing to do with litigation. 


It’s clear to me they’re in the habit of discussing the public’s business in closed session, and that is a violation of the Brown Act.  Would you check on that?
 
19. 

Consider approving Amendments related to updating the Water Rates and Capacity Charge Study regarding the proposed repairs to correct the design and construction deficiencies of the Modesto Regional Water Treatment Plant Expansion:  (i) Financial Consulting Solutions Group, Inc. in an amount not to exceed $64,148, plus $6,147 for additional services (if needed), for a maximum amount of $313,508; (ii)  Horizon Water and Environmental to perform environmental review work in an amount not to exceed $14,951, plus $1,495 for additional services (if needed), for a maximum amount of $16,446; (iii) Harris & Associates related to the Proposition 218 Process for water rates, in an amount not to exceed $13,495, plus $4,580 for additional services (if needed), for a maximum amount of $64,065; and amending the Fiscal Year 2011-12 Operating Budget in the amount of $100,191 in order to fully fund these Amendments and Agreements necessary to update the Water Rates and Capacity Charges. (Funding Source: Water Fund)

 

 
Thank you very much, Dave
P S      I think it is shameful for the Council to hide a $394,019 dollar water expense in the 19th of 22 agenda items, which will be discussed after most people will be in bed.
  Moreover, we know that that $394,019 will be diverted out of the Water Enterprise fund.  It just never ends, does it?

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