Fact check: Tracy’s thirst

For a few minutes this afternoon, the water supply portfolio of San Joaquin County was a hot topic on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Local members of Congress were debating H.R. 1873, the measure to crank up the Delta pumps and send more water south. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton, stood on the floor of the House and explained the county’s strong opposition to the measure. 

That prompted a response by Jeff Denham, R-Merced, who said — correctly — that the county is somewhat divided in its water needs. Eastside farmers tap streams flowing from the Sierra Nevada; Delta farmers depend on the estuary; and some folks in the far southwest corner of the county are served by the giant federal pumps, and thus would stand to benefit if the bill were to pass (it did) and become law (it won’t).

Then Denham stretched a bit. He used the city of Tracy as an argument why San Joaquin County should perhaps be willing to support the bill and crank up the pumps.

“The city of Tracy is important!” Denham argued. “They should have their water. A 30 percent allocation is unacceptable.”

Re. Devin Nunes, author of H.R. 1873,  jumped on board, too.

“The communities on the west side of San Joaquin County, I guess perhaps they don’t matter to the minority (Democrats),” he said. “Because evidently, by opposing this bill, you’re basically guaranteeing that the city of Tracy and those water districts where those jobs are created are going to be cut off from their water this year.”

Tracy isn’t exactly about to wither up and blow away, even without the federal Central Valley Project water for which it contracts.

The city has a “diverse” portfolio of water supplies to get through dry years, Steve Bayley, Tracy’s deputy director of public works, said in an email.

On top of the 10,000 acre-feet of paper water from the Delta, Tracy gets another 10,000 acre-feet off the Stanislaus River from the South San Joaquin Irrigation District, and sucks up about 9,000 acre-feet from below ground.

Because federal supplies from the Delta pumps haven’t always been that reliable, the city deliberately plans on an average of only 50 percent in a normal year. They bolster that supply by storing water underground at the Semitropic Water Storage District in Kern County.

“So a 30 percent delivery this dry year is within the range of our water supply planning scenarios,” Bayley said.

Bottom line: The likely failure of H.R. 1837 in the Senate is not about to dry up the city of Tracy.

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