Could Stockton sell its surplus water?

Bret Beaudreau, chief plant operator with the city's new Delta Water Supply Project plant, stands near the sedimentation basin. Photo by Calixtro Romias.

The impacts of California’s drought are not felt evenly across the state. Thanks to new sources of surface water in recent years, the groundwater beneath the Stockton has come up 30 feet in some places, and the city is in a relatively good position to weather the drought (this year, at least).

And so, it might not be surprising that the question came up at Wednesday’s city Water Advisory Group meeting: Could Stockton sell any extra water to harder-hit areas of the state?

Chair Bill Loyko brought it up. “Could we be a vendor?” he asked.

The city’s response: “It’s a really sensitive issue,” Municipal Utilities Department Director Mel Lytle said.

Lytle pointed to recent controversy over the Modesto Irrigation District’s proposal to sell water to San Francisco, and Oakdale Irrigation District’s consideration of a sale to the Westlands Water District.┬áBoth deals fell apart amid backlash from the public.

“Out of area transfers are very controversial,” Lytle said.

Selling water within the county might be a different matter, however. Lytle said a small pipe, perhaps 12 inches or 16 inches, connects Stockton with Lathrop. If needed, the city could move water in that direction.

Indeed, it’s not unheard of for water to be sold within county lines. Stockton actually buys a small percentage of its surface water supply from the Woodbridge Irrigation District, on the Mokelumne River.

Bob Granberg, assistant director of Municipal Utilities, told the group Wednesday that Stockton could end up with about 83,000 acre-feet of water for the 2014-15 year, which begins in April. Its total demand is about 64,000 acre-feet.

There are a couple of caveats that could affect Stockton’s projection of a water surplus.

First, the 83,000 figure hinges on receiving the minimum contracted amount of 20,000 acre-feet from the Stockton East Water District, which Granberg said has not confirmed whether this water will be delivered.

The projection also assumes a little more than 30,000 acre-feet will be available from the city’s new Delta Water Supply Project. State officials, however, have invoked emergency measures to reduce the amount of water flowing through the estuary, which could make the city’s Delta water too salty.

The final 30,000 acre-feet would come from underground, a low enough number that the groundwater will not be over-tapped, Granberg said. And the city is expecting to receive half of its normal supply from Woodbridge, or about 3,250 acre-feet.

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    Alex Breitler

    A native of Benicia, he lives in Stockton with his wife, Ann, who forces him to go backpacking in the Sierra Nevada or Trinity Alps at every opportunity. He has been writing mostly about natural resources since 2003, first in Redding and now in ... Read Full
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