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STATEMENT FROM TOM BIRMINGHAM, GENERAL MANAGER, WESTLANDS WATER DISTRICT
Westlands Water Supply in 2009
(Fresno, CA – June 15, 2009) There seems to be some confusion regarding the water supply shortage we are facing this year in the Westlands Water District. As shown in the attached chart (unable to copy from .pdf file - KBB), we expect to have 64% of our average water supply in 2009.
Over the past 20 years, Westlands has imported an average of 750,000 acre feet of water from the Central Valley Project each year. This year, with our current allocation of 10%, we are on track to import 119,000 acre feet, which is 16% of our average over the past 20 years. Even if we include our anticipated supplemental water supply of 135,000 acre feet, the district will still receive only 36% of our average imported water supply.
We provided these figures to the Department of Water Resources (DWR). But in a subsequent letter to Senator Feinstein, DWR increased the amount attributed to groundwater, estimating that WWD will pump approximately 460,000 acre feet of groundwater this year.
We do not know at this point how much water Westlands farmers will pump in 2009. It is certainly true, however, that this will be the third consecutive year that Westlands will experience increased groundwater pumping. Including this year, over the past three years district farmers will have pumped over 1.2 million acre-feet of ground water.
Pumping at this high level cannot be sustained for long. Nor can groundwater be considered a reliable alternative to imported water from the CVP.
The lack of imported water can be overcome short term through the use of ground water. Indeed, one of the most important reasons why Congress authorized the San Luis Unit of the Central Valley Project in 1960 was to avoid the pumping of groundwater in excess of the safe yield of the groundwater basin as a source or irrigation water for the area now served by Westlands.
Pumping large volumes exceeds the capacity of groundwater resources to recover. This leads to overdraft, damage to the soil and reduced productivity. It also increases the risk of catastrophic land subsidence which can damage homes and businesses, highways, and the California Aqueduct.
On the other hand, every acre foot of imported water we can bring into the district means one less acre foot of groundwater that will have to be pumped.
Westlands Water District
Sarah Woolf , 559-341-0174