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Sunday, January 27, 2019

By Chris Frost

chris@tricountysentry.com

 

Oxnard-- Part two of the groundwater pumping allocation story over the next two decades starts with an estimate of 100,000 acre-feet of water which means 60 percent will be allocated for agriculture and 40 percent will be assigned to Municipal and Industrial (M&I) needs.

“If we learn over time that we pump 60,000 acre-feet, then we are going to have to ramp down to 36,000 acre-feet by the year 2040,” Deputy City Manager Kiri Klima said. “That’s a huge decline for them.”

Historically, she said the city had pumped 14-15,000 acre-feet of groundwater over the last few years, and 20,000 acre-feet work well for the city, but over time that will work into a tight fit.”

“On Oct. 12, the GMA (Groundwater Management Agency) presented an ordinance which rather than the industrial pumpers beginning at 40 percent of the allocation, the M&I began at 30 percent of the allocation and that is the 60/40 split.”

The city would pump consistently at 28,000 acre-feet until year 17, she said, and the GMA board responded with direction to start at 35,000 acre-feet, which she called a little bit better.

“That little difference between that 35,000 acre-feet starting level and the 40,000 acre-feet; over time we would be losing over 20,000 acre-feet of water in those seven years,” Klima said. “That translates into about $34.5 million if we have to buy that from the state.”

On Oct. 24, she said the GMA suggested different allocations that would preserve the 60/40 split, but they also wanted to add 15,000 acre-feet of pumping each year to agriculture for the Santa Clara River Diversion.

“The United Water Conservation District and the Pleasant Valley County Water District diverts surface water when there is water to divert and over the past few years, they haven’t been able to divert water,” she said. ” The total ag pumping would be approximately 70,000 acre-feet a year, while M&I still begins at 36,000. That’s no longer the 60/40 split.”

The GMA voiced concerned over the additional pumping during the Nov. 20, meeting, Klima said, and said the water could only be borrowed so United and Pleasant Valley would need to under pump and return the water.

“We need to see if the next version of the ordinance articulates that this water is borrowed and must be returned,” she said. “If it doesn’t say so, we can understand this is an allocation, not borrowing.”

The city also raised an issue about the water from the Cornejo Creek Project, which is recycled water taken from the City of Thousand Oaks Wastewater Treatment Plant and discharged into the Cornejo Creek Tributary.

“Because this project was supposed to be in lieu of the Pleasant Valley County Water District pumping groundwater, the GMA at the time determined that Pleasant Valley would receive credit for every acre-foot of Cornejo Valley water delivered,” she said.   

The GMA board is tracing the water back and determined since the water pumping credits were transferred to United, that amount should be deducted from the users of United’s pipelines.

“In other words, the Oxnard allocation would have to be reduced because of this, rather than agriculture allocation,” she said. “We just met with the GMA staff on this issue this afternoon, (Jan. 15) and they informed us that they would not recommend this deduction. We hope the GMA board accepts this recommendation.”

 The final goal, she said, would allow equitable borrowing and the ag pumpers want the flexibility to borrow against future allocations.

“From Oxnard’s perspective, that would be fine if it’s limited to a set amount per pumper, and they have a limited amount of time to return that,” she said. “We also require such flexibility.”

During council comments, Councilman Bert Perello said the was a 20.000 acre-feet loss of water and wanted to know how many residents can be supplied by that much water.

“If we have ag-land that comes out of ag and into M&I, would the ag guys be benefitted great and the M&I guys be hurt more,” he asked.

Klima said if the water transfers from ag to M&I the allocation would go along with that.

“It’s not that M&I gets split up into smaller portions,” she said.

If the city had to buy the lost water, it would cost approximately $34.5 million.

Councilman Bryan MacDonald said the city has the opportunity to double the output of the advanced water facility and put two more skids at the site.

“We can capitalize on the ability to sell that water to ag because state law doesn’t allow us to comingle it unless it sits for six months somewhere and then we bring it back in, test it and comingle it,” he said. “Maybe we can contact the state and see if we can get a rules change that allows us to comingle there.”