The City of Coalinga is shelling out $1.138 million to keep taps flowing this year.
The city finally found water it could afford and is buying 600 acre feet of water from Patterson Irrigation District at about $1,900 per acre foot.
The deal was finalized and announced Oct. 26.
The water was desperately needed as Coalinga was set to run out of water by mid-November.
“It’s the cheapest one we could find, honestly,” said Adam Adkisson, Coalinga city councilman. “Happy that we were able to find it at that price because it could have been a lot worse.”
Adkisson said other agencies were quoting up to $5,000 per acre foot.
Still, the price from Patterson Irrigation District is a far cry from Coalinga’s normal water price of $130 per acre foot, which it usually buys from the federal government.
Coalinga, which sits on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley in Fresno County, relies entirely on supplies from the federal Central Valley Project (CVP), which transports water south from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to both agricultural and municipal contractors.
In February, the Bureau of Reclamation, which operates the CVP, cut allocations to most San Joaquin Valley irrigators to zero because of the ongoing drought. A minimal amount of water the Bureau calls “health and safety” was made available for municipal needs.
But that only got the city up to 2,700 acre feet of its 10,000-acre-foot full allocation. The 600 acre feet purchase will provide residents a bare minimum for their water needs.
Water rates will have to increase because of the purchase, said Adkisson. But city officials are confident that state funding will help soften the blow.
“While the State of California has not yet committed to covering the cost of the water purchase, conversations have been very positive and the City is hopeful that we may receive a state grant to provide financial assistance related to the purchase,” wrote a Coalinga city spokesperson in a press release.
“Patterson Irrigation District was privileged to be able to share water supplies this year with a regional partner who otherwise would have gone without,” wrote Vince Lucchesi, general manager of Patterson Irrigation District, in an emailed statement. “This unrelenting drought is affecting all of our communities, and we will only come through it by working together in a spirit of cooperation.”
Coalinga city officials want to implement a tiered water rate system, where heavier users are charged more, said Adkisson. It hasn’t been approved yet, but Adkisson anticipates it will be rolled out over a period of years.