Federal SystemGroundwater

District sues to stop salty water exchange

 •  by Lois Henry
The Mendota Pool, northwest of Fresno, is a linchpin in the movement of water across the Central Valley.

The James Irrigation District in western Fresno County has sued the Westlands Water District over its plan to let farmers pump salty groundwater into the Mendota Pool in exchange for water from the San Luis Reservoir.

The lawsuit could scuttle Westlands’ plans to create a certain supply for its farmers as they, and farmers throughout the Central Valley, adapt to new water uncertainties under the state’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, a measure to restrict groundwater pumping.

The 20-year exchange program was billed by both Westlands and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation as a way to “optimize water supplies and reduce pumping impacts.” The Bureau would supply the exchange water from the San Luis Reservoir.

Farmers in the James Irrigation District, however, fear the program will leave them with water that’s little better than salty muck, according to the district’s General Manager Steve Stadler.

“So, by pumping 1,600 TDS (salt) water into the Mendota Pool, that  — per your EIR — is helpful to James Irrigation District,” Stadler said at Westlands’ Jan. 23 meeting when its board approved the environmental impact report for the program.

“Well, quite frankly, we don’t need your help in that respect.”

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Lois Henry
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