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Salty water spat erupts over “no man’s land” of Mendota Pool

 •  by Lois Henry
From the Mendota Dam looking southwest. Nov. 2018. Credit: Lois Henry

The federal government has OKed a 20-year extension of a water exchange program for one Central Valley water district that another district says will illegally foul its water.

The Bureau of Reclamation billed the exchange program as a way to “optimize water supplies and reduce pumping impacts” by allowing a group of Westlands Water District farmers to pump groundwater into a small reservoir called the Mendota Pool  for “credits” to retrieve water out of the San Luis Reservoir.

The James Irrigation District, which pulls from the Mendota Pool, says Westlands farmers are being allowed to pump in water that’s so salty it will make James’ water all but unusable. Meanwhile, Westlands farmers will get high-quality water for its crops.

The emerging fight over the water swap is another sign that California’s rivers, reservoirs and groundwater basins are bigger battlegrounds than ever as new pumping rules settle in.

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