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Groundwater users, the time to act is now! The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and the San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority located south of the delta have just approved the 2014 Water Transfer Program. This program alone could ship 195,000 acre-feet of Sacramento Valley water south of the delta. The majority of this water may come from groundwater substitution.
This is a serious taking of a resource we are dependent upon. If you use Cal Water, if you have a residential or farming well, if you enjoy Bidwell Park, local creeks and valley oaks, you need a healthy water table. State maps show the groundwater elevation southwest of Chico declining more than 18.8 feet in one year. In 10 years’ time, the groundwater has receded more than 19 feet in Tehama County, 20 feet in Colusa County, and 60 feet in Glenn County! The water table is not recovering each year.
For several years now, the Bureau of Reclamation has been promising an environmental review, which considers the cumulative impacts of these yearly transfers. It has yet to materialize, but the transfers keep occurring. If this yearly mining of the groundwater continues, the North Valley will be like the San Joaquin Valley, with dry creeks, ground subsidence, and foul drinking water.
Most often, the water is being transferred to huge corporate farms on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley. Much of the land being irrigated is toxic with selenium and other minerals. The Trinity River has been devastated to provide for these industrial farms. Let’s not allow our aquifer be sucked dry as well.
Since the Bureau of Reclamation has not completed an environmental review that shows our area will not be damaged, the federal court could issue an injunction to stop the water transfers until the bureau can do so. Going to court is expensive and difficult, but necessary, because if the 2014 program is not stopped, the serial, one-year transfer programs will open the door for further demands on groundwater.
Local water organization AquAlliance, of which I am a board member, has been following the issue carefully. We have established standing by writing extensive comments; we have experienced attorneys ready to file suit. What we need is your commitment. You can pledge what you can to support the lawsuit. You will be asked for money when the lawsuit is filed. You are a groundwater user; please act now by going to www.aqualliance.net to stop these transfers.