Siskiyou County, CA: Irrigation district participates in groundwater recharge program
A Siskiyou County irrigation district is the first water agency in the state to take part in a new groundwater recharge program.
Under the program, the Scott Valley Irrigation District divert 5,400 acre-feet of water from the Scott River during the rainy season when the river is running high. The district can divert water from the river until March 31.
The district uses the water to flood select areas in the valley, where it can then percolate into the ground and recharge the amount of water stored underground.
Some sections of the Scott River dry up during the summer and fall. State and local officials hope raising the water table in the valley will mean the river will continue to flow rather than dry up during the summer.
More water in the river should benefit chinook and coho salmon that spawn in the river, according to the California Water Board.
“We have been talking about doing this kind of thing for a long time,” said Jim Morris, a board member for the district.
But Felice Pace, a Klamath region environmental activist, said the water table in the valley has been going down because farmers in the area have been overpumping for irrigation.
“I think it’s a boondoggle, to put it bluntly,” Pace said.
The recharge program will benefit the farmers because there will be more groundwater because of the recharge program, but the fish and other wildlife won’t benefit, he said.
“There’s no control on the pumping. It’s not measured. It’s not regulated,” Pace said.
But Morris said his family has lived in the valley since the 1800s, and he has journals that show sections of the river have been going dry in the late summer and early fall for more than 100 years.
“It’s a common occurrence. The fish have adapted, but the people haven’t,” Morris said.
Over the past several years of drought, he said the situation has gotten worse.
State Water Board officials have been encouraging water agencies to participate in groundwater recharge programs.
Since the Scott Valley Irrigation District received approval for the program in January, the Yolo County Flood Control and Water Conservation District also received a permit to divert water from Cache Creek for groundwater recharge.
University of California, Davis researchers are also setting aside a 15-acre plot in the valley to test whether using high river flows in the winter can be used to recharge groundwater to the point the river continues to flow in the summer and fall.
On average, the depth to water in the valley is about 30 feet, according to a UC Davis report. In wet years the water table unit rises to about 15 feet and as low as 35 feet in dry years, the report states.
REPOSTED FROM PIE N POLITICS, where editor Liz Bowen says:
PNP comment: Farmers have known for 100 years that utilizing irrigation ditches in the off-season helps recharge the groundwater table. Greenies do not like this type of program, because their goal is to destroy the environment. — Editor Liz Bowen
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