Oakdale councilman pushing for seat on Stanislaus County’s Water Advisory Committee

jnsbranti@modbee.comJanuary 6, 2014 

— Stanislaus County’s new Water Advisory Committee will have 21 members, but there’s no guarantee any of them will be elected officials from the county’s nine cities.

Don Petersen thinks there should be, so the Oakdale City Council member announced Monday night that he will seek appointment to the committee.

“I found it astounding there were no elected city officials on the short list” for membership on the yet-to-be-selected panel, Petersen said during a brief council discussion about groundwater Monday. “Our community has a stake in this, and we’ve been elected by the citizens of Oakdale to look out for their interests.”

Competition is expected to be fierce for seats on the committee, which will advise county leaders on what should be done to protect Stanislaus’ groundwater supply. It’s a hot topic because of the massive increase in new water well permits issued this year and the continuing drought.

Despite 2013 being the driest year in more than a century, thousands of additional acres of almond orchards are being planted, particularly on former range land around Oakdale and Waterford. Most of those new orchards plan to use groundwater pumped from giant wells to nurture their trees, and that has people concerned about overdrafting the aquifer.

“City councils from throughout Stanislaus ought to have representatives on that committee,” Petersen said. “We need to gather data (about the groundwater supply) before everyone gets scared to death.”

All Stanislaus cities rely on groundwater pumping for their drinking water. Oakdale alone pumped about 1.7 billion gallons from the aquifer in 2013.

There are concerns too much water is being pumped, especially by farmers who are planting outside irrigation districts.

Applications for the Water Advisory Committee will be accepted through Jan. 24. Most of the members will be selected by Stanislaus’ five supervisors, with a couple of spots reserved for farmers.

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