Walter Ward, who oversaw Modesto Irrigation Districts water operations before retiring three months ago, is expected to be named Stanislaus Countys water resources manager today.
The Board of Supervisors will vote on a proposal to hire Ward at a top-of-the-pay-scale $109,450 per year. Ward, 58, had been earning $150,000 at MID, where he spent 17 years working his way up the ranks to the assistant general manager in charge of all irrigation, reservoir and drinking water operations.
Before announcing his surprise retirement in October, Ward managed about 75 MID employees in the utilitys irrigation and civil engineering divisions and at the plant supplying Modesto drinking water.
Stanislaus County is creating Wards position primarily to address concerns about falling groundwater levels.
According to the job description, Ward will be responsible for planning, organizing and overseeing the countys water resources management plan, along with developing strategies, policies and programs to enhance groundwater resource opportunities and project implementation.
Ward also will work with the countys new 21-member Water Advisory Committee, which is expected to be appointed soon.
During an interview last fall, Ward told The Modesto Bee he thinks groundwater regulations are long past overdue and that he fears state lawmakers will step in if Stanislaus officials do not. Regarding proposals to limit groundwater pumping, he had warned its going to be hugely controversial.
One water management tool Ward may be able to start using soon is a computerized 3-D mapping program thats supposed to simulate and analyze groundwater flows and predict the impact of pumping on Stanislaus water supply.
While at MID, Ward spent nearly 10 years encouraging and overseeing the development of that software by the U.S. Geologic Survey, and it finally is expected to be ready to use this fall.
Ward had said that the Stanislaus-focused simulation optimization program will provide a kind of crystal ball to determine how groundwater pumping or flood irrigating in one part of the county could affect water levels elsewhere.
Ward graduated from Modestos Davis High School in 1973, and he attended Modesto Junior College, the University of California, Santa Barbara, and the University of Wyoming. He has a degree in geological sciences and 30 years experience working in assorted public and private water-related jobs.
Todays vote to hire Ward is on the supervisors consent agenda, which means its scheduled to be approved without public discussion.
Bee staff writer J.N. Sbranti can be reached at email@example.com or (209) 578-2196.