Stanislaus County hopes to seek funding for groundwater efforts

07/28/2014 8:58 PM

07/28/2014 8:59 PM

Stanislaus County supervisors today could take a step toward seeking outside funding for groundwater management efforts.

The Board of Supervisors will consider adopting a water management plan for eastern Stanislaus County that was developed at the expense of Modesto, Ceres, Hughson and Turlock.

Officials said the county simply can tag onto the planning document to satisfy requirements for state and federal grants that could possibly pay for items in the county’s groundwater action plan approved in June. County staff will work with the 21-member Water Advisory Committee to identify which activities could be candidates for grant funding.

The water advisory panel has representatives from agriculture, cities, the county and the drilling industry.

The Water Advisory Committee met over a 100-day period and made 17 recommendations for dealing with groundwater problems in the drought-stricken county. One suggestion was to develop a groundwater management plan that focuses on the northeast area of the county, where millions of almond trees fed by wells have replaced rangeland.

The county’s five-year action plan also called for gathering data on groundwater levels and finding opportunities for replenishing aquifers. Officials said the best source of funding is Proposition 84, the state water bond act of 2006.

Jami Aggers, county environmental resources director, said there is no need for the county to compensate the four cities for using what’s called the East Stanislaus Integrated Regional Water Management Plan. According to a Modesto City Council agenda item for June 22, 2010, a consulting firm was hired to prepare the study for an amount not to exceed $241,450, with the cost shared by Modesto, Ceres, Hughson and Turlock.

The state gave approval to the plan, and the cities adopted it early this year.

The consultants studied water resources in the area bordered by the Stanislaus River on the north, the San Joaquin River on the west, the Merced River on the south and the Sierra foothills on the east.

Among other things, the plan identifies projects for making good use of water, wastewater and storm runoff. The cities paid for the study because there was no local planning document to satisfy the grant requirements of the California Department of Water Resources.

The cities are partners in a proposal to boost urban water supplies by building facilities for treating Tuolumne River water and delivering it to customers south of the river. A second project would treat city wastewater and sell it to irrigate crops in western Stanislaus County.

County government was not a major player in water resource planning until its first groundwater ordinance was approved in October and the Water Advisory Committee was appointed in February. The county could borrow other groundwater studies done by local agencies to piece together a countywide plan.

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