Steve Knell: Bee’s story lacked context on pumping data

07/26/2014 12:00 AM

07/26/2014 7:12 PM

Half a story does not make the whole story, and that’s exactly what The Bee conveyed last Sunday (“Pumping at record levels,” Page A1). In a fair and unbiased comparison, the reporter would compare “drought years” to “drought years.” Had she done so, she would have reported that in 1976 and 1977, the Oakdale Irrigation District pumped 22,169 and 18,353 acre-feet respectively of groundwater. From January to June of this year, OID pumped about 9,000 acre-feet. The district is not setting “record pumping levels” during this drought, but actually pumping the “norm” in these hardship years.

While The Bee’s narrowly focused article only talked about aquifer withdrawals, the whole story comes into focus when you add aquifer “deposits” to the discussion. OID knows from its water balance – verified statistics reported to the state – that 12 percent of OID applied irrigation water ends up in the aquifer. From March through June, OID has delivered 110,000 acre-feet of water to its 57,000-acre service area. At 12 percent, 13,200 acre-feet of groundwater recharge that already has occurred. So let’s accurately compare facts: 9,000 acre-feet pumped since January, 13,200 acre-feet put back in.

In fairness, what’s missing from the above is the in-district pumping by our farmers, usually 20,000 acre-feet a year. That has not increased this year because OID has not had to short anyone surface water. Collectively, OID and its farmers put more water back into the aquifer each and every year – an average of 38,000 acre-feet – than is pumped out. Come the end of September, that number may be down, but it will still be positive – even in a drought.

My opinion on water-table impacts of groundwater pumping has been written before. In short, look to the east and west outside OID’s boundaries, not here.

Steve Knell, general manager,

Oakdale Irrigation District

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