Bee Investigator

Naraghi Lake is Modesto Irrigation District customer

Naraghi Lake on Oakdale Road, seen Aug. 14, was built in 1981 and served as a recharge basin to replenish aquifers.
Naraghi Lake on Oakdale Road, seen Aug. 14, was built in 1981 and served as a recharge basin to replenish aquifers. jlee@modbee.com

Whether because of imposed restrictions such as limits on lawn watering or personal choices such as taking shorter showers, the drought has made people more water-conscious.

It was in the back of Margaret Hall’s mind when she noticed last month that water levels at Naraghi Lake on Oakdale Road had increased significantly.

Where did the water come from?

The Modesto Irrigation District filled the lake when it was built in 1981 and has provided water every year since then when levels drop during summer months.

Property owner Wendell Naraghi gets the same allotment for the lake as he does his farmland.

“Naraghi Lake is treated the same as all our irrigation customers,” said MID spokeswoman Melissa Williams. “It is eligible for the same water allocation at the same price as set forth by the MID board of directors on an annual basis.”

Two acre-feet of water was added to the lake July 10, according to Williams.

Irrigation customers this year are allocated 1.5 acre-feet of water for every acre of property. The lake is 12.5 acres.

While the lake gets topped off with surface water, Naraghi said for the better part of 35 years it has served as a recharge basin to replenish aquifers.

The lake is not lined so it allows recharge through seepage, by an amount exceeding 10 million gallons annually, according to a letter published in The Bee in 1981. The letter was written by one of the engineers who designed the lake.

“We had the idea of a master-planned lake community,” Naraghi said. “Our open space was going toward a lake rather than lawns.”

The majority of the 200-acre community has been developed with homes, an apartment complex and shopping center, but the 30 acres around the lake remain barren.

During wet years, the lake’s positive storm drainage system permits rainwater to flow into the lake, rather than be collected in dry wells, which occasionally flood.

“The city of Modesto pumps a lot of water from the ground for all the residents; everyone in Modesto benefits,” Naraghi said. “If El Niño does show up next year, they are damn well going to need the recharge lake.”

Last year, nearly 65 percent of Modesto’s water came from wells.

And during dry years similar to the past four, Naraghi said, he will continue to fill the lake as needed with his allotment of surface water.

While evaporation needs to be accounted for – the groundwater absorbed is not equal to the surface water it takes to maintain levels – the lake’s design was forward-thinking.

Modesto’s other man-made lake, Sundance Lake in Village I, is maintained with well water.

Have a question for the Bee Investigator? Call 209-578-2366 or email etracy@modbee.com

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