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OID Discussion - Groundwater Draws Crowd
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The topic of groundwater brought a standing-room-only crowd to the Oakdale Irrigation District Board of Directors Nov. 19 regular meeting. OID Water Operations Manager Eric Thorburn presented on groundwater specific to the OID service area where he covered a basic overview of groundwater, its management in OID, and OID’s future plans.

OID collects data on its wells and those readings were part of Thorburn’s report, as well as information from the California Department of Water Resources. He said that there is a general downward trend in groundwater but that the issue is not as significant in OID’s area. However, he noted that the district doesn’t know what private well owners use unless they provide that information. Further, he said that there are more groundwater issues along the borders of the aquifer and those can pull down the aquifer but OID can only manage its service area.

He also noted that OID has a lot of hardpan in the area, which doesn’t allow surface water to percolate down very well and noted that the area around the river is better for groundwater recharge as the soils are more permeable. He said that there are some potential projects for recharge, such as not lining some ditches with concrete.

Thorburn said that OID’s total recharge is 50 percent canal seepage, 16 percent drain seepage, and the remainder is deep percolation of precipitation and applied surface water. OID General Manager Steve Knell later added that OID is a “net positive” contributor to the underground aquifer, as are most surrounding area irrigation districts, but the aquifers are still going down. He said there are “extractors” that aren’t replenishing the aquifer and there are a number of issues to be addressed.

Thorburn also touched on the Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors plan to implement a groundwater ordinance and create advisory and technical committees. The formation proposal goes before the Supervisors on Dec. 17 and on Jan.14, he said, there will be appointments. There is also an opening for a new position called the County Water Resources Manager. He said OID will offer support, assistance, and input for the county and also do continued in-district data collection and analysis.

Thorburn suggested visiting the Department of Water Resources website to see the library or water maps, as well as the U.S. Geological Survey’s website for data and reports, and also the Stanislaus and Tuolumne Rivers Groundwater Basin Association website at

More information on the Water Resources Plan and the Ag Water Management Plan can be seen on the OID website at

One audience member asked if there were any plans for active recharge of groundwater, like is done in Los Angeles. Knell responded that there are none and that the state requires that any water injection into groundwater has to be of drinking quality. He said it’s better to let that occur passively and let nature and gravity do its thing.

Another attendee asked if OID had ever thought of keeping water in its systems year round to allow for percolation. OID director Steve Webb pointed out that OID’s water right doesn’t allow it. Knell added that OID’s right only runs from March 1 to Nov. 1 and that any water it diverts from the river outside of that time window is only allowed during flood or storm water releases from the dam. The attendee added comments about Constitutional rights and said that since it’s a logical solution to the problem, it’s OID’s fiduciary responsibility to pursue it legally. Knell countered that OID has been trying to get more water for the last 100 years.

Director Frank Clark said that you can’t, on a consistent basis, take more water out of the ground than what’s going in, and noted that you can’t control precipitation, only recharge. He said there needs to be a moratorium on new wells until new and better data is available. He said that no one knows how much water is being pumped. He added that OID has no authority and that this is a serious problem.

In other discussion, OID Chief Financial Officer Kathy Cook presented the 2014 draft budget to the board. It will come before the board for approval at the Dec. 17 regular meeting.

Also in discussion, miscellaneous rates and fees were discussed. Knell said the water rate hasn’t increased since 1990 and many other fees haven’t changed since 1995. The item will come before the board for action at the Dec. 17 meeting.

Knell also informed the board that the City of Oakdale administrators will be at the Dec. 3 meeting to make a presentation regarding the city pool.

The next regular meeting of the OID Board of Directors will be at 9 a.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 3 in the OID boardroom, 1205 East F.