GENERAL MANAGER’S STATEMENT
LESSONS LEARNED FROM FOUR YEARS OF DROUGHT
As I put pen to paper on this subject for the General Manager’s audit statement, I truly hope the drought is over and not just in abeyance for one-year. Recent news releases from the US Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center indicate a return to dry conditions in the fall. This is not promising news but there is not much one can do, but take what Mother Nature gives you and deal with it. That’s exactly what OID has been doing for the last four years.
It hasn’t been easy, but OID was better prepared than most to deal with the drought’s harsh realities. Back in 2007 the Board adopted a Water Resources Plan that provided a blueprint to sustainability, reliability and protection of its water resources. OID followed that Plan and invested in its future to provide those protection measures for its constituents. Over the course of 6 years (2007-2013) OID invested heavily in modernization and infrastructure replacement programs that reduced its annual water usage from 290,000 acre feet down to 240,000 acre feet through efficiency improvements.
So when inflows to New Melones went from;
1.0 MAF in 2010 to
2.1 MAF in 2011 to
607 TAF in 2012 to
559 TAF in 2013 to
346 TAF in 2014 to
333 TAF in 2015 and New Melones storage went from “brim-full” in 2011 to just 267 TAF (11% of capacity) on September 30 of 2015, OID was prepared to adjust. Having reduced its annual water demand down to 240,000 AF over that 6-year period and with a drought allocation of just 225,000 AF in 2013 OID found it fairly painless to adjust and make up the 15,000 AF shortfall. Better than the 75,000 TAF shortfall it would have experienced had OID not planned ahead for this drought.
Last year, in the fourth year of the drought, OID provided the highest water allocation (44 inches) found in all the Central Valley to its agricultural water users. This year OID has no restrictions on water use except that irrigators be “water smart” in their application and use of water. Again, few irrigation districts in the State can come close to the level of water service OID has been able to provide to its constituents and we are very proud of that fact.
OID is not in this position by luck or chance. It is in this position because of a Board of Directors that has worked hard and diligently to make strategic, prudent and fiscally minded decisions. It developed a Plan and it stuck to that Plan. Lesson 1 of this drought should be that preparedness and the vision to plan for the inevitable has paid off for both OID and its constituents.
Lesson 2 of this drought is also easy. Cooperation and a willingness to work together with State, Federal and wildlife groups, to meet the needs of fisheries, is essential for sustainability of those resources and the benefits they provide to our local community.
To be clear, there are many Masters when it comes to the water in the Stanislaus River.
· The Federal Bureau of Reclamation, which operates the reservoir and administers water allocations to the Districts under an agreement reached in 1988.
· The National Marine Fisheries Service’s 2009 Biological Opinion that requires precise amounts of water at certain times of the year to be sent down the river to benefit fish in what are known as “pulse flows.”
· The State Water Resources Control Board, the U.S. and California Environmental Protection Agencies, and other Federal and State fish and wildlife services also influence what can and can’t be done with water.
OID believes working cooperatively with all these agencies, in crafting a fair and equitable Operations Agreement, that protects our farmers and our historic water rights, and still meets the requirements for fish and river health is a smart move. We have succeeded in doing so in both 2014 and 2015, during the deepest part of the drought, and all parties seemed pleased with the outcomes that occurred. In fact, many of the leaders of those agencies hailed our cooperative accomplishments as an example of the kind of partnerships necessary to meet California’s diverse water needs. OID tends to agree with this statement and will continue to assist whenever possible to balance resource needs for everyone’s benefit.
Steve R. Knell