SAY DROUGHT — Roseville resident Erika Baker, along with 9-year-old Sarah Lutrel and her sister Briana, 6, from Sacramento pose for a camera phone photo being taken by Amy Lutrel among the remnants of the town of Red Bank along the exposed lake bottom of Folsom Lake. Democrat photos by Pat Dollins


Water conservation is the watchword

By From page A1 | January 17, 2014

The El Dorado Irrigation District Board of Directors has not been asked to declare a Stage 1 Drought, but unofficially the district is urging customers to “reduce water consumption and conserve in every way possible,” according to a Water Supply Update presented by Director of Engineering Brian Mueller Jan. 13.

EID runs its fiscal year on a calendar basis and its water year begins in October. But Mueller noted that calendar year 2013 was the “driest on record.” He added that this is the second dry year in a row.

The seasonal rainfall total, beginning July 1, 2012, and ending June 30, 2013, totaled 33.12 inches compared to the 139-year average of 39.57 inches. On a 2013 calendar-year basis the total is 9.68, as measured by the Mountain Democrat rain gauge. On a water-year basis, so far since October there have been 1.5 inches of precipitation in Placerville.

Though Folsom and now the city of Sacramento are requiring 20 percent reductions in water use, EID is in better shape. Folsom and about 365,000 residents depend on the San Juan Water District, which gets its water from Folsom Lake, which is now at 18 percent of capacity. Releases from Folsom Damn have been cut to 500 cubic feet per second, prompting the city of Sacramento to begin enforcing measures to cut back water usage 20-30 percent because the city currently gets its water from the American River.

EID has a contract with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation for 7,550 acre-feet from Folsom. That is typically cut back to 75 percent of historical usage in dry years, though Mueller anticipates the cutback could be more this year.

Another source of EID water from Folsom Lake is 4,560 acre-feet that is passed through from Weber Reservoir and a ditch water right. That is gauged and could be less. In 2013 it yielded 3,294 acre-feet, according to Mueller.

Additionally, the district has 17,000 acre-feet of water that it is seeking a contract with USBR for delivery at Folsom Lake, even if it is only a one-year contract for 5,000 acre-feet.

The pumps submerged in Folsom Lake that feed the El Dorado Hills Water Treatment Plant currently are 40 feet below the lake surface. The shallower it gets, though, the more power is consumed pumping, said Director George Osborne.

General Manager Jim Aercrombie said the staff has initiated discussions with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation about switching to a floating pump platform as Folsom Lake shrinks.

The district owns Jenkinson Lake at Sly Park, which when full holds 41,000 acre-feet. It is primarily a rain-fed reservoir. It held 26,612 acre-feet as of Jan. 6 and is on track to intersect with the line of decline from the drought year of 1976. Sly Park is a two-year water supply.

But EID’s crown jewel is Project 184, which captures snowmelt above 8,000 feet elevation in four alpine reservoirs in three counties. That provides EID 15,080 acre-feet of consumptive water that is captured by a diversion dam on the South Fork of the American River and sent through 22 miles of canals, flumes and tunnels to Forebay and then Reservoir 1 Water Treatment Plant in Camino. Water in excess of the 15,080 acre-feet is sent downhill to a 21-megawatt powerhouse that produces average revenue of 8 million. From there it is returned to the South Fork of the American River.

But this year EID is conserving its water in the alpine reservoirs for later use for water service. Last year it diverted 3,500 acre-feet of Project 184 water through a tunnel into Sly Park.  So it plans to conserve Sly Park water by starting winter pumping to El Dorado Hills, curtailing power generation to conserve water in Caples and Silver Lakes and importing 3,000-5,000 acre-feet of water into Sly Park.

Director Dale Coco expressed concern about  “cost from the fact we’re not running water through the power plant” and from bringing the pumps online. He also worried about less water to sell.

“We’re seeing increased revenue from having to water (in the winter),” said Board President Alan Day. “It’s early for a drought declaration.” Day said he would like the staff to review the drought plan at a future meeting.

“Is there a time when we could be called on for Folsom?” Coco asked.

Mueller said no, that EID’s water would be a drop in the bucket of Folsom Lake.

EID’s water rights on Project 184 date back to 1864.

If EID later decides to declare a drought there are four stages.

Stage 1 calls for 15 percent voluntary conservation. Stage 2 calls for 30 percent voluntary/mandatory conservation.

Stage 3 is 50 percent mandatory conservation.

Stage 4 only allows for health and safety water use.

Michael Raffety

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