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City's water purchase was not an 'impulse' buy

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Posted: Monday, August 4, 2008 10:00 pm

Did you know that Lodi used to be known as the watermelon capital of the world? The reason was simple - the roots of the melons did not have to go far to reach water, which was just a few feet under the surface.

Today, the water table is approximately 50 feet below the surface. It is a precious commodity now and will be even more so in the future. You can tell by the increasing discussions over who has rights to Delta water, and the mounting pressure to build a peripheral canal to send freshwater to Southern California. There will be a huge fight in this state over the rights to water in Northern California vs. Southern California.

On April 16, 2003, the Lodi City Council unanimously voted to purchase 6,000 acre feet of Mokelumne River water a year from the Woodbridge Irrigation District, and on Dec. 20, 2006, the council adopted a resolution to build a treatment facility.

City of Lodi staff has recognized for years that our water table is decreasing and they have researched and sought expert opinions on how to best address this issue. The City Council has had 15 public meetings since 2004 on this subject. The decision to build a treatment plant was not an impulse choice, but a decision to secure future water rights and lock in protection of this resource.

A recent op-ed piece in this paper accused the council of making an impulsive decision in 2003 without having a plan to use the water and another editorial recommended using the water to recharge the groundwater table.

This recent push to again consider recharge has failed to point out some very important issues that the council had to consider. One, the groundwater basin in which Lodi draws its water is being overused and the water quality is adversely affected and this is not considered a sustainable practice. Two, the treat-and-drink option guarantees that Lodi receives every drop of the water we purchase.

Lodi's drinking water wells reach down approximately 140 to 200 feet. They pump about 17,300 acre-feet a year to meet the demands of existing users, which is about 2,300 acre-feet more than is naturally replaced. Despite this overdraft, there will be a greater need for water as more homes and businesses come to Lodi. Three major housing projects have been approved for developments that will take a couple of decades to build out. Ever-increasing groundwater pumping is the reason the county aquifer is dwindling. Should we pour water on the ground and hope it reaches city wells for some indirect benefit, or use it directly?

The city has legal opinions that the treat-and-drink option offers the most protection for Lodi's right to use Mokelumne River water, and to WID to continue to provide it to the city. Groundwater recharge could jeopardize that right and result in state agency oversight and/or an assertion of authority for state control. I am not willing to take that risk.

It's unclear whether groundwater recharge by a municipality would be considered the highest and best use of the Mokelumne River water. But it is clear that the treat-and-drink alternative eliminates further mining of groundwater, thereby resulting in the highest direct benefit to the groundwater basin currently serving the city. Also the treat and drink alternative will lower the salinity levels in both our drinking water and our wastewater, helping the city avoid potentially costly improvements to remove salts at the wastewater plant.

There is, however, another source of water for recharge, and that's the stormwater currently drained to the Mokelumne. I support studying ways to use that water for recharge, rather than high-quality river water.

I recently had a meeting with some farmers from the Armstrong Road area regarding another matter and at the conclusion of that meeting they encouraged me to hold fast to my commitment for a treat-and-drink facility. Those are farmers who could benefit from higher groundwater levels, and they recognize the quality of WID water for direct consumption.

Today there may be renewed controversy in the council's decision to purchase water from WID and build a water treatment facility. In the future, the council will be commended for the deal as water wars erupt all around us.

Larry Hansen is a member of the Lodi City Council and vice mayor.

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Welcome to the discussion.


  • posted at 3:36 pm on Sun, Aug 10, 2008.


    Hey OTH... my computer is down. No emails for a bit. Hope you are well. :)

  • posted at 4:49 am on Sun, Aug 10, 2008.


    Damn, they can't use impulse as an excuse. Now pay the consultants and get on with it okay?

  • posted at 7:01 am on Wed, Aug 6, 2008.


    T & C, pour yourself a Brita pitcher full of tap water and look at all the colored specks left in that pitcher above the filter after you filter it. That's the chunks of crap that're delivered to each and every tap in Lodi due to the old and rotting underground water mains. The city measures the water quality and purity from the point where it comes from the pump right out of the ground and not from a tap after it's flowed through the underground piping. Any water testing company will tell you that the water from your tap is unacceptable for drinking without some kind of filtration or purification system as far as particulates go.

  • posted at 1:30 pm on Tue, Aug 5, 2008.


    How will all this "CLEAN WATER" ever reach our faucets? Most of Lodi well ground water is contaminated with Cancer Causing Chemicals!

  • posted at 5:59 am on Tue, Aug 5, 2008.


    If Lodi uses 17,200 acre feet per year and that is a 2,300 acre feet over draft then obviously that cant continue whether or not there is new development or not. Lodi buys 6,000 acre feet from the WID and 2,300 would immediately be used by current residents to prevent overdrafting. That represents a 40% share in the new plant that needs to get built. Stop letting the water flow over the dam and build the plant. New residents and exsisting residents will have to pony up.

  • posted at 2:10 am on Tue, Aug 5, 2008.


    That was a very well written article, Mr. Hansen, and Lodi needs this water treatment plant in order to sustain any future growth, although I disagree that it was anything but an intelligent thing to do to buy this water without an immediate plan to use it. So now, let's continue and move forward with the studies and planning and get this treatment plant built before the costs rise any further due to recession. The groundwork has been laid and the streets there at Lower Sac and Turner Road have been resurfaced for the third time in less than 5 years. What's the holdup? I don't think there's currently enough wastewater treatment volume from the White Slough or drinking and irrigation water for these three new developments council has already approved. Flag City has just been proposed a $60,000 fine and they were also using that new Line that Lodi extended out there. Is Lodi sharing in that pollution fine? And when are these developers going to purchase that land they promised to set aside as litigation for having their projects approved? Has Reynolds Ranch provided those 200 acres yet? That worksite needs to be flooded to hold dust down.


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