Tuesday, September 16, 2014
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
99 CENTS

Water flows uphill? Maybe, in California drought

By
From page A2 | May 07, 2014 |

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Water has flowed from Northern California’s snow-capped peaks to the south’s parched cities ever since the California Aqueduct was built in the 1960s. Now, amid one of the worst droughts in history, state officials are considering an audacious plan to send some of the water back uphill.

State water engineers say using pumps to reverse the flow of the aqueduct would be a first in a drought. It would also be a complex engineering challenge that could cost millions of dollars,

Still, water agencies in the desperately dry farmlands around Bakersfield say the investment is worth it to keep grapevines, pistachios and pomegranate trees alive. Agencies as far north as the San Francisco Bay Area are talking about a similar project.

“There is no place on planet Earth where an aqueduct is designed to go backwards,” said Geoff Shaw, an engineer with the state Department of Water Resources who is reviewing the proposal. “But they have a need for water in a place where they can’t fulfill it, and this is their plan to fix it.”

The plan the department is evaluating was drawn up by five of the local agencies, or districts, that sell irrigation water to farmers. They would bear the cost of the project, which they have estimated at $1.5 million to $9.5 million.

They hope to get approval from the state in June and start pushing the water uphill later in the summer.

Long celebrated as an engineering marvel, the California Aqueduct is a 420-mile system of open canals and massive pipelines that serves millions of Californians, including those in the state’s biggest population centers: the San Francisco Bay area, Los Angeles and San Diego.

Under the plan, water districts would be allowed to pump into the aqueduct emergency water that they store in underground reservoirs in Kern County, about two hours north of Los Angeles. That banked water and other extra supplies would raise the level of water within a small, closed section of the aqueduct.

Then, pumps powered by diesel engines would push the water over locks and back upstream, against the southward pull of gravity. Farmers upstream could then use the water to irrigate their fields.

All together, the districts want to move 30,000 acre-feet of water along a 33-mile stretch between Bakersfield and Kettleman City. An acre-foot is enough water to cover an acre to a depth of one foot.

Even if water is pumped upstream, some will still flow south, so no customers downstream will be harmed, state officials said.

The water districts came up with the idea after a bleak February forecast showed the Sierra Nevada snowpack was so thin that those who depend on the state system would get no water delivered this year.

A rash of spring storms improved the picture, but only slightly. Districts will now receive 5 percent of the water they would get in a normal year, and the supply won’t arrive until September.

“Our crops need some amount of water just to keep alive,” said Dale Melville, manager-engineer of the Fresno-based Dudley Ridge Water District, one of the agencies proposing the project.

The flow has been reversed only once before — in 1983, when heavy rains forced state officials to operate emergency pumps to send floodwaters northward, Shaw said.

Water agencies in the San Francisco Bay Area want to take part in a similar project that would push water along a 70-mile stretch.

“This is a year where you really have to look at every single possible way to move water around to where it’s needed,” said Joan Maher, operations manager for the Santa Clara Valley Water District.

As the project awaits final approval, water districts are already ordering pumps and making arrangements to get diesel engines.

Nearly half the water Dudley Ridge hopes to receive would irrigate the orchards of Paramount Farms, owned by Los Angeles billionaires Stewart and Lynda Resnick, who produce POM Wonderful pomegranate juice and Wonderful pistachios.

If it doesn’t rain much next winter, the districts might seek to continue pumping the water backward in years to come, Melville said.

“Ideally we would hope it’s a one-time thing,” he said, “but it would be worthwhile to have this as an insurance policy.”

————

By Garance Burke. Follow him at http://www.twitter.com/garanceburke

Comments

comments

The Associated Press

.

News

 
Davis school nurses are stretched thin

By Jeff Hudson | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
Sierra Club gathers for morning walks

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A3

 
DPNS has afternoon openings

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A3

 
Paws for Thought: Socialize your new pup at UCD’s Yappy Hour

By Evelyn Dale | From Page: A3 | Gallery

DHS parents go back to school

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

 
New DHS Hall-of-Famers

By Wayne Tilcock | From Page: A3

Exploration of dementia lecture set for Sept. 25

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

 
Sick-pay benefits expanded to millions

By San Francisco Chronicle | From Page: A4

 
Bad roads cost Californians billions

By The Associated Press | From Page: A4

Farmers market continues at Sutter Davis

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4 | Gallery

 
Yolo County’s looking for a few good advisers

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

Search the Internet at Connections Café

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

 
Garage, bake sales benefit outdoor education trip

By Anne Ternus-Bellamy | From Page: A5

Sutter qigong classes start Sept. 22

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

 
Halloween costume sale benefits preschool

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

Hundreds flee wildfires; homes burn

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5 | Gallery

 
Harmony Award nominations sought

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A7

 
Da Vinci seniors take on Constitution essay

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A8

.

Forum

Sounds like a swell party

By Creators Syndicate | From Page: B5

 
Maybe not the best rebound guy

By Creators Syndicate | From Page: B5

 
Nate Beeler cartoon

By Debbie Davis | From Page: A6

Many reasons to back Sunder

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6

 
I support Madhavi Sunder

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6

A leader with heart and vision

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6

 
Carbon fee and dividend plan is the answer

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A6

.

Sports

Open Cup final has local flavor

By Evan Ream | From Page: B1

 
Devil volleyball victories keep piling up

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1 | Gallery

DHS needs just 10 boys to top Elk Grove

By Evan Ream | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Finding the good in a tough DHS football loss

By Spencer Ault | From Page: B1

More pressure on QB would be nice for Aggies

By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1

 
Raber: glad to join in bringing readers golf column

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: B1

Highlights galore in Junior Blue Devil weekend

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B3 | Gallery

 
Sports briefs: Big Monday for Masiel as DHS golfers win league opener

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B8 | Gallery

.

Features

.

Arts

‘Jane Eyre’ to screen at I-House

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A11

 
Anais Mitchell to play Third Space

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A11

‘Shrek, The Musical’ shines at DMTC

By Bev Sykes | From Page: A11 | Gallery

 
Irish fiddlers come to Davis house show

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A11

Jenny Lynn and Her Real Gone Daddies play at Picnic in the Park

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A11 | Gallery

 
Woodland artist hosts event at her new studio

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A11

.

Business

.

Obituaries

.

Comics

Comics: Tuesday, September 16, 2014 (set 1)

By Creator | From Page: B5

 
Comics: Tuesday, September 16, 2014 (set 2)

By Creator | From Page: B7