win-win for the state of
For decades, water
storage projects throughout lands that were once part of the
Under the new contracts, the district will pay ranchers as much as $150 per acre-foot of water they store on their land over the next 10 years. An acre-foot is the amount of water 1 foot deep that would cover an acre of land.
The contracts total $7 million and the district hopes to spend another $46 million over the next five years to expand the program, said Melissa Meeker, the executive director of the water district.
increase storage on 9,500 acres north of
While the water
storage project unveiled on Tuesday is on a much smaller scale than a reservoir
and will not provide drinking water, it is cheap, immediate and will provide
widespread environmental relief, Meeker said. Storing water on the ranchlands
will reduce the amount of polluted water flowing into
The additional storage will also reduce the amount of tainted farm water released into coastal estuaries and will recharge shallow groundwater water supplies, she said. Natural wetlands will benefit from a consistent water supply and nutrients will be slowly filtered from the water, she added.
Rather than rely on costly engineering and modelling, the program relies upon the ranchers' knowledge of their own land. Instead of massive structures, gates and pumps the ranchers will build their own ditches and canals to move water to lowlands on their land. Simple culverts, some just a few feet in diameter, fitted with panels of wood, will control the flow of water.
Rancher Jim Alderman said his family's ranch will use two culverts to retain water at higher levels in 322 acres in two natural wetlands. "People who live on the land know where the water collects and how it runs," he said.