Emergency drought plan for Valley communities

FRESNO, Calif.

Water is now being delivered to three banks -- underground aquifers in Fresno County.

The water will be stored until it's needed by communities like Lindsay, Strathmore, Orange Cove and Terra Bella.

The extended drought has residents and businesses in Orange Cove worried their taps will soon run dry.

"It would have," said Orange Cove City Manager Sam Escobar. "End of February, maybe end of March."

Low levels behind Friant dam and other reservoirs have many water users looking at zero allocation this year.

Fresno Irrigation District General Manager Gary Serrato is now overseeing an emergency water banking project.

Some Central Valley project water flowing through the Friant-Kern canal will now be stored at three water banks for later use by the struggling communities.

"This program was put in place in emergency type year like were experiencing now so that we don't leave them leave them high and dry," said Serrato. "They actually have a water supply."

The Bureau of Reclamation set up the banking project to work as an exchange. Farmers would use 10,000 acre feet out of the water bank.

Serrato added, "10,000 going this way, 10,000 is stored behind Pine Flat."

Towns like Orange Cove would then have access to the water from Pine Flat when it's needed.

"We just appreciate their effort," said Escobar. "They see that it's important for Orange Cove for any other city not to run dry."

"No impact on our water supply," added Serrato. "Water is coming in first before we even move the water out."

The water became available when the Bureau of Reclamation temporarily halted San Joaquin River restoration flows, a move which essentially put people before fish.

The water being banked isn't being saved for a rainy day. It's being saved because of the lack of rainy days.

No doubt the price per acre foot will be much higher when the communities need the water.

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