Community Water Center

Community-driven water solutions through organizing, education, and advocacy

County moving in right direction on well ordinance

By: The Porterville Recorder

December 14, 2016

Original Story: http://www.recorderonline.com/opinion/county-moving-in-right-direction-on-well-ordinance/article_f6fbdde4-c1af-11e6-9a52-27a38f80f69b.html

 

It may have taken longer than some wanted, but Tulare County Supervisors last week agreed they need to look at some form of a well ordinance, but not tie the hands of rural residents or farmers.

Supervisors instructed county staff to come up with a draft ordinance which right now would place a moratorium on the drilling of new ag wells on land which is not presently being farmed.

The county also instructed staff to study the need for a hydrologist who could further study impacts on new well drilling.

What the supervisors stopped short of doing, and we agree, is placing a moratorium on all new well drilling in the county.

Tulare County has been the epicenter of the drought. More than 1,600 wells have gone dry, the majority of those shallow domestic wells and the majority of those in East Porterville. Five below-average rain years and a lack of snowpack, coupled with pumping restrictions in the San Joaquin Delta, forced farmers to rely on the underground water supply to produce a crop, and in some areas keep their permanent crops alive. Many growers had to let their orchards die because of the lack of surface water and no ability to pump water.

We agree with statements made by a couple of the supervisors that while farmers have been lowering their wells to reach a falling underground water supply, they are not pumping any more water than they did prior to the drought. Water is expensive and underground water is not as good for crops as is surface water. The water that flows out of the mountains into reservoirs and then should be sent to the Valley to sustain agriculture, is the least expensive and best water for crops. That surface water not only stops farmers from pumping from the underground, but it helps to replenish the underground water supply by seeping into the ground as it flows in the many canals and ditches.

The county has reached a point, in light of a lack of surface water, where it cannot let more farm land be developed. Supervisor Mike Ennis said the county should not allow new wells where land has not been farmed in years when there is a shortage of water for the farmland already in production.

We hope the county never has to stop all well drilling, but stopping the development of new wells for new ag land is not sustainable under the current conditions.

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