Help Support BEC!

Help Our Work
Click Here

Stay Informed

Stay Connected

Top-Rated Nonprofit!

1% for the Planet

BEC is Member of EarthShare

You are here

Threats to North State Water

Excessive Pumping of GCID's Groundwater Supplemental Supply Project threatens Northstate Groundwater Resources

In Butte County water resources are constantly under threat. Considering perceived abundance of North State resources, water warriors are forced to choose their battles wisely; the following is the battle we cannot afford to lose.


Glenn-Colusa Irrigation District (GCID) is a psuedo-public agency with a 175,000 acre jurisdiction.  Water is diverted from the Sacramento River at their Hamilton City pumping plant and flows by gravity into their 65-mile canal. The District is able to augment their water supply using 10 pumps, each with the capacity to pump 250 cubic feet per second (cfs).  These facilities are the means by which the District obtains their 825,000 acre foot (AF) per year water allocation.

Glenn-Colusa Irrigation District Boundary

In 2008, BEC filed a lawsuit in an attempt to prevent GCID from installing their 7 proposed deep water wells. While BEC lost this suit on the District's claim that the wells are exlusively for research, the judgement of the court was that GCID may not use these wells for production purposes without performing an Environmental Impact Report.  

On June 16, 2015, Glenn-Colusa Irrigation District began pumping their 5 deep water wells for production, releasing a Notice of Exemption claiming they are exempt from environmental review during the drought.  We believe these are the same "research wells" that were the subject of BEC's 2008 litigation.  It appears these "research wells" have been put into full production without environmental review, in violation of the judge's ruling.  We estimate that the average pumping capacity for these wells is 3,650 gallons per minute (gpm) meaning that, combined, their wells have the capacity to produce up to 88 acre feet per day, enough to supply 88 families with drinking water for an entire year

The basis for GCID's Notice of Exemption is that the drought has created an emergency situation, and the pumping is in response to unprecedented cutbacks.  The reality is that the District's allocation has been cutback to 618,000 acre feet, a mere 25% decrease.   As we head into the fourth year of drought, the claim of hardship sounds reasonable... Until you consider that they have also recently claimed to have surplus surface water available for transfer outside the basin


Surplus water? In a drought?

This year, GCID's "Land Idling" or Crop Idling program will fallow 18,123 acres of cropland, which enables them to make available for transfer a total 59,050 acre feet of "surplus" surface water.  This "surplus" water has recently been transfered to the following water districts:

(Click here to read GCID's May 7, 2015 Board of Directors minutes outlining the transfer.)

GCID claims these wells will pump water for use locally within their district and will not be transfered.  While this may be true, the district has transfered "surplus" and now claims they have a deficit which prompts their need for these new wells and additional pumping.  

Earlier in the year, the District continued their Commingling Program, pumping 30 privately owned wells to produce 5,153 acre feet for use within the district. Additionally, GCID began an unnamed project on May 15, 2015 which will pump 18 private wells until late September. This program will produce a "surplus" of 10,000 acre feet to transfer to the Tehama-Colusa Canal Authority.  In order to produce the 10,000 acre feet, they must actually pump a total of 11,300 acre feet. This additional 13% is identified as "stream depletion," acknowledging that water taken from underground aquifers depletes streams and must be mitigated for. Yet none of the additional water will ever make it beyond their canal. 

And now they want to add five additional wells

GCID has released a Draft Environmental Impact Report to construct five additional deep-water wells, which could add an additional 28,500 acre feet of groundwater to their annual production capacity.

While the rest of the state has undertaken drastic conservation measures in response to this drought, the Glenn-Colusa Irrigation District is continuing business as usual while groudwater levels continue to decline.  

The Butte Environmental Council is working diligently with citizens from Glenn County, Colusa County, Citizens Water Watch, and Save our Water Resources on a response to this aquifer-depleting project. 

The Draft Environmental Impact Report for this proposed well project has been released and the district will be accepting written comments until July 30, 2015.  Click here to send comments to their District Manager, Thad Bettner.

If you are a concerned citizen, let your voice be heard at GCID’s July 22nd public meeting at Ord Bend Community Hall.

Stay tuned for more updates about this issue and what you can do to support BEC's advocacy to protect our groundwater.

Below please find the comments BEC submitted in response to Glenn-Colusa Irrigation District's proposed Groundwater Supplemental Supply Project.  Comments were prepared in collaboration with citizens from Glenn County, Colusa County, Save our Water Resources, and Citizens Water Watch.