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Water Transfers

Water Transfers

Our region, the Northern Sacramento Valley, is said to be "in balance" with its water supply and water demands.  

Lake Oroville drought 2014

This means there's enough for human needs such as agriculture, industry, and municipalities and there is also enough for the ecosystem.  But the state of California sees our region as having "surplus" water supply that could help other regions of the state which are otherwise overdrawn on their water budget. BEC is particularly concerned with water exports, or water transfers that move our region's water out of our region.   

Transfers in 2014

In 2014, the federal government is proposing a long-term transfer of water that would move a record amount of north state water to other parts of the state.  If approved, this transfer could claim up to 600,000 acre feet of water per year for 10 years, from 2015 to 2024!  The Department of the Interior, Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation) and the San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority are preparing a joint Environmental Impact Statement / Environmental Impact Report (EIS/EIR) to analyze the effects of water transfers from water agencies in northern California to water agencies south of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta (Delta) and in the San Francisco Bay Area.
The EIS/EIR will address transfers of Central Valley Project (CVP) and non-CVP water supplies that require use of CVP or State Water Project (SWP) facilities to convey the transferred water. Water transfers would occur through various methods, including, but not limited to, groundwater substitution and cropland idling, and would include individual and multiyear transfers from 2015 through 2024.
The Public Draft of the EIS/EIR was released on September 30, 2014.  
Public hearings to solicit comments on topics addressed in the Draft EIS/EIR have been scheduled for:
· Sacramento: Wednesday, Oct. 15, 2 to 4 p.m., 1413 Howe Avenue, Quality Inn and Suites At Cal Expo
· Los Banos: Thursday, Oct. 16, 6 to 8 p.m., 842 6th, Street, Los Banos, SLDMWA
· Chico: Tuesday, Oct. 21, 6 to 8 p.m., 1110 W. East Avenue, Chico Masonic Family Center
Written public comments are due by close of business Monday, December 1, 2014, and should be sent to Brad Hubbard, Bureau of Reclamation, 2800 Cottage Way, MP-410, Sacramento, CA 95825, or email to, or faxed to 916-978-5290.

Transfers in 2013

The State of California declared 2013 as a 'near' record-low year in precipitation and runoff. Under these natural conditions, the Governor issued an executive order to streamline water transfers to assist the agricultural industry. In 2013, the State asked water districts to give up their surface water allocations and in some cases, to pump groundwater instead.
Alarmingly, many small transfers were proposed for our region, and while BEC tracked them all, we focused our resources on a few strategies we hoped would put an end to the double-dipping.  The BEC Board of Directors considered various options on how to best respond, and all options were on the table, including the potential for litigation.  BEC were pleased to see our County Supervisors publicly opposing out-of-region transfers that involve groundwater pumping.

But, we question why the County failed to comment on the transfer of water from Concow Reservoir by the Thermalito Water & Sewer District. Even relatively small transfers like this one are alarming because they set precedent for future transfers and could have devastating effects for those in our watershed.  Residents in the Concow area are organizing to oppose this transfer. BEC working with Concow residents to explore strategies and will continue to actively watchdog the many proposed transfers emerging this summer.

Thermalito Water & Sewer District Proposed transfer from Concow Reservoir

8/12/2013: BEC submitted a Letter of Demand stating a legal claim of wrong-doing on the part of Thermalito Water & Sewer District (TWSD).  In it we argued that TWSD violated the Brown Act by failing to give adequate public notice of their intention to transfer water, making the decision in closed session.

7/15/2013: BEC submitted a public comment letter to the Thermalito Water & Sewer District (TWSD) opposing the transfer of 2,500 acre-feet of water to Westlands Water District, a south-of-Delta water district with immense political and economic power. TWSD appears to have not adequately informed the public of this plan, and BEC has requested documentation of the public notice and environmental review that should be required of this project.

Read BEC's comment letter to TWSD opposing this proposed out-of-region water sale. 

May 2013 ACTION ALERT:  Voice Your Support for a Moratorium on Water Transfers

Water policy expert and Citizens Water Watch member Tony St. Amant submitted a proposal to the Board of the Northern Sacramento Valley Integrated Regional Water Management Plan (NSV IRWMP) requesting that they call for a voluntary moratorium on out-of-region water transfers until July 1, 2014 and that they commit to developing regional water transfer guidelines by April 1, 2014.

BEC supports this moratorium as a prudent route for NSV IRWMP to follow. Read BEC's letter supporting the proposal and urging the Executive Committe to place this item on the June 3rd Board agenda.

In St. Amant's words: Could independent out-of-region groundwater transfers this year set a precedent that might be impossible to overcome later?

Your voice is needed to push for this proposal to be heard at the June 3 Board meeting.   We have provided sample language for an email in support of the proposal to members of the NSV IRWMP Executive Committee. Feel free to cut and paste the language, or create your own. Please keep comments brief and to the point. 

I strongly support the NSV IRWMP Board adopting a voluntary moratorium on out-of-region water transfers until July 1, 2014 pending collaborative development of regional water transfer guidelines.  With pressure for North State water growing relentlessly, it is imperative that our region take a cooperative approach to out-of-region water transfers.  The unevaluated impacts of independent, uncoordinated action by North State water agencies could lead to the devastation of our water resources.  I urge you to put this proposal on the agenda of the June 3rd Board meeting.

(Your Name)