By Sharyn Cornelius
The Board of Directors for the Bella Vista Water District held their Mar. 23, 2015 meeting in Room 804 at Shasta College anticipating that a lot of customers would like to hear in person how they planned to cope with a huge water supply cutback from the Bureau of Reclamation. Only about 20 people attended the meeting.
Those who did attend heard Reclamation’s new area manager Frederico Barajas report that the Central Valley Project’s six major dams and reservoirs are down to 20 percent of their normal water supply in this, the fourth year of a severe drought. No one was surprised to hear that Reclamation was cutting the Bella Vista Water District’s municipal and industrial (M&I) water allotment to 25 percent of its three (unconstrained) year average and allocate it zero water for agriculture. This year the District will receive only 1,829 acre-feet from Reclamation. “This is not a popular message,” Barajas said in a classic understatement. He added that such a severe water shortage will require creative measures from everyone.
BVWD Board President Tim Bambino took advantage of that opening and asked Barajas if he would be willing to reconsider Reclamation’s policy of not allowing water contractors to carry over unused water in their annual allotment for use in subsequent years. “If our customers do a good job of conserving water, they deserve to benefit from it,” Bambino said. Barajas answered that he would be willing to “revisit that policy and engage in dialogue about it with the District.”
BVWD General Manager David Coxey said Reclamation’s cutback to 25 percent was “unprecedented,” but the District was prepared to pump its five wells to the max to bring the water supply up to 50 percent of the three-year average. He said District Engineer Don Groundwater estimated the wells could produce 3,400 acre-feet of water over the next eleven months and that plus the long-term water purchase from the Anderson-Cottonwood Irrigation District of 1,152 acre-feet and Reclamation’s 1,829 would provide its customers with 6,380 acre feet of water. The District is also negotiating with another water contractor to buy additional water for its agricultural customers.
The Board of Directors passed a Water Shortage Contingency Plan with five stages of severity and declared that the District is in a Stage 3 Emergency. Customers should below for the water use rules under a Stage 3 Emergency, because violators can be fined $200.
The Board also passed a resolution “reaffirming and extending declaration of water shortage emergency, superseding and revising shortage measures.” Under the new resolution “All District Rural and Residential customers shall receive a bimonthly allotment equal to the greater of a quantity equal to 75% of the average historical use for the specific metered location from the prior three unconstrained years, or a minimum of 20 HCF for each location and each billing period.
“All Agriculture and Aquaculture customers that also serve a residence (family dwelling) shall receive a base annual allotment equal to 75% of the annual average residential customer historical use from the prior three unconstrained years, which was calculated to be an annual allocation of 268 HCF = 0.61 AF. This allotment shall comprise the customer’s allotment for the entire period from April 1, 2015 through February 28, 2016. Agriculture and Aquaculture customers may voluntarily participate and receive supply augmentation through the District’s Supplemental Water Program.
“All Commercial accounts shall receive a bimonthly allotment equal to 80% of the average historical use from the prior three unconstrained years for each billing period. Public/Institutional customers shall receive a bimonthly allotment equal to 75% of the average historical use from the prior three unconstrained years for each billing period.”
Customers who use more than their water allotment will be subject to severe penalties: For using up to 20 percent over their base allotment, customers will be penalized $1.50 per each hundred cubic feet used. For using over 20 percent over their allotment, they will be penalized $2.50 for each hundred cubic feet used.
Coxey reported to the Board that the District had received applications for 1,500 acre-feet of water through its Supplemental Water Program, but the seller had not yet declared a price due to uncertainty about the amount of the CVP deficit. (The deficit is the difference between what the CVP estimates its water deliveries will cost when it sets the price and what the deliveries actually cost, which is what contractors have to pay after the fact.) He asked the Board to authorize him to set the District’s price once the seller established a price, which they did. Coxey estimates that the supplemental water will run about $300 an acre-foot this year. He said that those who bid too low may resubmit their request to purchase water at the higher price.